Although Alexandra Lauvaux has served as secretary for close to ten years for Friends of IHES, she never had a chance to come to the Institute until this week. She may not have been familiar with the place, but it was clear during her visit that Alexandra very much belongs to the Institute’s community. A firm believer in intellectual freedom, Alexandra considers that mathematics and interdisciplinary dialogue play a key role in today’s society. A belief that she shares with her family: “Both my father and my husband graduated from Ecole Polytechnique: mathematics were thus an essential component of their education. We all have a lot of respect and admiration for the work done by the scientists here at IHES”.
Alexandra also very much appreciates the small size and the family spirit that characterize IHES. All while respecting social distancing, she had the opportunity to experience it first hand while having lunch at the cafeteria, where she had a conversation with Emmanuel Ullmo, director of IHES, and Thibault Damour, permanent professor. In particular, they remembered a conference that Thibault Damour gave in 2016 at the Consulate General of France in New York entitled “Proust and Einstein: in search of time”. For Alexandra, this is yet another example of the various talents of IHES’ researchers, who are not just driven by their scientific interest, but by their curiosity in general, which can lead to connections with other topics, including literature! A trait that she perceives in the Board of Friends of IHES as well: “The Friends’ community transcends nationalities, political opinions, schools of thoughts”.
Ensuring that IHES remains independent, both financially and scientifically, is therefore essential to Alexandra. Not only does she recognize herself in the Institute’s values, she is also glad to contribute to reinforcing the ties between France and the US through her dedication to the Friends of IHES. The Board thus benefits from Alexandra’s skills and legal expertise as Counsel at DLA Piper, but also from her extended network in New York City. To her, this is also a chance to create connections between diverse groups, to meet scientists and to be exposed to topics others than those she deals with in her professional environment. Her commitment to the Institute certainly makes her family proud as well: “My husband likes to say that my greatest professional achievement is to be secretary for the Friends of IHES!”