My memories are full of wonderful moments I shared with Laurent, particularly during our common years in Berkeley. When I came to Berkeley, Laurent was already there, in a different group, though, but same building and similar research interests. His never-ending energy pulled me in new exciting fields of thinking, both scientifically as well as personally. I remember very well, when more than five years ago Laurent – fascinated by his research findings in California – pulled together a group of young scientists to think about new experimental ways on how to investigate the impact of extreme events such as droughts on plant-soil interactions and carbon cycling. He was driven – occasionally even like crazy - and I have to admit, sometime it was hard for me to keep up with his pace. Later then, I saw the impressive facility on whole-ecosystem rain exclusion he built in Montpellier and realized how his vision and thoughts become true. Well, it was not only his vision, but also his strong personal involvement, getting up early in the morning, doing field work, working hard and always with an enthusiastic smile on his face, enjoying what is was doing.
He was not only an inspiring scientist driving by an outstanding amount of curiosity and determination, but also a very close friend. He made my years in Berkeley to something very special, a memory I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Well, yes, we worked on science, analyzed data and wrote papers, but we also experienced life in California, went to the mountains and deserts, sailed, and explored San Francisco. I am now looking through many, many pictures and see how Laurent laughed and smiled and how he brought smiles to me, to others. Laurent once told me that he wants to live every moment of his life and not let invisible boundaries restrict us to a shallow life. Berkeley was a inspiring environment and Laurent was always driving us to challenge our perception in science and beyond science. I remember the moment when he tried to talk a group of us, his friends, into building with him a startup company on environmental consulting at international level. We even went for a little workshop on Berkeley campus on how to build start ups. At the end, the idea did not realize and we continued to be pure scientists, but it taught me how inspiring unrestricted thinking can be, a gift that Laurent had and happily shared.
My thoughts are with Leyla, his wonderful fiancée he met during our shared years in Berkeley, and his family in France and Belgium. The last two weeks were very hard. Laurent, I miss you. Alexander