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A Day in the Life of Siebel Scholar Dr. Arthur Marronnier, PhD

With his heart set on pursuing the scientific and political aspects of solar energy, Dr. Arthur Marronnier (Class of 2018) found himself dreaming of being able to spray a solar cell on any surface and revamping public policy for renewable energies.  
After graduating from École Polytechnique (2013) and Stanford University (M.Sc. 2014), he joined the Laboratory of Physics of Interfaces and Thin Films (LPICM - École Polytechnique / CNRS) as a Ph.D. candidate in Physics and Material Science. Arthur’s research focused on the electrical transport and stability of last generation hybrid perovskite solar cells. He also taught semiconductors and photovoltaics courses at École Polytechnique. He obtained his PhD in the summer 2018 and received the Best PhD Award in Innovative Materials from Paris-Saclay University.
Currently at the French Ministry of Energy & Environment as the Deputy Head of the Transport and Energy Unit of the European Affairs Department, Arthur acts as an Energy Policy Advisor in relation with the European Parliament. He took a moment to share what a day in his life looks like.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! We’d love to learn more about how you begin your day?
I am not much of a morning person, so I like to wake up slowly, have breakfast with my fiancée, and relax. Music is a big part of the start of my day, as it’s very impactful to me. I love to listen to classical music because I find it calming. I was very into Bach when I used to play the piano, but today I often rely on Spotify’s classical music playlists. Depending on how busy my day is, I sometimes like to mix it up with music that is a little more dynamic, like Maroon 5 or other mainstream artists. That’s how I wake my brain up!
What’s the most challenging part of your job or day? When are you most productive?
The most challenging part of my job is the morning, when I try to prioritize and organize my day. Lots of topics come up during the day and sometimes I have to re-prioritize on the fly but in general, I like to sit and really think about how I’ll approach the day and my upcoming deadlines. In terms of task productivity, I’m most definitely a night owl, I feel like I’m much more efficient from about 4pm-8pm. I don’t believe one can be at his or her maximum productivity all day long; to me being highly productive for 4 hours proves to be much more efficient and realistic for getting things done.
What goes through your mind throughout the day?
Since I’m not someone who can easily compartmentalize, I can’t help thinking of personal projects throughout the day. In general, planning the next step is always on my mind. For example, I’m getting married next summer, and we are in the midst of planning so I’m constantly considering the next decision that needs to be made. I also tend to think more and more often about the political consequences of my current role, in particular within the complex context of the Yellow Vests protests in France.
How do you end your day?
Before I go to sleep, I need to empty my mind. I like to either write my accomplishments or to-do’s down, so I wake up with a clear head ready to take on the day. I also like to keep my latest read on my nightstand and end the day with something intellectual or amusing.
When you think about your most successful daily habits, how did you pick them up (i.e. did someone teach them to you)?
Scientific rigor has been instilled in me during my years of study (I finished my PhD last year) and it’s the first thing to help me when I’m problem solving. I really think having my mind structured helps to deal with each part of the problem separately in the first place and helps me avoid feeling overwhelmed. Being organized has unquestionably helped with my research as well.  Aside from these aspects, my high school physics teacher changed my way of working and thinking. He was the kind of teacher who did not care a lot about the official textbooks, but rather wanted to introduce us to the immense world of physics and give us a glimpse at all its branches. With his teaching I learned how to approach simultaneously several concepts that were totally new to me and really challenging my understanding of what it means to study physics. I jumped from learning equations to trying to grasp, even without calculating everything, the general idea between each major theory of physics. These skills help me everyday to tackle new issues and to never be afraid of not understanding everything from the beginning.
What you have already accomplished by your age is impressive, how do you get the motivation to take up all these challenges?
As for research, I really wanted to make the most of these intense 3 years to make a lasting impact. I wanted to leave solid results behind me, articles, that can be used by my peers to pursue the development of the new generation of solar panels I worked on. On this matter, peer acknowledgment is key: for example having my articles cited in latter works was the proof that my worked mattered to the scientific community, and it was the motivation to obtain and share more results. On a broader note, I am someone who greatly values the acknowledgment of colleagues and loved ones, this is clearly a fuel for my actions.
What’s life like outside your job?
I like to attend political conferences and play volleyball and squash. While I don’t really like to run, I’m a pretty goal-oriented person so if my friends have registered for a half-marathon, I’ll definitely join them and start running to prepare. I am about to start dance lessons with my fiancée... I also love to write, even though I don’t make time for this passion anymore. I find that writing helps me to organize my thinking and distill what I want to say, so I’m looking forward to taking this hobby up again in the coming months.