Trailblazing Women in Astronomy

Professional Overview

For more than forty years, Professor Françoise Combes has explored how distant galaxies form, evolve, merge and die. She is an astrophysicist at Paris Observatory and a professor at the Collège de France where she has been the chair of galaxies and cosmology since 2014.

Research Areas

  • dynamical evolution and formation of galaxies in a cosmological context
  • galaxy dynamics
  • galaxy clusters
  • spiral and barred structures
  • interactions between galaxies
  • multi-wavelength observations
  • millimetric radioastronomy
  • N-body simulations and hydrodynamics
  • black holes in galaxies
  • dark matter dynamics
  • molecular clouds
  • thermodynamics of self-gravity

Awards and Honors

  • 2017: The school City of Success of Montpellier was renamed as High school Françoise Combes
  • 2017: Prix Jules Janssen of the Société astronomique de France, the French astronomical society.
  • 2017: Lise Meitner Prize of the University of Technology CHALMERS in Gothenburg
  • 2017: Honorary member of the American Union of Astronomy
  • 2015: Officer of the French Legion of Honour
  • 2013: R.M. Petrie Prize of the Canadian Astronomical Society
  • 2013: Honorary Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society
  • 2012: Prix des Trois Physiciens, ENS
  • 2009: Officer of the National Order of Merit
  • 2009: Member of the Academia Europaea
  • 2003: Honorary Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society
  • 2009: Tycho Brahe Prize of the European Astronomical Society
  • 2006: Knight of the French Legion of Honour
  • 2004: Member of the French Academy of Sciences
  • 2001: Silver Medal of the CNRS
  • 1986: IBM physics prize

Work History

  • 1975 – 1978 Assistant-Professor in Ecole Normale Supérieure (Ulm), Paris
  • 1978 – 1985 Associate-Professor in Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris
  • 1983 – 1985 Part-time lecturer in Paris 6 (C4 and DEA)
  • 1985 – 1989 Staff-director of the Physics Laboratory in Ecole Normale Supérieure (Ulm), Paris
  • 1989 – 1996 Astronomer (2cl) at Paris Observatory
  • 1996 – 2006 Astronomer (1cl) at Paris Observatory
  • since 2007 Astronomer (CE) at Paris Observatory

Memberships (selection)

  • Member of ALMA Program Committee (panel chair)
  • Member Committee ERC-Astrophysics (PE9)
  • Chair of Committee ANR-Astrophysics
  • Vice-President Division VIII (Galaxies & Cosmology) of IAU
  • Member of WSRT/LOFAR Program Committee
  • Member of the HST Program Committee
  • Member of HERSCHEL Program Committee (panel chair)
  • Member of IRAM Program Committee
  • Scientific Editor of A&A

Role Model

Mentoring women in astronomy

Despite many recent efforts and improvements achieved on the status of women in astronomy, most studies continue to show the same patterns of gender disadvantages, both horizontally (per discipline) and vertically (per seniority level).*

This RAS lecture series offers the chance for early career members to meet with Francoise Combes as a leading figure in the field, to ultimately improve the environment for all astronomers. Junior researchers are invited to learn about Francoise Combes' outstanding career and discuss career issues with her and amongst peers which young scientists and in particular female scientists find important. The fact that women still feel discriminated in terms of pay, recognition, visibility and awards is telling us that we are far away from solving the gender related problems. Meeting female role models has the ability to build confidence and change aspirations in the next generation of researchers.

*see also Women in Astronomy working group proceedings of the IAU, vol. 11