Gulliver: A laboratory crosses borders

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De gauche à droite, Pierre Sens et Florent Krzakala Crédits ESPCI ParisTech
De gauche à droite, Pierre Sens et Florent Krzakala Crédits : ESPCI ParisTech

Pierre Sens et Florent Krzakala are theoretical physicists, both members of the Gulliver Laboratory. This year, they both received an international research grant to develop innovative interdisciplinary projects. From compressed data sensing to cell mobility, a meeting with two scientists who think big in a laboratory specialising in diversity of scales.

Two international funds: a European grant for Florent Krzakala

Florent Krzakala is one of the 2012 recipients of the research grants awarded each year by the European Research Council. “Its sum of one million euros will finance in particular four postdoctorals over the next five years,” explains Florent Krzakala. He first needs to set up this research team. Its aspects? “Interdisciplinary, intercultural, international of course, both very fundamental and very applied, at the crossroads of computing, mathematics and physics.”

About European Research Council grants

Each year, the ERC panel selects individual approaches and proposals “on the sole criterion of the scientific excellence of a researcher and the innovative strength of his or her idea, regardless of nationality, age or field of research”. Each grant is to one person and gives great autonomy to its recipient. In 2011, Sylvain Gigan, teaching researcher at the School, also received an ERC research grant.

This year (2012), Florent Krzakala, armed with encouraging initial scientific results, presented his proposal to the European panel for ERC grants. One panel? More like two! While the portfolio was examined by physicists, he sat the oral before scientists from a different field, namely signal processing. “It’s that my proposal is at the crossroads,” explains Florent Krzakala. “The physicists who examined my initial application decided themselves to call in electronic engineers and mathematicians. As it were, my proposal received double endorsement.”

Pierre Sens supported by the Human Frontier Science Program

Pierre Sens similarly presented a research proposal to the panel of another international organisation: the Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP).

About the Human Frontier Science Program

Founded in 1986 on Japanese initiative, this international program finances research into the complex mechanisms of living organisms.
The research is financed at all levels of biological complexity, from biomolecules to interactions between organisms. The grants are awarded for innovative research proposals involving close collaboration between independent teams of researchers, working in different countries and in different disciplines.

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Mission accomplished! Pierre Sens will also benefit from a grant shared with his partners, funding large enough to finance two postdoctorals alongside him for two years. A success which highlights the serious nature of the enterprise: in fact, the HFSP accepts only 10% of proposals put forward. “We combine numerous aspects valued by the panel,” adds Pierre Sens. “In particular, an interdisciplinary international research team including theoretical modelling.”

Next page: Florent Krzakala and his colleagues have solved a problem regarded as insoluble

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