Four young, original researchers receive millions

Independent Research

The Danish Council for Independent Research awards Sapere Aude grants to four DTU researchers, highlighting originality and skill as their common trait.

Only the most excellent and original researchers make the cut to the funding under the Danish Council for Independent Research’s Sapere Aude programme, writes the Council in its press release. Therefore, this is a great recognition of four young DTU researchers who have been selected to receive the DFF-Starting Grants and DFF-Research Talent grants, respectively.

Two DFF-Starting Grants go to:
Assistant Professor Leticia Hosta-Rigau from DTU Nanotech.
Associate Professor Søren Kegnæs from DTU Chemistry.

Two DFF-Research Talent grants go to:
Assistant Professor Thomas Kjær Rasmussen from DTU Management Engineering.
Thomas Kristensen, a PhD from DTU Fotonik, currently at MIT in Boston.

Read about the four research projects below:

New blood cells to solve lack of blood donations
Assistant Professor and PhD Leticia Hosta-Rigau from DTU Nanotech receives a DFF-Starting Grant of DKK 7,053,432 (EUR 950,000). Her specialization is materials science, and she is developing oxygen carriers which can be used when blood donation is not an option or is unavailable. Since donor blood can only be stored for up to 42 days in a refrigerator, there are no large stocks of donated blood or other solutions for transporting oxygen in the body for use in connection with acute disasters. With a global shortage of blood donations, which is expected to increase over time, the development of an oxygen carrier with long shelf life, and which is compatible with all blood types, is one of the main challenges within biomedicine.

As a result of the aging population and an increasing number of surgeries, the lack of blood for transfusion is expected to reach more than three million blood units in 2030. In addition, donated blood can only be stored for a limited period of time, and time-consuming and costly obstacles such as pathogen tests and donor-recipient cross-matching must be overcome before transfusion.

New materials accelerate the chemistry
Associate Professor and PhD Søren Kegnæs from DTU Chemistry receives a DFF-Starting Grant grant of DKK 6,498,209 (EUR 870,000).

The chemical industry is the world’s largest industry with a decisive influence on our society, as it, for example, produces all the petrol, plastic, and medicine that we depend on every day. In light of the current environmental challenges such as energy shortage and carbon emissions, it is necessary to develop a more efficient and sustainable chemical industry.

Søren Kegnæs will be in charge of developing new materials with unique properties, which can be used for heterogeneous catalysis. The new features of the catalysts are developed by adding different elements to them. The materials to be developed in the project will be able to find use as catalysts within environmental catalysis and for the efficient production of a number of chemicals, which will contribute to the development of a more efficient and sustainable chemical industry.

Big Data to predict the route selection of travellers
Assistant Professor and PhD Thomas Kjær Rasmussen from DTU Management Engineering receives a DFF-Research Talent grant of DKK 144,000 (EUR 19,000). Thomas Kjær Rasmussen will develop methods enabling the use of Big Data sources such as GPS data for estimating route selection models that describe travellers’ transport behavior. Such data sources have great potential in the context of estimating route selection models, because they offer very detailed and comprehensive information on travellers’ route selection. It is essential that decision-makers (politicians, employees in the public sector, etc.) have a realistic route selection model available in the analysis of potential infrastructure projects. Among other things, the plan is to use the methods developed for estimating the Danish National Transport Model which is used by the Ministry of Transport, for example.

Physicist to conduct research into nanophotonics and plasmonics
Thomas Kristensen has obtained his PhD degree at DTU Fotonik, and is now at MIT in Boston, USA. He receives a DFF-Research Talent grant of DKK 144,000 (EUR 19,000). His current research is about collective excitations in two-dimensional materials: Electronic estimation and manipulation of plasmons. Collective excitations in which plasmons constitute a cornerstone represent a field of research which simultaneously holds extensive scientific as well as technological potential. Thus, advances in the field will not only benefit the future fundamental understanding of physics, but also exert influence in both core and sub elements of future technological solutions to the current challenges faced by the global community. In particular, a high potential for application is expected in the cross-field between photonics and electronics, including, in particular, through the improvement of photovoltaic solutions and advances in solar cell technology resulting from these solutions.

About Sapere Aude

The programme is made up of three instruments:

1.Sapere Aude: DFF- Reserach Talent. To be considered for a Sapere Aude: DFF-Research Talent grant you must have applied for and been awarded a DFF-Individual Postdoctoral grant for the autumn 2015 or spring 2016 deadline. On the basis of the DFF-Individual Postdoctoral grant, the relevant Council can decide to award a further DKK 100.000 excluding overhead to the project for (further) international activities.


2.Sapere Aude: DFF-Starting Grants
 is aimed at younger, very talented researchers who at the time of the application deadline and within the last eight years have obtained their PhD or achieved equivalent qualifications. It is expected that the applicants have demonstrated an ability to conduct research of a high international standard. The applicant will be given the opportunity to lead a project for up to 4 years.

3.Sapere Aude: DFF-Advanced Grants is aimed at excellent researchers who at the time of the application deadline and within the last 20 years have obtained a PhD or achieved equivalent qualifications. It is expected that applicants have ambitious research goals which require a longer period dedicated to research. The instrument makes it possible to pursue inventive and ambitious goals by carrying out and leading a research project over a period of up to 5 years.

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