DKK 119 million to 20 young researchers


Each year VILLUM FONDEN grants a number of large amounts for young researchers at universities to accelerate their research careers. VILLUM FONDEN´s Young Investigator Programme was established in 2011 to target funds to the younger - Danish as well as foreign - research talents who often stand in the shadow of the more well-known and well-established professors.

Assistant Professors

Georgios Magdis

Gas to Stars - Stars to Dust: Tracing Star Formation Across Cosmic Time

A major goal of modern cosmology is to determine the star-formation history of the universe; how did the galaxies form their stars over the last 13 billion years? We know that gas collapses to form stars that in turn explode and enrich the galaxies with dust. The project will trace this circle of life in the galaxies and ‘paint'’ the picture of star-formation through cosmic time.  The grant will allow the recruitment of one postdoc and one PhD student, as well as the purchase of new equipment.

Granted DKK 5m

The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

Elizabeth Heather Neilson

How does climate change impact plants and their herbivores? Eucalyptus and the Koala

Eucalyptus leaves are poorly nutritious, difficult to digest, and contain high levels of toxic metabolites. Despite these factors, the koala survives on the exclusive diet of eucalypt leaves, facilitated by a finely tuned relationship between plant, animal and microbe. The grant allows the recruitment of a postdoc and PhD student to address how of climate changes impact this unique wildlife system, and assess how drought and increased CO2 alters the chemical composition of eucalypt leaves.

Granted DKK 5m

Department of Plant and Environmental Science, University of Copenhagen

Kasper Green Larsen

The limits of Computation

Some of the most important questions in Computer Science ask whether or not concrete computational problems can be solved efficiently (fast) or not by a computer. In this project, we will develop mathematical tools for proving that such problems cannot possibly be solved efficiently. Such conclusions can save research funding and time that would otherwise have been wasted trying to develop solutions that don’t exist. This grant makes it possible to hire a Ph.D. student and a Post Doc.

Granted DKK 5m

Department of Computer Science, Aarhus University

Magnus Kjærgaard

Joined at the hip: Quantifying effective concentrations in supra-molecular biological assemblies

Biological cells are well-organised machines, where every component has to be in the correct position. This organisation arises from binding between proteins in large dynamic complexes. The connection between the proteins affects many biochemical processes, which is currently poorly understood. The project will explore the functional effect of supra-molecular structures in biology by developing methods to measure and predict effective concentrations in protein complexes. The grant will allow recruitment of two postdocs and fund running costs.

Granted DKK 5m

Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University

David Jason Koskinen

​Neutrinos on Ice

The neutrino is one of the most numerous and least understood of the fundamental particles of nature. This project will make leading measurements using the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole of how neutrinos change properties along their travels. The grant will finance a postdoc, Ph.D. student and computer resources for both current and future experimental neutrino oscillation research.

Granted DKK 4.9m

The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

Kaare Hartvig Jensen

Biomimetic models of sugar transport in plants

Sugars molecules produced by photosynthesis in plant leaves feed our planet. The transport mechanism for conveying sugars into the leaf veins, however, remains poorly understood. I will combine synthetic plant models with new experimental methods in living plants. This will provide a unique system for studying sugar transport in plants, and a new bioinspired platform for biofuels from photosynthetic microorganisms. The grant will provide funding for two postdocs and experimental equipment.

Granted DKK 4.4m

Department of Physics, Technical University of Denmark

Irene Tamborra

Theory of Astrophysical Neutrinos and Their Sources

Neutrinos are almost massless and very weakly interacting elementary particles, copiously produced in various astrophysical environments. Escaping almost unimpeded, neutrinos carry information about these sites not otherwise accessible. The project aims to adopt neutrinos as messengers for exploring as yet poorly understood extreme astrophysical phenomena and to shed light on the role of neutrinos in the source dynamics. The grant will allow the hiring of two postdocs and one Ph.D. student.

Granted DKK 5m

The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

Emmanuel Arthur

Application of water vapor sorption and spectroscopy for novel characterization of surface and engineering properties of soils

Soil water vapor sorption and reflectance spectroscopy represent two rapid and cost-effective options for determining soil properties which are tedious and costly to measure (e.g., water repellency and Atterberg limits). The project will improve our understanding of sorption hysteresis, and develop a novel framework to estimate such difficult-to-measure properties. The grant will fund a postdoc, a PhD, purchase of data analyses software, and facilitate soil data acquisition on a national scale.

Granted DKK 4.5m

Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University

Associate Professors

Martin Lindegren

Marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: key patterns and processes in nature

The relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (so-called “BEF”) has been debated for decades. Due to a shortage of observational studies, the degree to which theory explains BEF in nature is largely unknown, especially in the oceans. This project will use observational data on marine fish communities, covering a pronounced biodiversity gradient to investigate the key patterns, processes and mechanisms of the BEF relationship in nature. The grant will allow the recruitment of a postdoc and two PhD students.

Granted DKK 4.7m

National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark

Jan Baumbach

Big Data Bioinformatics

Systems biology generates data sets at immense size to understand cellular adaptation to changing conditions, which is controlled by biochemical signaling networks. The project’s main objective is the development of novel algorithms facing the pressing big data issues. They will be applied to unraveling alternative signaling pathways that are responsible for regulating the fate of cells, tissues, and organs. The grant will allow the recruitment of two PhD students and one postdoc.

