René Doursat
 PhD, Habil.

Research Scientist & Fmr. Director

Complex Systems Institute, Paris Ile-de-France (ISC-PIF)
French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)

Research Unit UPS3611

113, rue Nationale
75013 Paris, France


Edited Proceedings

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Career Summary

An alumnus of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) in Paris, I completed my doctoral degree in 1991 at the age of 25 in applied mathematics/computational physics (neural network models), then was appointed to a Postdoctoral Assistant position at the Institute for Neural Computation, Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB), Germany. Directly after my postdoc, I decided to pursue opportunities in the software industry, while also continuing research at the Ecole Polytechnique (X), Paris in the CREA Institute (a research center in cognitive science and self-organization). In 1998, I relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area and assumed lead engineering and architect roles in several start-up companies.

From 2004 on, I resumed academic research and teaching on a full-time basis. For the first two years I was a Research/Visiting Assistant Professor in Computer Science at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), collaborating with the Brain Computation Laboratory and the Department of Biology. I returned to Paris in 2006 and was offered a Research Scientist position at the Complex Systems Institute, Paris Ile-de-France (ISC-PIF), administered by CNRS, France's National Research Council. I also became its new Director during two years in 2009 and 2010, eventually deciding to hand over this day-to-day management responsibility to dedicate myself again to research—something I could pursue during the 2011-2012 academic year as a Visiting Research Scientist in the Research Group in Biomimetics at the University of Málaga (UMA), Spain.

In 2013, I moved to the Washington DC area and was formally named Research Associate Professor at Drexel University (Philadelphia). I also received a teaching appointment with the Catholic University of America (CUA) (Washington DC), School of Engineering. In 2014, I moved back to France on a new research contract at CNRS Gif-sur-Yvette in a developmental biology lab where I pursued computational modeling work.

I joined Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), UK in January 2016 on a permanent position as Full Professor of Complex Systems at the Department of Computing & Mathematics, where I was also Deputy Head of the Research Centre for Advanced Computational Science (CfACS). After nearly four years there, I eventually resigned in November 2019 for personal convenience and moved back to Paris. I am now again a Research Scientist at the Complex Systems Institute, Paris Ile-de-France (ISC-PIF).

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Since my return to academia in 2004, I have built or renewed scientific relationships with many colleagues and institutions in Europe, the US, and Canada. In addition to my previous activities from before 1998, this second period has been characterized by a number of new initiatives and publications: journal and conference papers, book chapters and edited books, creation and organization of conferences and workshops, supervision of PhD and MSc students, contributions to reviews and committees, launch of several research projects, and grant writing.

I have also been very active in teaching. I co-founded and coordinated the European Erasmus Mundus Master's in Complex Systems Science at Ecole Polytechnique, Paris, to which I contributed a course on agent-based models every fall semester in 2011-2015. I also co-organized a series of graduate seminars on cognitive and neural science at the same school (2009, 2010) and was the lead organizer of the annual Complex Systems Summer School in Paris (2008, 2009) and the annual ISAL Summer School at Artificial Life conferences (2014-2016).

My main original course explores canonical examples of complex systems through agent-based modeling and numerical simulation. It started as an original, cross-disciplinary graduate seminar on complex systems. I designed and developed this course entirely by myself, including lectures, readings, student presentations, programming assignments and supervision of term projects.

Additionally, I obtained in April 2010 the French "Habilitation" diploma (ability to be a principal PhD supervisor, based on a dissertation and defence in front of a jury), and in January 2011, I received the "Professor Qualification" (eligibility to senior faculty positions) in computer science from the French National Council of Universities (CNU, Section 27). I was the main supervisor of the research work and thesis of 3 postdocs, 5 PhD and 12 MSc students, and cosupervised 10 other.

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In summary, I was originally trained in fundamental research and have complemented my knowledge with industry's technological and pragmatic challenges. I am now bringing along this double theoretical and practical experience to durably stay in academia, where my heart belongs. My greatest joy and sense of fulfillment come from creating innovative scientific models leading the way to potential engineering applications, and communicating the passion of research to my students and peers.