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History of the Laboratory

1 January 1966: Creation of the Laboratoire de Spectrométrie Physique, associated with the CNRS, as the successor to the Laboratoire de Physique Générale de la Faculté des Sciences de Grenoble, place Doyen Gosse, Grenoble.
Director: Michel Soutif. Jean-Claude Pébay-Peyroula will be deputy director.
65 researchers, teacher-researchers and "fellows", and 28 "ITA+IATOS", divided into 10 teams, have in common the use of "spectrometric" techniques for the study of matter, distributed along a very broad "spectrum" -RF (NMR), Microwaves (EPR), Infrared, Optics, X-rays, slow electrons- and no less varied subjects of study: from atomic physics to the crystallography of surfaces via the study of metals and alloys using NMR. Plus a small group of theorists including Yves Ayant, a figure who left his mark on generations of Grenoble students (and researchers).

1st September 1967: Move to the current "bâtiment E de Physique" on the Domaine Universitaire de Saint-Martin-d’Hères.

1970: Renewal of the contract of association with the CNRS, the Spectro Lab becomes "LA n°8". It now has around 80 researchers, visitors and "fellows" and 44 technical and administrative staff.
Meanwhile, the "Université Scientifique et Médicale de Grenoble" was born.
With the return of J.P. Cohen-Addad from the USA, the study of polymers was introduced into the Laboratory.

1972: A new building was constructed near Spectro and opened its doors to house the "Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches sur les Molécules Organisées" (CERMO). It was thanks to Michel Soutif that resources from the Vth plan at the time had been pooled to found a "multidisciplinary laboratory bringing together physicists and chemists interested in biology", an initiative that today can be described as "visionary" to say the least. Two teams from the Laboratoire de Spectrométrie Physique, "NMR in polymers and biopolymers" (J.P. Cohen-Addad) and "Molecular crystals, molecular spectroscopy" (J. Kahane) set up there, along with 5 other teams of biologists and chemists. Unfortunately, these teams never merged into an independent laboratory. Perhaps it was 20 years too soon?

1974: Development of laser spectroscopy: it wasn't long before the Spectro floors were awash with the dye of tunable lasers...
Start of semiconductor studies.
A new team, "Physico-chemistry of Ionic Polymers", was set up, later to become "Semiconductors and Electrochemistry" in 1981.
The number of permanent researchers and technical staff in the Laboratory stabilised at 47 lecturers and 25 CNRS researchers. They remained almost the same, give or take a few units, for 30 years, despite significant turnover. On the other hand, the number of post-graduate students is decreasing.

1977: The "RPE" team becomes "Solid State Optics".
The director of the Lab is now J.C. Pébay-Peyroula, with M. Minier as his deputy.
Times were a little bleak for Higher Education, with only 1 DEA trainee for the whole lab recruited in 1977. Fortunately, the average age of the permanent staff is quite low, and the lecturer-researchers have plenty of time to do their research. The aim of all the young researchers hired is to prepare and pass their "Thèse d’Etat".
The lab's general secretariat seemed to be able to cope with 3 full-time secretaries.

1978: Research on semiconductors develops independently in the "Solid State Optics" team and in the "Semiconductors and Electrochemistry" team.

1980: Start of the "ICLAS" high-sensitivity gas-phase absorption experiments. These heralded research into the physical chemistry of the atmosphere.
CNET (the future France-Télécom R&D) opens its doors in Meylan. This sparked a certain interest in Spectro for research related to microelectronics (we were still a long way from nano...).

1982: The Y. Merle d'Aubigné-J. Kahane succeed J.C. Pébay-Peyroula-M. Minier at the helm of Spectro.

1985: Studies on porous silicon begin. For the next fifteen years or so, they would involve a growing number of Spectro researchers divided between the "Semiconductors and Electrochemistry", "Solid State Optics" and "Phase Transitions and Structures" teams.

1986: Josette Kahane returned as director, with G. Dolino as her deputy.

1987: The "Université Scientifique, (Technologique) et Médicale de Grenoble" becomes the "Université Joseph Fourier" (UJF).
Creation of the "joint CEA-CNRS team" around an initial frame for molecular jet epitaxy of semiconductor structures, located on the DRFMC premises.

1989: Jeanine Lajzerowicz and Nader Sadeghi take over the management of Spectro.

July 1991: The Laboratory is reorganised in renovated and enlarged premises, with the creation of new spaces between the ground floor pilings. Until now, the most serious flooding that the ground floor has had to cope with has come from Spectro's upper floors, and not from the Isère, which is normally well channelled. Fingers crossed...

1992: The new ESRF synchrotron produces its first X-ray beams. Spectro was one of the very first to benefit during the test period before the facility was officially opened.
The "Phase Transition" team began to take an interest in soft matter: films and membranes floating on the surface of water. We are beginning to talk about biophysics (influence of Lipchaber, where two Spectro researchers will be spending a potsdoc period in succession?), as well as complex systems and morphogenesis.
Bruno Berge studied electro-wetting phenomena, which prefigured the company VARIOPTIC that he would later create on the basis of a patent registered in his name and that of the UJF.
The number of researchers in the lab has remained stable, but has been significantly redistributed, with as many CNRS researchers as lecturers. On the other hand, the number of post-graduate doctoral students, and later new doctoral students, rose from 3 in 1981 to around twenty in 1989. It will soon reach around forty. The "Thèse d'Etat" has disappeared, while the "Diplôme d'Habilitation à Diriger les Recherches" has appeared.

1993: The "Surfaces and Interfaces" team left Spectro and joined the Laboratoire de Cristallographie.

1994: ESRF opens its doors.

1996: Mr Vallade succeeds Jeannine Lajzerowicz, with two new and unique deputies: Marc Chenevier and Robert Legras.
The "Institut de Physique de la Matière Condensée" was created, with Spectro as its associate.
Interest in life sciences research develops, in various forms.
Spectro recruits a CNRS researcher selected by a committee of biologists.

2000: Roland Hérino and Anne Corval take over from the Vallade-Chenevier-Legras trio.
The Laboratory underwent major changes, in particular with the growth of research into "complex systems", instrumental developments in proximity microscopy, ultrasensitive optical detection techniques and their applications. Over the next few years, the department's staff was to undergo a major overhaul.
The 2002 activity report highlights 3 themes: "Solid State Physics and Nanophysics", "Molecular Physics, Optics and Applications" and "Morphogenesis, Soft Matter and the Physics-Biology Interface".

2003: Installation of the intravital biphotonic microscopy platform, with the support of researchers from the future Institut des Neurosciences.

2004: Benoît Boulanger and Serge Tatarenko take over the management of Spectro.
UJF and CEA-Grenoble launch the "Nanobio" programme, with which Spectro is associated.
Redefinition of the laboratory's teams and major staff turnover.
Almost a third of Spectro is involved in the "physics-biology interface", both instrumental (a lot) and conceptual (also) aspects.

2006: Inauguration of the Minatec cluster.

2007: Creation of the Institut Néel, and administrative departure of 25% of the Laboratory's staff corresponding to the "Nanophysics of semiconductors", "Nano-optics and electro-active systems" and part of the "Laser optics and applications" teams.
Creation of the "Institut des Neurosciences de Grenoble".
Launch of the RTRA "Nanophysics at the limits of nanoelectronics", with which the new Spectro is associated.
T. Dombre and J. Derouard take over the management of new Spectro.
The scope of the laboratory has been reduced to 6 teams, with 3 keywords: "Complex matter", "Optics" and "Physics of and for living organisms". The average age of its permanent researchers (just over fifty) is under 40, while that of the 32 "ITA-IATOS" is barely higher. Collaborations with laboratories in other disciplines (life sciences, environment, medicine, mechanics, materials science, etc.) are being strengthened.

2011: The Laboratory becomes the "Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire de Physique", "LIPhy". The mandates of T. Dombre and J. Derouard are renewed. During 2011, J. Derouard remains the sole director, as T. Dombre is called upon to take up new duties at the head of the "PHITEM" UFR.
LIPhy continues to renew and significantly increase its staff (through recruitment or transfers). Theoretical physics activities have been considerably strengthened with the arrival of J.L. Barrat, while the "physics-life sciences" interface has been consolidated, particularly with the arrival of staff trained as biologists. The historic "spectro" department is not to be outdone and is heavily involved in international projects in planetology and the environment, with some of its members taking part in polar expeditions.
With around 130 to 150 people (including trainees and visitors), the pressure on square metres is starting to be felt again after the big void that followed 2007.
LIPhy is adapting to the times and has seen its contractual resources multiply by 2.5 over a period of 4 years: at the end of 2014 they now accounted for more than 80% of its resources; half of its research staff are PhD and postdoctoral students.

2014-2020: between July 2014 and December 2020, LIPhy will once again be run by two people, J.L. Barrat (UGA) Director and E. Lacot (UGA) Deputy Director.

2021: Since 1 January 2021, LIPhy has been directed by B. houchmandzadeh (CNRS) Director and I. Ventrillard (UGA) Deputy Director.


Extract from an interview with Michel Soutif after the publication of his book "Grenoble, Carrefour des sciences et de l'industrie" Collection Les Patrimoines - Dauphiné Libéré edition:
"To explain Grenoble's scientific and academic development, I've divided its history into 3 seasons: 1850-1900, the season of inventors; 1900-1950, the season of engineers; and 1950-2000, the season of researchers."
"How would you describe the 4th "season" in Grenoble, from 2000 to 2050?"
"I wouldn't dare to anticipate too much, but I do believe that Grenoble's life sciences are booming: current projects such as NanoBio, the Grenoble Institut des neurosciences and the Institut de virologie moléculaire et structurale are proof of Grenoble's vitality in the field of medicine and biology. This is the final chapter of this booklet."

Submitted on February 13, 2024

Updated on February 13, 2024