16th edition of the Prix Le Monde de la recherche universitaire: excellence and sharing!

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This Prize, which rewards the best doctoral theses in science, technology and medicine, was created to honour transdisciplinary science, by promoting young researchers and presenting their work and research. A record number of applications (400 files) for this 2013 vintage for five laureates in each discipline: it is the recognition of the excellence of these thesis works not only for the scientific or sociological aspect, but for the candidates' capacity to share their knowledge with the "ignorant that we are almost all, so much science has become today a matter for specialists".

This year, what is striking in the choice made by the different juries in the two categories (social sciences and exact sciences) is that the theses are theses of contextualization: science with today's issues.
"This intelligence of openness to the historical context and to the world is very contemporary. It sheds light on the shadowy areas of our societies and the major currents that flow through them. Edgar Morin, Philosopher, Sociologist - President of the Social Sciences Prize Jury.

"This prize should allow citizens to know what a researcher or doctoral student is and why they are the "best" at sharing their knowledge. These winning theses reflect the different concerns of our time". Professor Pierre Léna, Academician - President of the Jury of the Exact Sciences Prize.

A selection also to restore the pact of trust between society and science in order to redetermine the ethics of scientific activity, without spillover and in a spirit of sharing; to open the debate on "what is scientific excellence": where is ethics in today's world, where can we still be "think" that some people may be part of the animal race... To keep the hope that researchers will never have to choose between their profession and their conscience, as was already the case.

The winners in Social Sciences

- Xavier de Larminat (University of Versailles - Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines): "Probation seeking approval".

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Or the execution of sentences in an open environment between risk management and flow management. Parole has existed since the 19th century but many problems continue to arise: we are on principle while there are alternative research currents. How are the conditions for carrying out these alternative sentences set up: changes in professions, the balance to be found between supervision and support, etc.?

Research Director: René Lévy

- Nicolas Marquis (Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles): "Sociology of the practice of reading personal development in autonomous regime: from text to experience".

What kind of world do we live in? And what world do we want to live in? Self-help books are flooding the bookstores: they claim to "change our lives" and readers seem delighted. This research thesis highlights this phenomenon as an analyser of contemporary social logics, highlighting new ways of reacting to problematic situations in everyday life, but also, and above all, ways of evaluating "good" and "bad" individuals (those who take responsibility or those who are content to complain). We are moving towards new forms of inequality, other than income and education, but towards new criteria such as the capacity to be autonomous and responsible, the strength of experience, the truth of authenticity, etc...

Research Director: Jean-Pierre Delchambre

- Muriel Montagut (University of Paris VII): "The possibilities of being after torture. Clinical sociology of the torture system".

This is the analysis of the torturing system, the logic of dehumanization. How to regain its integrity? How can people free themselves from the effect of torture? Who produces these processes of control (who are the sponsors)? Because, far from being a "crazy" system, it would be set up by a few sadistic individuals, obeying precise logics: disaffiliation, disaffiliation, hold, ...

Research Director: Vincent de Gaulejac 

- Laetitia Ogorzelec-Guinchard (University of Franche-Comté): "The miracle of investigation. Sociological analysis of the medical experience of healings declared "miraculous" in Lourdes.

An analysis demonstrating that the miracle is the result of a play of herrogenic forces: complex, synthesizing many interests and many constraints linked to social fears dating from the 11th century about the crowd, superstitions arising from them, confrontations between Catholics and rationalists, ... Are not the evolutions and progress of medicine responsible today for the current scarcity of miracles in Lourdes? What is the nature of the relationship between medical expertise and episcopal investigation? 

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Research Director: Jean-Michel Bessette

- Tristana Pimor (Bordeaux-Segalen University): "En famille dans la rue: trajectoires de jeunes de la rue et carrières zonardes".

Giving voice and allowing recognition to others. This is the goal of this four-year research carried out among a population that has chosen to refuse traditional reintegration measures by creating their street family, "the family". A very involved and delicate ethnographic immersion in a group of squatters in a squat near Bordeaux that reveals many new facets: new forms of transition, identity constructions, affiliations, and distancing from their social affiliations. It's the opening to another sensibility of dreams, solidarity, revolts,...of another becoming.

Thesis supervisor: Eric Debardieux

Laureates in Exact Sciences

- Guillaume Trémoy (University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines): "Study of the isotopic composition of water value in Niamey (Niger): towards a better understanding of atmospheric processes in West Africa".

What if stable isotopes in water could tell us about current climate and weather patterns? This is the challenge of this thesis: to carry out and interpret unprecedented isotopic measurements of atmospheric water vapour continuously and at high frequency in Niger, a technique based on molecular absorption in the infrared. 

Research Director: Françoise Vimeux

- Emilie Macé (University of Paris VII): "Development of a new modality of functional brain imaging and study of brain elasticity by ultrasound".

Are we going to ultrasound the brain? The originality of this work has been to develop a very innovative tool to monitor brain activity with a device already in common use. The applications of functional ultrasound are promising because they would allow for improved diagnosis of brain pathologies in infants and also for monitoring brain activity in adults during neurosurgery.

Research Director: Mikael Tanter

- Klervia Jaouen (Université Lyon I - ENS): "Stable isotopes of transition metals in the service of anthropology".

Will we be able to use isotopes of iron, copper and zinc to gain access to unpublished information in anthropology? The identification of the sex of human remains has been the focus of anthropologists' questions since the beginning of the discipline. Numerous false ideas have been circulated which, thanks to the work of this thesis, have turned out to be real scientific advances.

Research Director: Vincent Balter 

- Mariane Metois (University Paris VII - Paris Diderot): "Quantification of coupling along the Chilean subduction".

How to predict earthquakes? It's difficult, despite a better understanding of plate tectonics. But we're trying to estimate the probability of earthquakes occurring, the seismic hazard. Chile is hit by a major earthquake almost every 10 years, as the Nazca Plate sinks almost seven centimetres in jolts beneath the American Plate. This deformation has been measurable to the nearest millimetre using GPS receivers since the 1990s. But since 2010 and five field missions later, thanks to the high accuracy of GPS, it has been possible to map the deformation and fractures in Chile with great precision. This map is the result of this thesis: new tools to better estimate seismic risks.

Research Directors: Christophe Vigny and Anne Socquet

- Vincent Tejedor (University of Paris VI and Technishe University of Munich-Germany): "Random walks and first-pass properties: trajectory analysis and optimization of search strategies".

Or how to optimize a random walk. In biology, time is of the essence: a walk is efficient if it allows you to quickly find a target. Optimization consists, depending on the case, in maximizing (infection by a virus) or minimizing (search for food, an enzyme,...) this time. Two results result from this: the optimization of "persistent" walks (exploring the immediate surroundings while favouring a direction to avoid staying in place); or building a network resistant to a walker's attacks (internet, virus or fire propagation,...). 

Research Directors: Raphaël Voituriez, Olivier Bénichou and Ralph Metzler

The winners of this prize will have their theses published in book form by PUF, and will also be the subject of another book by Le Pommier (Collection Promesses de la Science). 

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