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MIT and CNRS Sign Institutional Partnership

International Joint Unit will be staffed at MIT with French researchers and MIT professors.
On June 15, MIT President Susan Hockfield and Alain Fuchs, president of France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), marked the beginning of an institutional partnership between MIT and CNRS. The International Joint Unit (UMI) between CNRS and MIT, called the MIT-CNRS-UMI, is at the center of a strategic association covering research, training and education in partnership with industry.

From the point of MIT, the UMI establishes an institutional partnership with the internationally recognized CNRS while preserving its institutional center on MIT’s Cambridge campus. For CNRS, the UMI expresses one of its missions as an interface with international institutions like MIT. The MIT-CNRS UMI is the first of its kind.

The UMI aims at “bottom up” simulation and experimental verification of properties of complex multiscale materials — from atomic-scale to microns, and from nanoseconds to years. Materials with important technological, economic, energy and environmental applications will be addressed, including cement, ceramics, nuclear fuels, steels and geo-materials.

“The MSE project [Multi-Scale Materials Science for Energy and Environment] addresses major and challenging cross-disciplinary problems, with a large number of potentially strategic applications. It brings together some of the most prominent young scientists from both sides of the Atlantic,” Fuchs said.

The UMI will host multiple senior French researchers at MIT, each for a number of years, and is seen as a gateway to further collaboration between CNRS and MIT. It has been designated by the CNRS as the lead unit of a “Laboratoire d’Excellence” consisting of multiple institutions engaged in materials science.

Hockfield noted that “solving today’s immense energy and environmental challenges exceeds the scope of any single institution or nation. The assignment demands the very best talent, united through bold new models of international collaboration, and MIT is delighted to join with CNRS in launching such a promising alliance.”

The UMI will be staffed with French researchers (CNRS or other universities’ faculty) working together with MIT professors and will be housed at MIT under the auspices of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI). It will be led by Roland Pellenq, CNRS research director and MIT senior research scientist, and Franz-Josef Ulm, the George Macomber Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT. French companies and laboratories focused on energy innovation will offer internships to MIT students through the MIT-France Program, headed by Suzanne Berger, the Raphael Dorman-Helen Starbuck Professor of Political Science.

“MITEI is very happy to host the MIT-CNRS UMI,” said Ernest Moniz, MITEI director and Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems. “Multiscale materials are central to our energy research portfolio, from environmentally sound shale gas production to ‘green cement’ to economic energy storage. MITEI will help integrate the UMI with the MITEI program across campus.”

The first senior French researcher will take up residence at MIT in September.

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