Philippe Gerardin



I was born in June 1965 in Nancy, France and grew up in Lorraine a border region in the east of France.  My father worked in a factory and my mother stayed at home to take care of my sister and me. When I was growing up, my grandparents had a farm, so from a very early age I spent a lot of my free time outside and was fan of nature activities including hiking, fishing or picking mushrooms, while the rest of my time was occupied by school activities. I finished high school in 1983, and entered university at the University Henri Poincaré in Nancy, to pursue my studies.


At that time, I was not fully aware of what I want exactly to do, but I chose without hesitation a Life Science orientation. Rapidly, I was interested in chemistry, vegetal biology and forestry, and tried to join the first class of the freshly created ENSTIB School in 1985, but was unsuccessful in this attempt due to a so-called “lack of motivation”. Very disappointed by this decision, I then decided to go for a master's degree in chemistry on the advice of one of my professors, who would later become my thesis director. How a disappointment can change a life and become an opportunity!

I obtained my Master Degree in Molecular Chemistry and Physico Chemistry, but above all, I met Christine, my future wife, who was also studying chemistry in the same classes. I decided to continue my studies with the preparation of a DEA (Diplôme d'Etudes Approfondies), which was a prerequisite in France at that time to prepare for a Doctorate. I got a research grant from the French government to prepare my Doctorate under the supervision of Professor Bernard Loubinoux.  My research focused on two topics: one concerning the synthesis of Fumaramidmycin's mimics for CIBA-GEIGY, and also the development of new protectives groups for peptide synthesis based on formation of unstable quinone methides allowing me also to develop some work in connection with reactivity of quinone methides with wood. These experiments were for me the opportunity to have a solid training in organic synthesis and research, but also to prepare unwittingly for my return to wood science. I obtained my PhD in December 1990 and I was called up for my military service in February 1991 as a contingent scientist. That year, 1990, was also the year of my marriage to Christine with whom we have had three children, a son in 1992 and two daughters in 1995 and 1999.


I joined the University in December 1991, following my military service, as a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and started my research at LERMAB (Laboratoire d'Etudes et de Recherche sur le Matériau Bois), which had just been created. I developed research activities in relation to durability, modification and valorisation of wood.

In 2001, I had the opportunity to meet Pascal Kamdem, who had come to spend a few weeks at the laboratory during his sabbatical year. He suggested that I should join the IRG. I attend my first meeting in Cardiff in 2003 and started my story with IRG.  I was immediately struck by the warm atmosphere of the group and especially by the welcome of my chairman, Marko Petric, for my first IRG presentation, who quickly became a friend as well as between our families. Since then, I have attended almost every annual meeting allowing me to develop links with many IRG members and often friendships. At the beginning with my friend Eric Gelhaye, I took part in the meeting more and more often with my colleagues and students of the laboratory and also on a few years with my wife. Each year, the annual IRG meeting has been for me the opportunity of what I call, scientific "holydays", to meet academic and industrial partners, some of whom like Edmond Wozniak and Alain Jermannaud have become very good friends, but also to discover new countries and new cultures. Considering my research activities, IRG is really the place to be!

I was promoted to Professor in 2001 and have been the head of LERMAB since 2011. LERMAB is a multidisciplinary research laboratory within the University of Lorraine located in Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy at the Faculty of Sciences and Technologies and Epinal at the Engineer’s school of Wood Science and Timber technology (ENSTIB) with a staff of about a hundred people belonging to different disciplines such as chemistry, biology, process engineering, energy and civil engineering. It developed research activities on all topics in relation to wood from its properties to its final uses. The management of the laboratory is an interesting but very busy task, which leaves very little time for oneself and one's own research. Fortunately, I managed to maintain some research activities thanks to the help of Master, PhD and Post-doc students and members of my team. My main fields of interest today concern wood protection, wood natural durability and chemistry of extractives, wood thermal and chemical modification. I have developed productive research collaborations with colleagues from LERMAB and University of Lorraine, CIRAD in Montpellier, but also from different countries all over the world including the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), IPB (Indonesia), Moi University (Kenya), University of Göttingen (Germany). I have also organized several conferences especially in the field of wood and chemistry, while PhD students’ defences have often been an opportunity to invite visits by IRG colleagues.


Apart from work, I spend most of my time with Christine taking care of our family. Our son is now working in Paris as a jurist (lawyer) for an international company, while our two daughters are still at home with us, although probably not for much longer…but that is life!  One of our daughters wants to follow in the footsteps of her parents and work in the field of phytochemistry, while the other wants to become an equine veterinarian.

We like to travel as a family to foreign countries to discover new cultures and traditions, especially during summer holidays, but also now that our children have grown up Christine and I like to travel together within the framework of our professional activities as she is also Professor at the University.  Also, as a good chemist, I like to dilute, mix and experiment with new reactions by cooking for my family and friends and to enjoy good times with them around a good meal.

In this very special time of Covid-19 and after 46 days of confinement, I hope that all of you and your families are in good health.

See you soon and take care
Université de Lorraine


This bio was written for the May 2020 IRG Newsletter.