Tech Professor President of French Research Center

Catherine Brechignac, adjunct professor of Physics and a distinguished visiting scholar chair at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has been appointed president of France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the largest scientific organization in Europe.

Brechignac oversaw the day-to-day operations as director general for CNRS from 1997-2000, returning to research upon the end of her tenure. Picked for the post by the French Government, Brechignac will now be responsible for formulating and guiding the organization's research strategy.

"We will continue promoting the traditional disciplines. But now, we have to face the global problems of the world, like energy and water, and that requires an interdisciplinary approach," said Brechignac. "If you want to make new things, you have to bring people from different fields and motivate them to work together."

With a budget close to $3 billion US ($2.29 billion Euros) and a workforce of more than 26,000 people, the CNRS is a very influential scientific organization that helps coordinate research in government, university and corporate laboratories.

Brechignac's affiliation with Georgia Tech began in the early 1990's, when she began collaborating with Uzi Landman, director of the Center for Computational Materials Science, Regents' and Institute professor and F.E. Callaway endowed chair of physics at Georgia Tech. Her extensive work with Landman's group at the School of Physics on fission processes of charged metal clusters, that bear similarities to nuclear fission, led to Brechignac's appointment to adjunct professor of physics and the distinguished visiting scholar chair in 2001.

"Catherine has long been a leader of the international scientific community and she is most deserving. I am confident that she will lead the CNRS ahead in its research priorities," said Georgia Tech Provost Jean-Lou Chameau. "Georgia Tech is proud of its association with prominent international scientists like Catherine and leading research institutions such as the CNRS. It's serendipitous that our relationship with CNRS through Georgia Tech Lorraine is now augmented by our established and emerging collaborations with Dr. Brechignac."

The CNRS and Georgia Tech Lorraine have been working together since 1998 when a CNRS lab, GTL-CNRS Telecom was opened at the Lorraine campus. Recently, this relationship has been strengthened with the formation of an international partnership known as Unite Mixte Internationale between Tech and CNRS. This partnership is the first of its kind in France where CNRS partners with a non-French entity to engage in research of mutual interest.

As president, Brechignac will continue to expand her research in nanoscience and the structure of fractal systems, like those found in the brain. She and Landman are currently exploring ways to further strengthen their individual collaboration, as well as the institutional partnership.

"To connect with Georgia Tech will be a great benefit to research in both organizations," said Brechignac. "Science is a global endeavor. Nobody can do it all, nobody should try to do it all. So it's through our collaborations that we hope to expand our knowledge of the world," added Landman.