Centre de Physique Théorique

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About CPT

Since 2004, the Centre de Physique Théorique (CPT) is a Mixed Research Unit of CNRS (UMR 7332) associated with 2 universities : Aix-Marseille Université and Université de Toulon.

With more than 50 permanent staff in 8 teams and 3 research groups, the CPT is the largest French theoretical physics laboratory by size. Its research activities cover a wide range of areas in physics and mathematical physics, the study of fundamental interactions and their mathematical structures, the study of complexity in various physical contexts, statistical physics or condensed matter, to conventional or quantum dynamic systems and their applications, including biological systems.

Around 30 PhD students are trained in the laboratory, which also hosts several post-doctoral researchers. The CPT has developed scientific collaborations with several laboratories in the Aix-Marseille area and with numerous laboratories and research institutes in France and abroad.

Brief history of CPT

Yet the laboratory has a much longer history, which reaches back to the beginning of the sixties, when a theory group was founded on the downtown Saint-Charles (Université de Provence) campus. A few years later, this group moved to the Joseph-Aiguier campus where the local headquarter of CNRS (Délégation Provence et Corse) are located, and evolved into a CNRS Proper Research Unit (UPR 7061), before taking its present quarters on the campus of Luminy in 1978.

In 2012, the three former universities of the Aix Marseille region, Université de Provence (U1), Université de la Méditerranée (U2), Université Paul Cézanne (U3) united as a single institution, Aix Marseille Université (AMU), and CPT is therefore now a mixed research unit with only two universities (AMU and UTLN), and CNRS, with identification UMR 7332.

In the past, three members of the laboratory (among which two former CPT Directors) became Deans of the Faculty of Sciences of Luminy. One of them is presently Vice-President of the Scientific Council of Aix Marseille University.
Members of the laboratory were also at the origin of the Department of Mathematics of the University of Toulon, and of the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics (UMR 5152) in Toulouse.

Research areas

Although initially mainly centered on mathematical physics (quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, statistical mechanics, operator algebras, differential geometry,…), CPT rapidly developed research activities towards fundamental issues in particle physics and, somewhat later, in nanophysics, quantum gravity, or cosmology, for instance. In a similar process, the experience gained in the study of dynamical systems found new applications in other areas (control of chaos in various physical systems, among them fusion plasmas, or biology and immunology). More recently, the activities in statistical physics are developing a line of research towards the study of complex networks, which offer many possibilities for interdisciplinary applications (to epidemiology, but also to the social sciences, for instance).


CPT has two laboratory sites, in Marseille and Toulon. The principle site is located in the Luminy campus south of Marseille (one of the three scientific campuses of Aix Marseille Université, the two other being Saint Charles Campus and Saint Jérôme Campus), next to the Calanques National Park. The secondary site on the campus de la Garde is used by the university faculty from UTLN for their teaching and part of their research purposes.

CPT affiliations and partnerships

Fédération de Recherche des Unités Mathématiques de Marseille
Together with the mathematics laboratory of Marseille «Institut de Mathématiques de Marseille» (I2M) (which is the result of the fusion between the two laboratories «Institut de Mathématiques de Luminy» (IML, UMR 6206), and «Laboratoire d’Analyse, Topologie et Probabilités» (LATP, UMR 6632)), CPT is a founding member of the Research Federation of the Mathematics Units of Marseille (FRUMAM, FR2281), created in 2002 by the CNRS and by the three Aix-Marseille universities, later on also to be joined by the UTLN, and whose former director is a member of the CPT.

Fédération Nationale de Recherche pour la Fusion par Confinement Magnétique
The laboratory is also a founding member of the National Research Federation for Fusion by Magnetic Confinement (FRFCM ITER), created in 2005 by CNRS, Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique (CEA), and six institutions, in view of the installation of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) program in Cadarache, about 50 km North of Marseille. In addition, the CPT is a «Laboratoire de Recherche Conventionné» (LRC) with the CEA in Cadarache since 2006, and maintains a collaboration with members of the «Institut de Recherche sur la Fusion Magnétique» (IRFM) within the framework of a scientific program financed by the EURATOM organization since 2003 and also by the French National Research Agency (ANR) grants.

Laboratoire d’Excellence : LABEX OCEVU et LABEX ARCHIMEDE
In 2012, «Investissements d’Avenir» (Future Investments) funding programs were developed at the French National Level, and several universities of excellence were selected to benefit from these. As a result, new funding structures arose at AMU, which have a significant impact on the research panorama, in particular at CPT. These structures bear the name of «excellence laboratories» (LABEX). There are ten LABEX at AMU, which are ultimately managed by the excellence initiative AMIDEX. CPT participates to two such LABEXs: LABEX OCEVU and LABEX ARCHIMEDE.

The LABEX OCEVU provides a structuring, collaborative and interdisciplinary environment on the scale of the southern France axis Marseille- Montpellier-Toulouse, for research performed on the understanding of the physics of the universe, its origin, its evolution as well as what composes it. The collaborations involve 6 mixed research units of CNRS:
- CPPM (Centre de Physique des Particules de Marseille, UMR6550)
- CPT (Centre de Physique Théorique, UMR7332)
- LAM (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, UMR6110)
- L2C (Laboratoire Charles Coulomb, UMR5221) in Montpellier
- LUPM (Laboratoire Universitaire et Particules de Montpellier, UMR5299)
- IRAP (Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie, UMR5277) in Toulouse.

The OCEVU Labex provides funding for both experimental and theory projects which are in common between these laboratories. As far as CPT is concerned, it has provided joint PhD grants, joint Postdocs, funding for visitors and for collaborative projects. There is no doubt that since its creation, it has boosted such collaborations between the laboratories in the Marseille region as well as with Montpellier and Toulouse. This LABEX is active on the following axes: research, training, scientific outreach, and technological transfer. On the research side, the questions that are typically asked nowadays about the understanding of the universe require an interdisciplinary approach which combine cosmology, particle physics, and astro-particles.

The LABEX ARCHIMEDE focuses on pure and applied mathematics and computer science. The goal of LABEX ARICHIMEDE is to:
- Reinforce multidisciplinary collaborations between research units of the Aix Marseille Université area,
- Promote international partnerships,
- Improve relations between research and teaching at the university level.

It is composed of 4 CNRS research units, which regroup established scientists from Aix Marseille Université in the area of Mathematics and Computer Sciences which have a worldwide reputation, together with an international conference center which runs workshops all year long :
- Centre de Physique Théorique (CPT, UMR 7332)
- Institut de Mathématiques de Marseille (I2M, UMR 7373)
- Laboratoire d’Informatique Fondamentale de Marseille (LIF, UMR 7279)
- Laboratoire des Sciences de l’Information et des Systèmes (LSIS, UMR 7296)
- Centre International de Rencontres Mathématiques (CIRM, UMS 822)

Institut Convergence CENTURI
The Turing Centre for Living Systems (CENTURI) federates a growing community of biologists, physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers. Interdisciplinarity is the core principle of the Turing Centre and is central to its activity in research, education and technology. CENTURI is laureate of the National call "Instituts Convergence" of the French State in the context of the "Investments for the Future" programme (2nd PIA) and is co-funded by the French National Research Agency and the A*MIDEX Foundation.