"Experiments on correlated electron matter: their seminal role, their

importance for education : innovation versus engeneering" by H. Alloul

            One of the question which has to be raised is the specific role of experiments on emergent
phenomena in condensed matter. It seems to some of us important to underline this point which
gives us an important role in the scientific education system. We should in my opinion emphasize
some of these points with the journalists in the august 4th meeting, and exchange our ideas and
experiences about these issues in the following session.

Usually sciences are aimed at explaining basic facts wich can be verified and reproduced.
For instance, particle physics is aimed at determining which is the ultimate composition of matter.
It requires building huge apparatuses dedicated to check some assumptions, which requires a large
number of scientists and a timescale of about 10 years. Experiments are so costly and involve so
many people that they have to be designed with a well defined aim, and resemble in many
aspects an industrial challenge

In our field a very important emergent behaviour of matter can be discovered by a
single person working on a specific material on virtue on an idea he can elaborate by himself.
The reason is that we are dealing with a huge diversity of emergent behaviours which are
usually not predictible. So the first step of the discovery process in our fields is to sort
out among experimental observations those which are spurious non generic phenomena, those
which have a simple trivial explanation with the established knowledge,, from those which are
true original observations which open new questions and therefore a field of investigations This
gives to the experimental approaches a seminal role.

This attitude is usually extremely difficult to introduce in a mass education system. Why?
Because in an education system we usually try to teach efficiently. That means we want to
pass a mass of information which vcannot be contested in the shortest time to the maximum
number of students. This means that it is quite natural to teach things that we do understand fully,
which are now well established and we prefer to avoid installing doubts.

Basically the first thing that a student who enters a lab discovers is: “ Oh! That is an
observation that the professor himself cannot explain” He will usually think that the professor
is not as good as he thought: A professor is somebody who knows everything. When the
question is the standard theory of elementary particles, the student might understand that this is” a
problem for humanity”, but if the question is “why my supposedly superconducting sample does
not levitate, while that of my colleague done in the same way does” the reaction is not the same.

This simple examples tell us that the questions raised in our field in front of an experiment
are much easier to tackle and give us a fantastic position to teach the essence of the research process.
Because the essential process we have to introduce in the mind of our students is curiosity. As
underlined above this is certainly easier in our field of research, which is full of historic examples.
Whether we do exploit those possibilities in our educational system is a question which should be
discussed. For historical and cultural reasons the situation certainly differ in our countries. I can
comment specifically the case of France for which the scientific education system does give a leading
role to engineering school, and minimizes that of the university research system. This results in
giving to the education system the canonical ingeneer point of view. An engineer does have to solve
technical problems. That means he has to realize a system which fulfills well defined tasks. For that
he has at his disposal a knowledge which is listed in databases, and he has to do the fastest search
of the more efficient economical and more efficient solution. This is certainly a very important task
and we do need people like that not only in companies but even in our labs to design the equipment
we need to do our experiments. The curiosity in his case seems to be restricted to the ability to
breakdown an existing equipment to understand which functions have been implemented and
combined to reach the function fulfilled. He scarcely needs to understand why a component
operates as it does.

The researcher in our field has to wonder why a material either a solid or a biological system has a given response to an external excitation. He has to search some unexpected behaviours, and to be able to establish the proper model which explains the behaviour and then to figure out huw such a behaviour can be generalized to a class of materials. This process yields then the discovery of neww phenomena which might one day or another be turned out in a useful new tool or instrument, which will enter then in the database of the engineers of the future. This can be taught only in a laboratory. I consider that our field of research is full of examples which can be implemented in small experimental tasks accessible to undergraduate students and which can economically allow to open their minds to the innovative research process. Exchanges between us about pedagogic experiences would be quite valuable.