The ‘soft matter’ department has been created in 2011, and was officially launched in January 2012. It results from the gathering of researchers who initially belonged to the « biophysics » and « foams/grains » teams. At that time, some members of these two groups wished to create together a new department at IPR, centered on “soft matter”.
Since its creation in 2012, the composition of the department has been stable, keeping the same group of permanent researchers. In 2015, the department is composed of 8 UR1 researchers (assistant-professors: Axelle AMON, Jérôme LAMBERT, Christophe ODIN, Véronique VIE – professors: Sylvie BEAUFILS, Isabelle CANTAT, Jérôme CRASSOUS, Pascal PANIZZA) and 5 CNRS researchers (CR : Laurent COURBIN, Benjamin DOLLET ; DR : Franck ARTZNER, Anne RENAULT, Arnaud SAINT-JALMES).
As the department activities mainly involve experiments, support by engineers and technicians is crucial. Six of them – Patrick CHASLE, Éric GICQUEL, Cristelle MERIADEC, Gilles PABOEUF, Jean-Charles POTIER, Guillaume RAFFY – interact preferentially with the department; their work corresponds to 3 full-time positions, although their working time is shared with other departments.
Around 9 to 12 PhD students and postdocs were permanently working in the department, which has resulted in 20 PhD students and 8 postdocs since 2010.
The average age of the permanent researchers is about 40 years old. More than half of them arrived at IPR during the previous contract (2005-2010), they were either recruited in Rennes or have chosen to move from other locations. This group of people draws strength from the diversity of their origins, the positive consequences being the natural strong connections with their former labs and various backgrounds and skills brought to IPR. Our goal was then to build on this diversity to investigate problems at the interface with other fields – biology, chemistry, and mechanics – while developing internal interactions and local expertise both on chemical systems, and experimental tools. Consequently, our projects build around five axes, reflecting these different interfaces: ‘biomolecules at interfaces’, ‘multi-scale materials’, ‘microfluidics and interfacial dynamics’, ‘foam dynamics’ and ‘mechanics of disordered media’. This organization also reveals how our projects span from natural systems (proteins, peptides, lipids) to synthetic ones (polymer, surfactant, colloids and grains).
The resulting scientific production is both large and of high quality. It is characterized by about 30-35 peer-reviewed articles per year, with more than 20 articles in high-profile journals (IF > 7) since 2010, corresponding to important scientific breakthroughs in our department. This production is comparable to the one of the major ‘soft matter’ groups in France, and allows us to come up to their standards. In parallel, we attend or are invited to many conferences, which correspond to about 30 orals or posters presentations per year.
Over the years, interactions with non-academic partners have been fruitful; in particular, one of us has created a Lab’Com with Ipsen. Additionally, since the scientific activities of our group begin to be well identified by local and national companies, these kinds of interactions with industrial partners should only develop more during the next contract.
Research activities in the group are structured in five main research axes: