PSL from A to Z
The PSL community is more than its students, researchers, faculty, and administrators; it also embraces the tens of thousands of former students who belong to the alumni networks of its schools and to PSL Alumni. From Esther Duflo, 2019 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences (ENS - PSL), to Marie Curie, winner of the Nobel Prize in both Chemistry and Physics (ESPCI Paris - PSL), not to mention Fields medalist Pierre-Louis Lions (ENS - PSL, Collège de France, Dauphine - PSL); Georges Charpak, Nobel Prize in Physics (Mines ParisTech - PSL); Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize in Literature (ENS - PSL); actress Isabelle Huppert (CNSAD - PSL); Engie Group CEO Isabelle Kocher (MINES ParisTech - PSL and ENS - PSL); Frédéric Mazzella, founder of BlaBlaCar (ENS - PSL), and world kickboxing champion Cyrile Benzaquen (Dauphine - PSL), these alumni illustrate the diverse career prospects open to our students while attesting to a shared desire to serve society.
In order to be patentable, an invention must be new—meaning undisclosed, so dear researchers, remember to declare your inventions before you publish or it will be too late—and not be obvious in light of current technology. The importance of patents varies between fields. They are essential in biomedicine, since a medication, for example, can depend very directly on a small number of patents protecting its active ingredient. They are much rarer in fields such as digital technology (software is not patentable in Europe) and electronics, where a single commercial product commonly depends on hundreds of patents, if not more. Patents, a major step in technology transfer, represent a monopoly over the use of an invention. It can be transfered via a contract (the “license”) and in exchange for compensation (generally “royalties”) to a company. Under the technology transfer model adopted by PSL, that company is often a start-up co-founded by the researchers who participated in the patent, i.e. the “inventors.” PSL Valorisation currently manages some 300 patents and patent applications generated by PSL research teams.
Open to all PSL students, faculty and staff, the symphony orchestra and choir boasts 180 instrumentalists and singers. Its repertoire is reflective of PSL itself: eclectic, innovative and original, performing a diverse array of musical styles from the great classics to forgotten and contemporary composers, jazz, gospel and musicals.
The performance season of PSL’s Orchestra and Choir includes 5 different programs and features several renowned soloists: Karine Deshays (mezzo-soprano), Geneviève Laurenceau (violinist and soloist from the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse), Raphael Merlin (cellist and member of the Quatuor Ebène quartet), and Raphael Imbert (jazz saxophonist), among others. In addition to holding these concerts in Paris, PSL-OC also goes on international tour each year (China, Israel, India) and performs with the choirs and orchestras of international universities associated through partnerships with PSL, such as the Robinson College Chapel Choir of the University of Cambridge.
Johan Farjot is the artistic and musical director of the PSL Orchestra and Choir. A team of six full-time professionals work alongside Mr. Farjot, providing musical support and allowing the PSL-OC to reach its full, highest-quality potential. Arnaud Thorette is the orchestra’s concertmaster (first violin).
10% to 15% of PSL’s students are doctoral candidates. Every year, the university awards more than 400 diplomas to its PhDs across all its schools. The proportion of students who continue their studies to the doctoral level is significantly higher than the national average in France.
Fully aware that the traditional meritocracy that carried them was becoming increasingly socially biased, Université PSL's schools took the initiative to propose social inclusiveness measures in their programs particularly at the undergraduate level, within the CPES Multidisciplinary Preparatory Classes, which now host scholarship students as a majority, as well as within the Bachelor’s level programs at Dauphine - PSL and CNSAD - PSL.
PSL’s schools have also broadened their admissions requirements (competitive exams through preparatory classes, university transfers, international admissions) and financial aid opportunities.
PSL is a breeding ground for talent, boasting 10 winners of the highest honor in mathematics, the Fields Medal: Laurent Schwartz (1950), Jean-Pierre Serre (1954), René Thom (1958), Alain Connes (1982), Pierre-Louis Lyons (1994), Jean-Christophe Yoccoz (1994), Laurent Lafforgue (2002), Wendelin Werner (2006), Cédric Villani (2010), and Ngo Bao Chau (2010). All of these medalists are alumni of the École Normale Supérieure - PSL, and some are current or former professors of Université Paris-Dauphine - PSL and Collège de France. PSL has also amassed 3 Prix Abel winners: Jean-Pierre Serre (2003), Jacques Tits (2008) et Yves Meyer (2017).
The historic center of PSL’s campus is named after Geneviève Montagne, patron saint of Paris. It was on this historic hill that the Saints Apôtres (Holy Apostles) Monastery once stood, and where Saint Genevieve so often reflected in prayer. Today’s Rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève traces the path she used to take to the monastery. The monastery itself was replaced with an abbey, which was subsequently replaced with the Church of Sainte-Geneviève built by Louis XV in 1744. Upon Mirabeau’s death on April 2, 1791, France’s National Assembly moved to place the tombs of France’s greatest thinkers in a dedicated necropolis, much like Westminster Abbey. It was at this time that the Church of Sainte-Geneviève became the Pantheon.
Located on the south slope of the hill, PSL’s schools are watched over by the great men and women, some of whom were educated in their halls, who now rest at the top of the Rue d’Ulm: Pierre & Marie Curie, Germaine Tillion, Henri Bergson, Paul Painlevé, Jean Jaurès, Paul Langevin, and their like.
Founded in 2010, Université PSL is a young institution. Its origins, however, reach far into the past to when its centuries-old constituent institutions were born: Collège de France in 1530, Observatoire de Paris - PSL in 1667, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes - PSL in 1868, Ecole des Mines de Paris - PSL in 1783, Ecole Normale Supérieure - PSL in 1794, etc.
Over the centuries, and given their close geographic proximity, these institutions developed formidable scientific relationships based on their shared values. That they now find a common home within Université PSL is the culmination of a longstanding scientific, artistic and cultural undertaking, an adventure that continues each day to be written into history.
Alongside London and Boston, Paris is one of the world’s leading scientific capitals. PSL is located in the very heart of Paris; its classrooms and laboratories play host to students and researchers of more than 120 nationalities, and it is the instigator of many cutting-edge research programs. PSL has formed partnerships with top universities around the globe, such as the University of Cambridge, NYU, University of Chicago, Shanghai Jiao Tong, and ANU. Since 2018, PSL’s reputation has been recognized with a place among the top 50 universities in two international rankings, THE and QS, at the head of France’s universities.
It was long believed that Marie Curie, dual Nobel Laureate, was a lone figure in science. And yet, she was surrounded by a multitude of distinguished female scientists, starting with her own daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, 1935 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Many of PSL’s former female students and professors have built illustrious careers in a variety of disciplines: Germaine Tillion (ethnologist, EPHE - PSL), Jacqueline de Romilly (Hellenist, ENS - PSL, Collège de France), Simone Weil (ENS - PSL, philosopher), Louise Bourgeois (ENSBA, visual artist), Assia Djebar (ENS - PSL, author), Esther Duflo (ENS - PSL, economist), winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, and Isabelle Kocher (ENS - PSL, MINES ParisTech - PSL), CEO, to name a few.
Today, many women are at the helm at PSL, running its schools, laboratories and research centers.
“Dare to know” is PSL’s motto, in reference to both Horace, to honor the Classics tradition carried by several PSL schools, as well as to Emmanuel Kant and his foundational text “What is Enlightenment?” that reflects the still-relevant ideal of emancipating oneself through knowledge. PSL embodies the belief that an education in scientific reasoning is essential to forming the minds of citizens.
French physicist and inventor Jacques Lewiner was successively a professor, scientific director, and then joint director (with Georges Charpak) of ESPCI - PSL. He was also the first Dean of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at PSL. The “man with a thousand patents” created a disrupted model for technology transfer, and we have him to thank for the concept of the livebox. This model was the foundation of PSL Valorisation, whose aim is to draw on PSL’s excellence and interdisciplinarity to amplify the economic and societal impact of its research.
Université PSL is host to a very diverse collection of museums that reflect the scientific and artistic heritage of its centuries-old institutions. They are home to priceless treasures: 100,000 samples of rock, minerals, meteorites and gemstones (Musée de Minéralogie at MINES ParisTech - PSL), a thousand solar system observation instruments, including a unique set dating from the 16th century (Observatoire de Paris - PSL), the instruments used by Pierre and Marie Curie at the Pierre-Gilles-de-Gennes Science Center (ESPGG), and spaces dedicated to the commemoration of great scientists, such as the Curie and Collège de France museums. This heritage truly belongs to us all, and our museums are engaged in outreach programs with schools, businesses, journalists, researchers, teachers and students, who are invited to come learn, enhance their research, build new collaborative partnerships, meet with the public, and test their ideas in settings that serve as living labs.
PSL is equally strong in education, research, and innovation. Throughout their history, PSL’s schools and institutions have been the site where leading scientists from every field learned and developed, including 28 Nobel Prize winners.
Nobel Prize in Physics
Pierre Curie (1903), Marie Curie (1903), Gabriel Lippmann (1908), Jean Perrin (1926), Alfred Kastler (1966), Louis Néel (1970), Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (1991), Georges Charpak (1992), Claude Cohen Tannoudji (1997), Albert Fert (2007) and Serge Haroche (2012).
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Marie Curie (1911), Paul Sabatier (1912), Irène Joliot-Curie (1935), Frédéric Joliot (1935), Jean-Marie Lehn (1987)
Nobel Prize in Literature
Romain Rolland (1915), Henri Bergson (1927), Jean-Paul Sartre (1964)
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Charles Nicolle (1928), François Jacob (1965), Jacques Monod (1965), Jean Dausset (1980)
Gérard Debreu (1983), Maurice Allais (1988), Jean Tirole (2014), Esther Duflo (2019)
The question of how life appears and whether or not there are life forms out in the universe has gone from the speculative to falling within the so-called “hard” sciences.
This revolution affects all of the sciences, from astronomy and astrophysics to physical chemistry and biology. It calls into question our views of what separates the living from the non-living, and how we represent these.
OCAV, the “Origines et Conditions d’Apparition de la Vie” (Origins and Conditions for the Emergence of Life) project, is sponsored by the Observatoire de Paris - PSL, the Collège de France, EHESS, ENS - PSL, the Institut Curie, CNRS and INSERM and is emblematic of the major Strategic Interdisciplinary Research Initiatives (IRIS) Université PSL has launched.
At PSL, 70% of students are at the Master’s and PhD level. The university’s research and educational offerings are organized not into departments, but into Graduate Programs, modeled on the Graduate Schools found in most major universities. By choosing a Graduate Program, students choose a clearly identifiable field of study that serves as their major. They enroll in a 5-year (Master’s and PhD) program, with courses in given disciplines or on given topics. These courses are supported by laboratories or major research programs. Based on their field of study and their project, students can customize their program by choosing from different minors or cross-disciplinary course modules, which expand the range of disciplines covered, skills developed, and schools involved.
Long a science of observation, biology has recently become a predictive science. It is now possible to study living systems using quantitative methods drawn in particular from statistical physics, fluid mechanics, and mathematics, which have revolutionized the study of living systems at various scales, from cells to entire organisms. The QLife program, recognized as a PSL Institut Convergences, brings together more than 200 researchers (physicists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, etc.) grouped into 160 teams. This program is emblematic of the cross-disciplinary approach that characterizes PSL. It allows the university to form partnerships around the globe and helps accelerate technology transfer by producing high-potential projects.
