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Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology


BrunoAt the Department this week, we are very saddened to hear of the death of Dr. Bruno Laurent. Bruno joined the Department as a research student in 1994, working with Professor John Bridgwater. His subsequent PhD thesis was concerned with the study of powders flowing inside a scaled-down version of an industrial mixer used in the polymer industry.

Before coming to Cambridge, Bruno graduated from the ENSIC-INPL in Nancy (France) and subsequently obtained a Diplomarbeit at the Department of Mechanical Processing at the University of Karlsruhe (Germany).

Bruno, who was born on 19 July 1970, had been a Senior Member of Wolfson College since March 2001 and a Fellow since November 2002. He left the Chemical Engineering Department in August 2002 and joined the Engineering Department as a University Lecturer in Industrial Systems and Tutor for the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) Advanced Course in Design, Manufacture and Management (ACDMM). He was a member of the Production Processes Research Group at the IfM and of the Powder and Paste Processing Group at the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Bruno, who was suffering from cancer, died on Saturday 28 January 2006 in St. Louis Hospital, Paris. He was 35 years old.

From Professor John Bridgwater:

It is with the greatest sadness that I write on learning of the news Bruno's death at the end of January, information received when arriving in Sydney to spend a little time at the University of New South Wales. Like everyone to whom I speak, I am shocked at this terrible turn of events. During a brief stay at the University of New South Wales, I am in fact working in an area of collaboration with Bruno.

I realize now that I knew Bruno for over twelve years, initially as his supervisor and later as a colleague. We first met when he came to visit me at the University of Birmingham upon the introduction of Dr Jacques Bousquet of Elf. He thus came to work on a research project with me in lieu of his army service. By then I had moved to Cambridge and this work enjoyed a success that led to Elf funding him for a PhD for a further three years. This was to be followed by a post-doctoral position and finally a Lectureship in our sister Department.

He was always the dedicated scholar, wishing to apply scientific knowledge to the solution of important engineering problems in the area of granular mechanics. He would do what was right and pursued the right things with immense energy; he would not make a poor attempt at a badly posed problem. He sometimes had quite some difficulty in persuading sponsors that the world could not be built in a day but he found such discussions entertaining rather than annoying. He enjoyed the human interaction.

So, for Bruno, quality mattered. He has made a substantial contribution to some of the profound theoretical and experimental problems in granular mechanics related to the important but difficult area of solids mixing. His achievement is outstanding with some dozen or so papers in major journals and with at least two more to come. He is also the author of many, many conference papers. His subject area is now drawing in new workers around the world and his seminal paper published by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in 2000 is significant in this regard. He was equally at home with engineers, physicists or mathematicians. It is a major achievement - everyone I know in the field shares in the shock and the loss; he will be much missed.

On a personal basis, I shall miss him enormously. Over the years we had become good and warm friends and weathered a good few storms from sponsors together. Our debates were open and lively; we enjoyed one another's company. I miss his charm and his warmth; the world is a much duller place without him.

Above all, my thoughts at the present time go out to his mother and father, along with the rest of his family.

Some comments from other members of the Department:

"We shared the lab and our lives with Bruno between 1994-1998, all working for the "Prof" (JB) doing great things in the basement with PEPT (Positron Emission Particle Tracking). Bruno's enthusiasm was infectious and his laugh was loud enough to fill a concert hall, which meant it was always easy to find Bruno at a conference. In the lab, a vigorous discussion with Bruno was always good fun because small humble ideas would grow to fill the frontier of science - and always involve a mention of Kolmogorov. In those days Bruno was also a sportsman (sculling). He used to disappear at lunchtimes and we never knew where he went to start with. It must have been some work ethic where he thought it was slightly naughty to have long lunches - not very French!? When the mischief was sniffed out, we took every opportunity to farewell him "Off for a scull now are we?". In his final year his back troubled him and hindered his training. With sport being the focus, he sought out physio treatment - as anyone would - however, it turned out to be another problem, which was the start of the end. Bruno's death is a sad loss. We miss him and will remember him always." Marcus Hiseman, Past PhD student

"I didn't know Bruno very well, but he would always greet me cheerfully whenever I passed him, either in the department or on the river. I remember one occasion quite well. I had been wanting to arrange a supervision and fortunately bumped into him - quite literally - when we were both out sculling. We arranged the supervision there and then in the middle of the river!" Mark Sankey, PhD student

"This is incredibly shocking - I can hardly believe it! He was such a brilliant guy." Dr. Clemens Kaminski, Reader

"Bruno was such a genuinely nice person - so positive and cheerful. I will remember him very fondly." Sarada Crowe, Safety Officer

"He liked good things, refined things, good food, opera and classical music and meaningful deep conversations. I guess he was after the deeper meaning of things, of life itself. In a way, I do hope that where he has gone he has found his answers, and hopefully those to our own questions as well." Dr Vassilios Vassiliadis, Senior Lecturer

"I knew Bruno well as we started our PhDs roughly in the same year. It is extremely sad to hear of his demise. I remember him as a great-natured, light-hearted individual who had a full range of humour, from dark and sarcastic to simply obvious. He never minded jokes on him, either. As the captain of our department's cricket team, I convinced him to participate in a game (as we were chronically short on numbers). I fondly remember his willingness to give his 200% to a sport alien to him. Despite his lack of skill in the first game, he continued to participate and improved himself immensely to become a key contributer to the team, especially in the pub afterwards. May God rest his soul in peace and give his family and friends to bear his loss." Hassan Mumtaz, PhD, 1994-1999


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