46 mio. kr. for seven young researchers

Friday 22 Jan 21


Astri Bjørnetun Haugen
Associate Professor
DTU Energy
+45 21 56 09 19


Mikkel Heuck
Senior Researcher
DTU Fotonik
+45 25 82 93 11


Ivana Konvalinka
Associate Professor
DTU Compute


Eva Rotenberg
Associate Professor
DTU Compute
+45 45 25 50 05


Felix Trier
DTU Energy


Alexander Michel
Associate Professor
DTU Civil Engineering
+45 45 25 16 56

Seven young DTU researchers receive Villum Young Investigator grants for a total of DKK 46 million.

Villum Fondens Villum Young Investigator programme allows talented Danish and international researchers to pursue their ideas and establish their own research groups at Danish universities. 

“The only thing we know today about the new knowledge that will shape our lives in 20 years’ time is that it is largely being created in the minds of talented young researchers. It is therefore important to give young researchers a solid starting point for establishing their own research profiles,” says Thomas Bjørnholm, Executive Chief Scientific Officer of VILLUM FONDEN in connection with the awarding of grants.

A total of 19 researchers from DTU, the University of Copenhagen, the University of Aarhus, the University of Southern Denmark and the IT University receive Villum Young Investigator grants for a total of DKK 126 million. The seven DTU researchers account for grants totaling DKK 46 million. kr.

They are:

Astri Bjørnetun Haugen, associate professor, DTU Energy.
She receives 6m for the project '6D ceramics'. The way a material is oriented can have a big influence on its properties, but the way we make materials today usually does not allow us to fully utilize this. This grant aims to realize “6D ceramics”: ceramics that have both tailored shape in 3D, and a tailored grain orientation in 3D. We will try to demonstrate the approach by making a 6D ceramic energy harvester that delivers more energy than with a conventional ceramic. The grant will fund the recipient and two PhD students.

Janus Eriksen, DTU Kemi (coming from a position as postdoc at the University of Bristol).
He receives 8m for the project ”DECODENSE". Computer simulations nowadays find use in unravelling the inner workings of, e.g., potential drug prospects or emerging solid-state batteries, particularly whenever traditional empirical explorations prove infeasible. To that end, my project is concerned with the acceleration of contemporary electronic structure methods by means of modern machine learning. The grant will fund a PhD student, a postdoc, the exchange with international peers in addition to new equipment.

Mikkel Heuck, senior researcher, DTU Fotonik.
He receives 6m for the project ”QNET-NODES". In this project, we will develop small optical circuits that are capable of manipulating photons - the smallest building blocks of light. The behavior of photons is described by quantum physics, which makes it possible to use them for computation and information transfer in a fundamentally new way. This will eventually lead to quantum computers with unprecedented computational power and information networks with unbreakable encryption. However, we first need to develop hardware that is capable of controlling photons very precisely. The grant will fund the recipient, a PhD student, a postdoc and equipment. Read more.

Ivana Konvalinka, associate professor, DTU Compute.
She receives 6m for the project "Bridging social neuroscience and social data science: Uncovering interactive behavioral and brain mechanisms in social networks". The interpersonal dynamics and differences that drive successful social interactions are poorly understood but crucial for solving coordination problems. By bridging social neuroscience and social data science, the project aims to establish how group diversity in social networks influences brain and coordination mechanisms in real time interactions; and which of these mechanisms predict formation of social ties. The project will fund two PhD students, one postdoc, and neuroimaging experiments.

Alexander Michel, assistant professor, DTU Byg.
He receives 6m for the project ”Frontier”. Fatigue has become a crucial topic in the durability and integrity assessment of aeronautical and civil infrastructures. Yet, an understanding of the actual fatigue damage process in engineering materials is lacking. Specifically, one fundamental question remains: what is the micro-mechanical origin of macro-mechanical phenomena? Frontier outlines an approach that will link across length scales and help answer this question. The grant will fund the recipient, one PhD student, and three postdocs.

Eva Rotenberg, associate professor, DTU Compute.
She receives 6m for the project "Efficient Recomputations for Changeful Problems". Graph algorithms are used to efficiently compute answers to questions about graphs and networks. When the graph or network is prone to changes, a new task arises: that of adjusting the answer to fit the new instance after each change. In this project, we will develop new algorithms with strong theoretical guarantees for maintaining information about dynamic graphs; i.e. graphs subject to change. The grant will fund two PhD students, a postdoc, and meetings with international collaborators.

Felix Trier, DTU Energi (coming from a position as postdoc at Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen).
He receives 8m for the project "Spinning Around: New generation of Spin-Information Transistors". When footballs are kicked by a particular technique, the football can be made to rotate either clockwise or counterclockwise. These two possible rotation directions also exist for the electron, which is known as its spin. This project will investigate how electron spin instead of electron charge can be used in electronics.  The use of electron spin will allow for the realisation of low-energy electronics beneficial to a world with increasing energy demand. The grant will fund the recipient and two PhD students.

About Villum Young Investigator

The Villum Young Investigator programme focuses on attracting and retaining talented young Danish and international researchers at Danish universities. The aim is to support the development of high-level international research environments in the universities. 

VILLUM FONDEN received 161 applications for the programme. The 19 researchers who made it through the eye of the needle have gone through a process of academic evaluation and interviews with the foundation’s scientific committee as well as final approval by the foundation’s board.

VILLUM FONDEN will open the next call for the programme 6 April 2021. Read more about the programme (in Danish).

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