My Career | Elena Ulate-Kolitsky

Elena Ulate-Kolitsky
Elena Ulate-Kolitsky

Bonjour! My name is Elena Ulate-Kolitsky I am a PhD student of the program “Doctorat en sciences de l’energie et des materiaux”. I finished my bachelors in Material Science and Engineering at the Instituto Tecnologico de Costa Rica in 2018 and fast-tracked into the doctoral program. During my undergrad I had the oportunity to do an internship at the IRH as part of my final thesis to graduate. I had a chance to work with Prof. Jacques Huot, who is now my PhD supervisor. During this time I travel and discovered Quebec but most importantly learned about hydrogen storage. Coming from Costa Rica you cant help but be enviorementally contious, I knew I wanted to study metal hydrides. This field allows me to research two things I love renewable energy, the storage of it in my case and to stick to one of the pillars of my undergraduate studies due to the strong metallurgical component linked to metal hydrides. Throughout my time at the IRH I have gotten the opportunity to learn the real physics behind the formulas we use in engineering which becomes indispensable during results analysis.

Working at the IRH

Working at the IRH is easy the people here are all super friendly and willing to help you out whenever you need something. Several teams work here with different professors on different fields but somehow you get to moreless know everyone here. I work with Professor Jacques Huot. Our team consists of around 8 to 10 students at a time. A lot of interns come for 4-12 months so you have a stream of new colleagues during the year. It is great to meet new researcher and potential collaborators later on. We really get a chance to see how others work and to learn to work together. Like me, there are full time students that help out the interns get the hang of the equipment here. We have a weekly meeting with the professor where we can discuss our work and teamup to solve issues around the lab. Tho the professor usually knows what to do but likes to keep us sharp.


The professor is a great leader he is never on your back or having to pressure you for results, he makes it so that everyone works hard on their own terms, no one wants to let him down. You set your deadlines at the end of the day like he says “It is your PhD/internship/masters”. Its not all work we have a seasonal activity with everyone from the lab. Its easy to become close with your colleagues specially when its bellow freezing outside and suddenly your productivity increases because you prefer to stay indoors. Don’t get me wrong that makes summers a million times better, we visited Mauricie National Park last summer. If anyone is interested on metal hydrides I would recommend you to contact the professor, here you will learn how to be a “scientist” and will have a professor that is an expert in the field.

My Project

It is possible for hydrogen to become a fuel with zero-carbon footprint. In Quebec plenty of amazing work has been done by companies and research centers working with hydrogen. Though the main obstacle to use H2 as a fuel remains, storage. Hydrogen is such a light gas that its especially difficult to store. Usually its stored in gas state at high pressure or liquid state at low temperatures however, both these methods are only viable with the use of a heavy, bulky and costly tanks. Thankfully there is a 3rd. Hydrogen can be stored in solid state. I work with metal hydrides. These are metals that have the ability to absorb and desorb hydrogen. I am studying a classical metal hydride, TiFe. This metal hydride is a great candidate due to its low-cost components and its mild operation conditions (room temperature and relatively low pressure).


Nonetheless it has some issues, it requires a heat treatment in order to execute the first absorption and its sensitivity to air. My objective is to diminish the issues by the addition of alloying elements, manipulating the microstructure and looking into post synthesis processing techniques.