A Tour of My Soft Matter Garden: From Shining Globules and Soap Bubbles to Cell Aggregates
Like The Magic Flute, my career has been paved by wonderful and unexpected stories played by enthusiastic and talented students, in close contact with experiments and industry. I participated in the birth of soft matter physics under the impulse of Pierre-Gilles de Gennes: polymers, liquid crystals, colloids, and wetting, which I later applied to the study of living matter. By teaching in the early days at the Institut Universitaire de Technologies d'Orsay, I came into contact with industry, which gave me the chance to collaborate with several companies: Rhône-Poulenc, Dior, Saint-Gobain, Rhodia, and Michelin. These partners have not only largely financed my research in physical chemistry but they also offered a wealth of innovative research topics. In 1996, when Professor Jacques Prost became the director of the Physico-Chimie Curie laboratory, in the Pavillon Curie built for Marie Curie, I turned to biophysics. I initiated collaborations with biologists, applying soft matter physics to the mechanics of cells and tissues. Pierre-Gilles de Gennes has been a wonderful guide throughout this scientific adventure to build my soft matter garden.