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N°19 I quarterly I COOTBer 2010 Rubrique | 17 w Contact information: ERC, Brussels. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon > ERC-President@ec.europa.eu 33 APRIL 2014 Profile © M. SABAH one job to another.” The year 1972, which he spent in the US, was also a turning point. “In France, I wasn’t considered to be a ‘true’ mathematician since I wasn’t doing algebraic geometry or number theory,” he recalls. “But in the US, some of the best-known mathematicians took an interest in my work.” Having their confidence contributed to his later achievements as a specialist in differential geometry. Bourguignon defended his “thèse d’État” in 1974. He then spent several more periods abroad including one in Bonn (Germany) in 1976-77, shortly before receiving the CNRS Bronze Medal, and in the US again in 1980, at Princeton and Stanford. After returning to France, at just 33, he was elected president of the Mathematics Commission of the CNRS scientific board. “I had to defend the interests of mathematics against other disciplines represented by highly regarded researchers in their 50s,” he recalls. “It was highly instructive.” This successful experience paved the way for a host of senior positions over the years—including president of the French and European Mathematical Societies, chairman of the CNRS Ethics Committee, and member of several CNRS boards. In 1986, he became a professor at the École Polytechnique, where he continued to teach for 26 years. “I was the mentor for many students from China, a country I have visited 33 times since 1981 and where I have close links with several institutions.” He also participated in the creation of the EuroScience grassroots association in the 1990s. In 1987, Bourguignon was awarded the Paul Langevin Prize by the French Academy of Sciences. The next landmark in his career came in 1994, when he was named director of the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHÉS), a position he held until 2013—the longest term on record. Just south of Paris, the IHÉS is the European counterpart of Princeton’s famous Institute for Advanced Study. From his earliest days as director, Bourguignon endeavored to attract the best researchers, by renovating the facilities, launching European collaborations— and mostly by setting up an effective system for securing more international funding. “I must have flown in and out of Paris a thousand times,” says the former director, whom physicist Nikita Nekrasov humorously describes as “a quantum phenomenon: lots of energy and momentum, and completely delocalized.” The successful measures he carried out at the IHÉS were no doubt important in making him the strongest of 30 candidates to the ERC’s presidency. For Michèle Leduc, chairperson of the CNRS Ethics Committee, “this nomination comes as excellent news: Jean-Pierre Bourguignon is a top-notch scientist whose prestige, exacting judgment, and respect for ethical values will further strengthen and improve the ERC.” For Bourguignon, the challenges are clear: “We have already been allocated substantial financial and material resources for the 2014-2020 period,” he explains. “My most important task will be to maintain the ERC’s fantastic success in terms of scientific quality. I will do everything I can to ensure that the best European researchers continue to come to us for funding and that application from women researchers—low in numbers— are encouraged.” “My most important task will be to maintain the ERC’s fantastic success in terms of scientific quality.”


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