Doctor of Philosophy, Ecole Normale Superieure, Fontenay-aux-Roses, 1977. Doctor (honorary), Georgia Institute of Technology, 2006. Degree (honorary), University Berlin.
She is a commander of the Légion d"honneur, "secrétaire perpétuel" of the Académie des sciences and former president of the National Center for Scientific Research ("National Centre for Scientific Research"). The Times says she has "a formidable reputation for determination, decisiveness and an aptitude for analysing and clarifying complex matters." As a president of the National Center for Scientific Research, she was responsible for 25,000 employees, 12,000 of whom are researchers, and a budget of 2.42 billion Euros. Daughter of the physicist Jean Teillac and alumnus of the École Normale Supérieure de Fontenay-aux-Roses, Catherine Bréchignac received her Drug Enforcement Administration (Masters-level qualification) at the Faculté des sciences d"Orsay in 1971, her doctorate in 1977, and became a Research Director in 1985.
In 1989 she became director of the Aimé Cotton laboratory, and was Director General of the National Center for Scientific Research from 1997 to 2000.
She clashed with Claude Allègre, the minister at the time, over reforms she oversaw at the institution. She became President of the Institut d"optique théorique et appliquée ("Institute of Optical Theory and Practice") in 2003 and of the Palais de la découverte ("Palace of Discovery") in 2004.
In 2005 she was elected future president of the International Council for Science. She was appointed President of the National Center for Scientific Research at the Council of Ministers of 11 January 2006 on the recommendation of François Goulard, the minister for higher education and research.
She was replaced by Alain Fuchs in 2010, even though she was a candidate to her own succession.
She has been "secrétaire perpétuel" (permanent secretary) of the Académie des sciences, Division 1, since 2011. According to the International Council for Science, Bréchignac co-founded the field of cluster physics, which straddles the gap between atomic, molecular and solid-state physics. Clusters are "the precursors of nano-objects.".
Member of International Union Pure and Applied Physics, European Physical Society (board member 1989-1994), French Academy Technology, French Academy of Sciences (prize 1991).
Married Philippe Bréchignac, 1969. 3 children.