My time at iREx – Mohamad Ali-Dib

Mohamad Ali-Dib, the Trottier 2018 postdoctoral fellow at the Université de Montréal, joined the iREx in January 2019. At the end of 2020, he left iREx to pursue his career at the Center for Astro, Particle, and Planetary Physics at NYU Abu Dhabi. He answered a few of our questions about his time at iREx.

What did you like most about your time in Montreal?

The intersection between North American and European cultures was very interesting.

What was the most important project(s) you led at iREx?

With colleagues from McGill and other based in the United States, we studied the origins of super-Earth exoplanets (slightly larger than the Earth).

What question were you trying to answer?

Artist’s view of an exoplanet inspired by the discovery of Gliese 876 d.jpg

Mohamad tries to better understand Super-Earths like Gliese 876 d, which is shown here in an artist’s view. Credit: Trent Schindler, National Science Foundation.

Why don’t super-Earths turn into massive planets similar to Jupiter, when widely accepted theories predict that almost all of them should?

What did you discover?

That the interaction of super-earths with the environment in which they form (the protoplanetary disk) prevents them from growing rapidly as previously thought.

What motivates you in exoplanet research?

The extraordinary realization that most other solar systems are nothing like ours!

Why do you think people should be interested in this kind of work?

I believe that understanding our origins in the universe is the most fundamental question that humans must strive to answer.

How does your time with us helped you in your new job?

I’m a theorist by training, so spending two years in an environment where it’s mainly observers has taught me some very important complementary skills.