Stavros Katsanevas 1953–2022

5 July 2023
Stavros Katsanevas
Stavros Katsanevas’ many contributions ranged from astroparticle physics to art in science. Credit: IN2P3

Stavros Katsanevas, who shaped the field of astroparticle physics in Europe, died on 27 November 2022. He had just become professor emeritus of Université Paris Cité and was preparing his return to the Astroparticle and Cosmology (APC) laboratory. 

Born in Athens in 1953, Stavros pursued physics at the University of Athens. In 1979 he obtained his speciality doctorate from École polytechnique in Paris. He obtained his PhD at Athens in 1985, and later became an associate professor there (1989–1996). From 1979 to 1982 he spent three years as a postdoc at Fermilab. He also worked at CERN, as a research fellow (1983–1986), research associate (1991–1992) and corresponding fellow (1996). He was then appointed professor at the University Claude Bernard Lyon 1, and in 2004 became a professor at the University Paris VII Denis Diderot (now Université Paris Cité).

From 2002 to 2012 Stavros was deputy scientific director of IN2P3, during which he steered the institute to a leading position in astroparticle physics. He was particularly active in the emerging field of multi-messenger astronomy and in instrumentation. In this context, he played a key role in the creation of the APC laboratory in Paris, of which he was director from 2014 to 2017. Until his death, he led the French–Italian European Gravitational Observatory consortium, coordinating projects related to the detection of gravitational waves with the Virgo observatory.

Stavros’s scientific career was extremely rich, as evidenced by hundreds of publications on topics related to research collaborations, experimental techniques, or the conception and design of new research infrastructures. At CERN, he distinguished himself by developing software for simulating particle interactions, which later became a standard used at LEP. He also played an essential role in federating teams in several large international collaborative projects. One example is his involvement in the OPERA experiment at Gran Sasso laboratory; another is his leading role in the development of underwater neutrino telescopes, starting with the NESTOR project, which led to ANTARES and KM3NeT. 

Over the past 15 years, Stavros played a central role in defining a global strategy in astroparticle physics. With the support of the European Commission, he created ASPERA, followed by the AstroParticle Physics European Consortium, which today gathers about 20 European countries. He was also involved in interdisciplinary research projects, mainly in the field of geosciences. He was co-director of the Laboratory of Excellence UnivEarthS from 2014 to 2018 and at the forefront of a seismometer project to be installed on the Moon.

Stavros was keen to promote science to a wide audience. Since 2015, he was a member of the jury for the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation, and in 2019 he organised an exhibition “The Rhythm of Space” at the museo della Grafica in Pisa. He was also coordinator of the European Horizon 2020 project REINFORCE, which intends to support more than 100,000 citizens to increase their awareness of and attitude towards science. 

Stravros was driven by an inexhaustible desire to contribute to the advancement of science by serving, stimulating and animating the community. Steeped in philosophy, literature and poetry, he was also remarkably kind and generous. His thought, his vision, his driving force, will continue to accompany us.

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