Volume 88 Issue 4 | p. 10 | News of The Week
Issue Date: January 21, 2010

Chemist Takes Helm Of French Research Society

Europe: Alain Fuchs is new president of CNRS
Department: ACS News
Keywords: Alain Fuchs, CNRS, French research
Credit: S. Godefroy/CNRS Photothèque
Credit: S. Godefroy/CNRS Photothèque

France's prestigious National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) will soon have chemist Alain Fuchs as its new president.

Fuchs is a physical chemist who comes to CNRS from Chimie ParisTech, a chemical engineering university that is part of France's prestigious group of higher learning institutions, called écoles nationales supérieures. Fuchs had been the university's director since 2006, leading a molecular simulation group at the same time.

The new position makes Fuchs responsible for a total budget of 3.3 billion euros ($4.7 billion) and 26,000 permanent CNRS staff members who work in 1,200 research units across the country.

As president, Fuchs will be at the helm of an organization in transition. Last year, the French government split the 70-year-old CNRS into 10 institutes by subject. For example, the Institute of Chemistry is separate from the Institutes of Physics and Biological Sciences. The announcement of these and other reforms to CNRS and French universities by President Nicholas Sarkozy's government brought thousands of scientists out of their labs and into the streets in protest (C&EN, Feb. 23, 2009, page 10).

Fuchs replaces Cathérine Brechignac, a physicist whose presidential term ended last week, and director general Arnold Migus, whose position is being eliminated.

Fuchs was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1953 and received a Ph.D. from the University of Paris, South, in Orsay, in 1983. Along his career path, Fuchs was a research director at CNRS (1991–97) before returning to the University of Paris, South, to direct the Laboratory of Physical Chemistry of Amorphous Materials and then the Laboratory of Physical Chemistry (1997–2005). In recent years, Fuchs's research has focused on molecular simulations of liquid and gas adsorption in metallo-organic frameworks and other nanomaterials.

"This is the first time that the CNRS has a president who is a chemist," notes Gilberte Chambaud, director of CNRS's Institute of Chemistry, which has a budget of 300 million euros ($430 million) and 7,000 staff members.

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