With 2,900 researchers and 140 laboratories spanning all areas of science and design, Université PSL boasts the same level of scientific vigor as the world’s top universities. Strengthening the University’s core disciplines and building new interrelated areas of research are the two pillars of a strategy aimed at increasing collaboration between teams belonging to its component schools, associate members, and entities. Since 2012, our researchers have received many distinctions, including two Nobel Prizes, more than 150 ERC awards, CNRS medals, and other prizes.
SACRe (Sciences, Arts, Creation, Research) is a unique program created by combining a doctoral program and a research laboratory. It represents an innovation in terms of research, enhancing an Ecole Normale Supérieure - PSL education with the artistic creation practiced at the Conservatoire National Supérieur d’Art Dramatique - PSL, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, La Fémis, and the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris.
Throughout their collective history, PSL’s member institutions such as EPHE - PSL, ENC - PSL and the Collège de France have made key contributions in certain rare areas of study, such as Egyptology, Assyriology, and the fundamental disciplines of the written word, such as codicology, paleography and diplomatics. They also became specialists in certain very rare languages of which they are the sole guardians, such as Elamite, the Middle Iranian languages, and...Tocharian.
PSL offers an unparalleled concentration of expertise, with some hundred highly specialized chairs in these disciplines.
The PSL Student Union is the association devoted to developing student life at PSL. As a sort of meta-student council, it brings together students from all the components of PSL and the CPES. It hosts many events, such as the Semaine de la Pensée, Campus d’Hiver, PSL student organization fair, and various parties and garden parties. It also helps PSL students submit applications for the Calls for Student Initiatives twice each year.
... or the Vitruvian man, one of the most famous drawings by the master and the inspiration for PSL’s logo. With this nod to da Vinci, our university aligns itself with the image of a man whose activities, like its own, covered a very broad palette of disciplines ranging from the arts to engineering, mathematics, astronomy, anatomy, botanics, physiology, architecture, and more. An archetype of the universal genius and a visionary humanist, this one man embodies the spirit of curiosity and innovation that drives us.
The PSL Welcome Desk is located at the university’s headquarters, in the heart of the Latin Quarter. The international student support team welcomes and supports international students from around the world. Before arrival, they are involved in helping students with administrative tasks, finding housing, and other services. Once the students are on site, they organize many activities to facilitate their integration into the PSL community: practical workshops on living in France (Welcome Days), conversation partners and classes to improve their French, organized tours to explore Paris and its cultural life, a number of festive events, and opportunities to meet students from other schools through the Partner@PSL buddy program.
Be sure to stop by to make the most of your stay!
Xenon is one of the many elements in Mendeleev’s periodic table that was celebrated at PSL for the 150th anniversary of the classification in 2019.
Chemistry has a strong presence at PSL, represented in all its areas of study, from molecular chemistry to materials, and from chemistry of the living world to microfluidics. Many of the elements on the periodic table are closely tied to the history of chemistry and to PSL’s schools. Fluorine, for example, was discovered in 1886 by Henri Moissan, co-founder and director of Chimie ParisTech - PSL; polonium and radium were isolated by Marie and Pierre Curie at ESPCI Paris - PSL; chromium and berylliumwere discovered by Louis-Nicolas Vauquelin, a professor at École des Mines - PSL; and francium was isolated by Marguerite Pérey at the Institut du Radium (which became today’s Institut Curie).
Launched in 2015 by Thibaut Chary, a PSL graduate of MINES ParisTech - PSL, Yespark is a start-up that enables drivers to rent unoccupied private parking spaces via their smartphone.
With support from MINES ParisTech-PSL (Entrepreneurship unit under Philippe Mustar) and from PSL Pépite, this start-up is just one illustration of the spirit of innovation at work within PSL’s schools and institutes—not to mention it can save you from driving around for hours looking for a parking space.
One of the many activities on offer through PSL Research University’s Athletics Association. Mens sana in corpore sano. PSL forms the body as well as the mind! With nearly 40 disciplines offered to students, faculty and staff, PSL’s Athletics Association promotes the practice of all types of physical and athletic activities, and represents PSL in all university competitions.