Granted DKK 6.4m

Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Southern Denmark

Lars A. Buchhave

Probing the Structures and Atmospheres of Small Exoplanets

The first exoplanets were discovered only 20 years ago and we now know that most stars are orbited by planets. However, the majority of these planets are not found in our own Solar System and their nature is entirely unknown. We seek a comprehensive characterization of these planets to place our Earth and Solar System in a galactic context facilitating an understanding of where life could potentially evolve. The grant will allow the recruitment of two PhD students and two postdocs.

Granted DKK 6.8m

Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen

Kira Astakhova

Novel tools for highly efficient detection of nucleic acids

Natural DNA are typically present as super-coiled molecules in the very complex biological media and at extremely low concentrations. The novel probes and assays I propose will be a step towards rapid, reliable and enzyme-free detection of DNA. Using fluorescence microscopy, this could become a new approach to detect and investigate DNA directly in the biological sample of choice. The grant will allow the recruitment of two postdoctoral fellows, one PhD student and purchasing of new equipment.

Granted DKK 7.0m

Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy, University of Southern Denmark

Eline Lorenzen

Palaeogenomic insights into Late Pleistocene megafauna dynamics and extinction

Two thirds of the world’s large mammals went extinct during the last Ice Age. Why?
We will investigate the demographic history of extinct and extant northern hemisphere faunas, highlighting the impacts of climate change and humans, and in the process resolving the process and cause(s) of Late Pleistocene faunal extinctions, which can be used to forecast faunal responses to our most pressing environmental challenges.
The grant will fund two postdocs, a PhD student, fieldwork, and DNA sequencing.

Granted DKK 7m

Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen

Yi Sun

Advanced NanoBiosensor for Rapid and Sensitive Detection of Multiple Contaminants in Food

Food safety is a global concern. Online detection methods that can rapidly screen multiple contaminants in food are urgently needed. This project aims to develop a versatile nanobiosensor by combining advanced nanotechnology with cutting-edge biosensing techniques. The device can be widely adopted at different stages of the food production chain, so that food safety can be controlled in a much faster and cost-effective way. The grant allows the recruitment of two PhD students and one Postdoc.

Granted DKK 7m

Department of Micro and Nanotechnology, Technical University of Denmark

Jan O Härter

Quantifying convective precipitation extremes under changing climate

Precipitation from thunderclouds causes significant damage and may intensify as temperatures rise. Therefore, it constitutes a serious threat under a changing climate. We now know that thunderclouds interact, self-organize and carry a memory. The project’s aim is to create a new description of the cloud field and thus explain how precipitation extremes arise. We combine cutting-edge simulations, high-resolution observations, and conceptual modeling. The grant will allow hiring of three postdocs.

Granted DKK 7m

The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

Thomas Sand Jespersen

Mesoscopic electron transport in correlated complex oxides

The project utilizes a new class of oxide materials which uniquely combine the key properties of semiconductors – the building blocks of all modern electronics – with effects of strong electron correlations such as superconductivity and magnetism. We focus on understanding the consequences of correlations in nano-scale electrical components measured at ultra-low temperatures, and the grant allows recruitment of one PhD student and one postdoc, and establishing new experimental infrastructure. 

Granted DKK 7m

The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

Rasmus Ejlers Møgelberg

Type theories for reactive programming

Type theories are formal systems that play a double role, in the sense that they can be used both as logical systems and programming languages. In this project we develop a new type theory for verification of correctness of reactive programs, i.e., programs that run for extended periods of time while interacting with their environment. The grant will finance two PhD students and two postdocs.

Granted DKK 6.4m

Section of Theoretical Computer Science, IT University of Copenhagen

Søren Kegnæs

Engineering highly selective heterogeneous nanoparticle catalysts

Many processes in the chemical industry rely on supported metal nanoparticle catalysts. Unfortunately, the metal nanoparticles are often prone to sintering, which decreases the catalytic activity over time. The aim of this research project is to develop new methods to prepare highly selective heterogeneous catalysts with sinter-stable metal nanoparticles. The grant will cover investments in new test equipment and engage two PhD students and two postdocs during the project period.

Granted DKK 7m

Department of Chemistry, Technical University of Denmark

Meike Burow

Protein level regulation of transcription factor networks

Proteins are essential for all biological processes and their individual functions are known to be largely determined by their structure. Yet, the proteins that bind to DNA to activate or inactivate genes in higher organisms typically lack a defined structure and still have distinct molecular functions. What are the underlying mechanisms? This grant will finance two PhD students and one postdoctoral researcher and new equipment to investigate structure-function relations of disordered proteins.

Granted DKK 7m

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of Copenhagen

Søren Stobbe

Topological photonic circuits

Integrated photonic circuits are central elements of the Internet and they could significantly reduce the energy consumption of information technology if they were sufficiently compact and efficient. This project concerns investigations of a new type of photonic materials, which allow building compact photonic waveguides with strongly suppressed losses, employing effects known from so-called topological insulators. The grant will allow the recruitment of one postdoc and three PhD students.

Granted DKK 7m

The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen

Director of Science: "Innovative research on the researchers' terms"