Eric Gelhaye

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Roots and Education

I was born in 1964 in Nancy, a city located in the east of France in the Lorraine region. I did all my studies in this city, from kindergarten to university, where I obtained a PhD in Microbial Biochemistry in 1993. This thesis was devoted to the study of bacteria involved in the degradation of cellulose. After an 18-month postdoctoral experience at the University of Glasgow (Department of Biochemistry under the direction of Prof. R.G. Cogdell), I was recruited as a research assistant at the University of Lorraine, joining a research unit working on the interactions between microorganisms and trees in 2000.

Career

For about 15 years, I enjoyed teaching and researching as a professor of microbiology, before taking over the direction of my research unit in 2013 (until 2020) and joining INRAE - National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment in France as a senior researcher. In 2020, I worked in the Ministry of Research and Innovation on the implementation of government policy at the regional level. Finally, I have recently taken over the management of a scientific pole of the University of Lorraine, which includes 6 research units working in agronomy, agri-food and forestry.

During all these years, in terms of research, I have worked on the molecular mechanisms involved in the resistance to stress of organisms (plants, fungi, bacteria...) developing approaches mainly in protein biochemistry and microbial physiology. In this context, the degradation of wood and in particular the degradation of species from the tropical forests of French Guyana was a good playing field, thanks to a collaboration with Nadine Amusant. In the field of wood protection, I was clearly in the “fungi team”, seeking to better understand at the molecular level the formidable adaptation of decay fungi to the “hostile environment” of these woods containing so numerous and diverse antifungal compounds!

IRG

This research on wood-degrading fungi was only possible thanks to a long and fruitful collaboration with my friends Philippe Gérardin and S. Dumarçay, also professors at the University of Lorraine. It is thanks to this collaboration that I attended my first IRG congress in 2007 in Jackson, Wyoming with Philippe.

Now I am a regular member and have attended most of the annual conferences since 2007. I must say that given my research activities, which are relatively far from the barycenter of the approaches carried out within the IRG community, participation in IRG meetings allowed me to get in touch with the “wood world” and to take advantage of the friendly and benevolent welcome of the members of the IRG. Apart from the scientific aspect, the participation in these meetings allowed me to spend many very pleasant moments with friendly colleagues discovering magnificent regions around the world and to participate in several “fun runs”

I really appreciate the human warmth and the closeness between IRG members. This has opened the path to several collaborations, in particular with Jody Jellison, Barry Goodell and Gry Alfredsen

Real Life

Apart from work, I share my life with my wife Bénédicte, whom I met at university over thirty years ago. We have two daughters Léa (26 years-old) and Zoé (22 years-old), who are living now in Paris. I enjoy playing tennis and spending time with my friends training for friendly races combining conviviality and sporting effort!

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This bio was written for the November 2022 IRG newsletter.