Danish astronomer to receive major research award

Jens Hjorth, professor and director of the Dark Cosmology Centre at the University of Copenhagen, will receive the Villum Kann Rasmussen Annual Award in Science and Technology on January 23, 2017.

The DKK 5 million award acknowledges Jens Hjorth’s research in cosmology, including gamma-ray burst breakthroughs that were deemed among the top 10 international scientific breakthroughs in both 2003 and 2005.

Chair of VILLUM FONDEN, Jens Kann-Rasmussen presents the Villum Kann Rasmussen-medal to professor and astronomer Jens Hjorth, the recipient of the Annual Award 2017. Photo: Simon Knudsen

About Jens Hjorth

Jens Hjorth is a professor at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute and director of the Dark Cosmology Centre. He holds a PhD from Aarhus University and has served as a Postdoc at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge and NORDITA.
Jens Hjorth has received numerous awards for pioneering research, including an Elite Researcher Prize in 2008, Lundbeck’s Prize for Young Researchers in 2004, and the EU’s Descartes Prize in 2002.
He has published 278 peer-reviewed articles, 18 of which appeared in the journals Nature and Science.
He is 52-years-old and lives in Frederiksberg, Denmark

Jens Hjorth directs the University of Copenhagen’s Dark Cosmology Centre (DARK). Among other things, the centre contributes to a growing body of knowledge about the ‘dark universe’ – the dark matter and dark energy that accounts for 95% of the universe. He is thrilled to be receiving the award.

I am tremendously honoured to receive this distinguished award, one that will allow me to pursue research in areas that fascinate me, and more. For example, I am extremely interested in finding out if heavy elements like gold and solids – based on silicon and carbon that our Earth is composed of – were created in violent explosions in the universe,” says Hjorth.

Interview with astronomer Jens Hjorth

Jens Hjorth is particularly well known for his work on gamma-ray bursts. He was the first to document the occurrence of long gamma-ray bursts in explosions from far-off supernovas. The discovery precipitated a paradigm shift in the field. Hjorth also headed research during the first witnessing of visible light from a short gamma-ray burst, an event that lasted for less than two seconds. Jens Hjorth was able to show that short gamma-ray bursts are emitted as extremely dense stars merge into one.

Besides his research and activity as director at DARK, Jens Hjorth wants to continue to spend his time training future generations of astronomers and physicists:

"I'm an astronomer in order to expand our awareness and break new boundaries. We cannot anticipate what lies ahead. A new world view perhaps?”

VILLUM FONDEN researcher director and professor Thomas Sinkjær looks forward to the occasion:

“We at VILLUM FONDEN are thrilled to honour outstanding and curious researchers like Jens Hjorth, who, through his long commitment to astronomy research, has contributed to a new revelation. A revelation that, in some areas in his field, has led to a paradigm shift. Besides being an outstanding researcher, Jens Hjorth is an accomplished head of research who has assembled a highly professional and diverse research team – an increasingly important precondition for understanding complex issues,” says professor and research director Thomas Sinkjær of VILLUM FONDEN.

About the Annual Award

The Villum Kann Rasmussen Annual Award in Science and Technology is presented to researchers who make exceptional breakthroughs in the technical and natural sciences. The award was first presented by the VILLUM FONDEN in 1987 and comes with an award of DKK 5 million kroner. 

Astronomer Jens Hjorth will receive the Annual Award on Monday, January 23, at The Black Diamond, Library (Dem Sorte Diamant) from 16-18.

Sixteen younger researchers will also be honoured as part of the VILLUM FONDEN’s Young Investigator Programme, and receive prizes of DKK 7-10 million to accelerate their research careers.


VILLUM FONDEN is a philanthropic foundation that supports research in the technical and natural sciences, as well as environmental, social and cultural purposes in Denmark and abroad. VILLUM FONDEN awarded DKK 902 million in 2016.

VILLUM FONDEN was founded in 1971 by Villum Kann Rasmussen, an engineer – the founder of VELUX and other companies in the VKR Group, whose mission it is to bring daylight, fresh air and a better environment into people’s everyday lives. VILLUM FONDEN is the principal shareholder of VKR Holding, the parent company of the VKR Group

Further information

Professor Jens Hjorth, e-mail: jens@dark-cosmology.dk, tel: 35 32 59 28

Professor and research director Thomas Sinkjær, VILLUM FONDEN, tel: 40 28 91 06