Six female scientists kick-start their careers

VILLUM FONDEN has granted a total of DKK 14 million to six researchers under the new Villum International Postdoc programme. The programme is targeted at outstanding female researchers in the technical and natural sciences. The grantees’ research projects range from sustainability in construction and the adaptation of fish species to rising water temperatures.

Gender Policy

VILLUM FONDEN supports the development of a diverse research environment in Denmark with a special focus on women in research. 

We are working to ensure that the gender balance among applicants and grantees as a minimum requirement matches the national gender balance. Read more in our Gender Policy

The Villum International Postdoc programme supports talented female researchers in technical and natural sciences research at the transition from PhD to postdoc, the time when large numbers of women are leaving science and technology at Danish universities. The programme has been developed in cooperation with the Danish universities:

“We want to help prevent Denmark from missing out on female research talents in the technical and natural sciences. Villum International Postdocs are outstanding researchers selected on the basis of recommendations from universities and academic assessment by an international research committee. The six new grantees all share similar qualities – research talent, the desire for an international perspective and the ambition to pursue a university career. Our hope is that they can act as pioneers for others and inspire more talented women to follow a research career,” says Jens Kann-Rasmussen, chair of VILLUM FONDEN.

The new Villum International Postdocs are: Drude Fritzbøger Christensen (University of Copenhagen), Freja Nygaard Rasmussen (Aalborg University), Jiawei Wang (DTU - Technical University of Denmark), Kim Birnie-Gauvin (DTU - Technical University of Denmark), Line Meldgaard Madsen (Aarhus University) and Nanna Inie (IT University of Copenhagen). Their research projects cover a wide range of areas: from the development of interactive learning support for the acquisition of programming skills and predicting fish species adaptation to rising water temperatures. Several of the projects focus on issues related to climate and sustainability; for example, in relation to shoreline erosion, groundwater, energy systems and the construction sector.

Women in research

The Ministry of Higher Education and Science’s reports show that there are relatively fewer women at Danish universities the higher up you go in the academic career. Although the proportion of women in the Danish research community is increasing, progress remains slow.

In the main area of the technical and natural sciences, the development of the proportion of women has been more limited than for the other areas. The area is already the scientific field where the proportion of women is lowest – in 2018, women made up 27 per cent of the scientific faculty: At PhD level, there are 38 per cent women, at assistant professor level 33 per cent, at associate professor level 24 per cent and at professor level the figure is 15 per cent.

See the report Danmarks Talentbarometer 2019 (only in Danish).

The grantees have been selected as special talents by the universities and subsequently academically assessed by VILLUM FONDEN’s Technical and Natural Sciences Committee, which has nominated them for grants to the foundation’s board.

Frontline research and family foundation

Freja Nygaard Rasmussen from the Department of the Built Environment at Aalborg University is one of the six new grantees:

“The grant is a lever to promote gender balance in the technical and natural sciences because it addresses the fact that women have both structural and timing-related challenges in terms of succeeding with simultaneous research careers and family formation.”

As part of the programme, all Villum International Postdocs must plan a one or two-year stay abroad to ensure an international perspective and establish a network. Freja Nygaard Rasmussen is travelling to NTNU in Trondheim, Norway, where the family unit will be an important foundation for building a scientific career focused on sustainable construction:

“For me personally, the grant for my project is a huge boost for my future research career. It secures a longer stay at a foreign university, which would otherwise have been impossible for me as a mother with young children. My project will focus on a new approach to the environmental life cycle assessments, LCA, which are being prepared within construction to determine the climate impact. LCA has become hugely widespread as a result of increased climate focus, but there’s a big difference in methodology depending on whether there are small or large decisions to be made. Using the construction industry as my point of departure, I will examine the environmental impacts of different scales of decisions on material selection, for example, and develop methods for how the information from LCA is best brought into play in the decision-making processes,” explains Freja Nygaard Rasmussen.

Meet the six Villum International Postdocs:

Villum International Postdocs with chair of VILLUM FONDEN, Jens Kann-Rasmussen. Photo: Thomas Frandsen. Please credit VILLUM FONDEN. Download press photo. 

From left: 

Freja Nygaard Rasmussen, BUILD - Department of the Built Environment, Aalborg University (DKK 2.21 million):
"Building - LCA of SCALES"
Preparation of a new approach and use of environmental life cycle assessments, LCA, which are being prepared within construction to determine the climate impact.

Jiawei Wang, DTU Electrical Engineering, DTU - Technical University of Denmark (DKK 2.22 million):
"Data-driven Approaches for enhancing resilience of Multi-Energy systems (DAME)"
Study of sustainable energy systems; how to create reliable systems that can operate flexibly and robustly.

Drude Fritzbøger Christensen, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen (DKK 2.42 million):
"Coastal erosion hotspots - where and why?"
Study of the development of coastlines and causes of erosion hotspots.

Kim Birnie-Gauvin, DTU AQUA, DTU - Technical University of Denmark (DKK 2.49 million):
"Salmonids in hot water: are physiological constraints causing salmonids to die?"
Study of the adaptability of fish species to the rising water temperatures caused by climate change.

Nanna Inie, Department of Computer Science, IT University of Copenhagen (DKK 2.16 million):
"ATTiKA - Adaptive Tools for Technical Knowledge Acquisition"
Developing methods and digital tools for learning support for the acquisition of programming skills.

Line Meldgaard Madsen, Department of Geoscience, Aarhus University (DKK 2.34 million):
"Fusion of hydrology and geophysics for a description of surface and groundwater dynamics in a changing climate"
Developing a better understanding of the effects of climate change on water systems with a focus on surface and groundwater dynamics.


Anna Høxbro Bak
Communications Adviser, THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS
+45 22 64 03 55