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Change at the helm of CNRS


> A new President…

On January 11, 2006, Catherine Bréchignac took over as CNRS chairman.

Bréchignac joined CNRS in 1971. A graduate of Ecole Normale Supérieure, she received her diploma in Physics in 1971 and a doctorate in 1977. A world-renowned specialist in atomic physics, Bréchignac's specific area of research is atomic aggregates. She has authored more than 150 scientific publications, and her work has been awarded the French Academy of Science prize (1991), the CNRS silver medal (1994), and the Holweck prize and medal (2003). Additionally, she is a member of the French Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Technologies of France.

Bréchignac was the director of the Aimé Cotton laboratory (CNRS, Orsay) from 1989 to 1995 and then scientific director for CNRS' Physics and Mathematics department from 1995 to 1997, before serving as Director General from 1997 to 2000. She has been chairman of the Optics Institute1 since 2002 and has just been named future chairman of the International Council for Science (ICSU).

1. Institut d'optique.



> ... a new Director General

Arnold Migus has taken up the position of CNRS Director General.

A senior researcher at CNRS, Migus, who specializes in lasers and their applications (in optics, physics, chemistry, astronomy), is also Director General of the Optics Institute in Orsay.1

Migus graduated from Ecole Polytechnique, receiving a master's degree in mathematics and a doctorate in physics. He joined the National Center for Space Studies (CNES)2 in 1973. After spending some time in the United States, he returned to France to work at the Applied Optics Lab (LOA)3 in Palaiseau, before joining CNRS in 1983. From 1996 to 2003, he headed up the High-energy lasers laboratory (LULI)4 and, since 2003, has been Director General of the Optics Institute in Orsay. He is the founder and director of the Institute of Lasers and Plasmas (ILP)5 in Bordeaux.

1. Institut d'Optique.

2. Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales.

3. Laboratoire d'Optique Appliquée.

4. Laboratoire pour l'Utilisation des Lasers Intenses. Palaiseau.

5. Institut Lasers et Plasmas (CEA / Université de Bordeaux-1 / CNRS joint lab).




> ... and new CNRS department heads

There are new faces at the helm of CNRS research departments. Gilberte Chambaud was named director of the Chemistry department. She is a professor and head of the Theoretical Chemistry laboratory at the University of Marne-la-Vallée.1 The Humanities and Social Sciences department is now headed by Marie-Françoise Courel, who is stepping in from her position as president of the Institute of Higher Education,2 which she held from 2003. Bernard Delay, director of Montpellier's Centre for Evolutionary and Functional Ecology,3 has received a mandate to direct the Environment and Sustainable Development department. At the head of the Mippu department, which covers the areas of mathematics, computer science, physics, earth sciences and astronomy, is Michel Lannoo. Pierre Guillon was chosen to preside over the Engineering department, having previously served as scientific advisor and Director for the mission for scientific research and innovation at the General Delegation for Armament (DGA).4 Michel van der Rest was confirmed as director of the Life Sciences department, while Sylvie Joussaume and Michel Spiro remain at the head of the National Institute for Earth Sciences and Astronomy (Insu)5 and the National Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics (IN2P3),6 respectively.


1. Laboratoire de chimie théorique.

2. École pratique des hautes études.

3. Centre d'écologie fonctionnelle et évolutive.

4. Délégation générale pour l'armement.

5. Institut National des Sciences de l'Univers du CNRS.

6. Institut national de physique nucléaire et de physique des particules.






pierre potier

© L. Médard/CNRS Photothèque

Passing of Pierre Potier

Potier is best known as the inventor of two world-renowned anti-cancer drugs, namely Navelbine® and Taxotère®. He joined CNRS in 1957 and became one of its most famous researchers, as well as a looming figure in French chemistry. Potier received a CNRS Gold Medal (in 1998), as well as a number of other prizes and was also a member of the French Academy of Sciences. Potier, who was a pharmacist and had a PhD in science, was closely affiliated with the Institute for the chemistry of natural substances (ICSN),1 which he joined in 1962. Throughout his career, Potier also held a number of important positions, such as director of research at the French Ministry of Research and Technology in 1995. His major contributions to French chemistry include, among other things, fostering close working relations with the United States, China, and Japan.

1. Institut de chimie des substances naturelles.



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