Three EliteForsk travel grants awarded to Science and Technology students

Three PhD students at Science and Technology have been awarded travel grants of DKK 200,000 each in the 2016 EliteForsk (Elite Research) awards.

2016.02.24 | Christina Troelsen

PhD student Alexander Holm Kiilerich, Department of Physics and Astronomy

PhD student Rasmus Østergaard Pedersen, Department of Bioscience

PhD student Jean-Pierre Desforges, Department of Bioscience

The travel grants will contribute to long-term study periods for extremely talented PhD students at the very best research environments in the world.

The three recipients at Science and Technology are:

PhD student Alexander Holm Kiilerich, Department of Physics and Astronomy

Alexander Holm Kiilerich carries out research into quantum physics, and his project is concerned with high-sensitive measurements of quantum systems.

Quantum mechanics tells us that the properties of atoms are fundamentally unpredictable. The theory ascribes probabilities to the results of measurements such as the position of an atom, but prior to taking the actual measurement, the atom is simply not in a particular location. It is only when the atom is observed, that the probabilities collapse and the atom is localised.

“In the atomic world of quantum mechanics, observers thus play a far more crucial role than in our everyday lives because, by measuring, they actually influence the quantum mechanical system,” explains Alexander Holm Kiilerich. “In my research, I’m working on the theoretical description of quantum systems under observation. By understanding the dynamics that measurements of a quantum system give rise to, we can predict the information content connected with a particular measuring method. This knowledge can be used to come up with optimal measurement strategies. Via the right measurement-conditioned dynamics, we can also control the quantum systems in ways that are not otherwise possible,” he says.

Alexander Holm Kiilerich plans to use his travel grant for a long-term study period at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA).

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PhD student Rasmus Østergaard Pedersen, Department of Bioscience

Rasmus Østergaard Pedersen’s research focuses on macroecology. His PhD project is concerned with increasing the understanding of mammalian and plant distribution. More specifically, it is about the impact of groups of organisms on each other’s distribution on a large scale over time.

“At present, I’m in the process of studying and challenging a common theory about natural population densities for mammals – something of great significance for their impact on the vegetation. This research can provide answers to how great a proportion of the population of individual species has disappeared, or which species are in ecological abundance in relation to a contemporary equilibrium – which can provide insight into the impact that human presence has had on the world and will have on fauna and flora,” says Rasmus Østergaard Pedersen.

Rasmus Østergaard Pedersen will use his travel grant for a study period of a few months at the University of Oxford, as well as for field studies of the savannah ecosystems in Africa.

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PhD student Jean-Pierre Desforges, Department of Bioscience

Jean-Pierre Desforges carries out research into ecotoxicology, and his project is concerned with studying the health-related impact of pollution on North Atlantic predators.

Ecotoxicology is a complex science that requires an understanding of many processes concerned with the fate of hazardous substances, ranging from the sources, transport routes and bioaccumulations to the final concentrations in predators and humans. The fact that these hazardous substances are not produced or used in the pristine Arctic environments, but are nevertheless found in high concentrations in the Arctic fauna, makes the Arctic an important area for understanding their transport routes and bioaccumulation.

“In my research, I’m working on clarifying the impact of human-induced pollution on the health of humans and marine mammals. The aim of my PhD project is to shed light on the impact of hazardous substances on innate and adaptive immunity. I’m also looking at resistance to disease in North Atlantic marine mammals and the Greenland population, both of which are exposed to high environmental impact. I’ll use the results of my laboratory experiments to develop a model for assessing the consequences at a population level when these animals are exposed to hazardous substances,” says Jean-Pierre Desforges.

Jean-Pierre Desforges will use his travel grant for exchange programmes at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA), the University of Connecticut (UConn, USA) and the University of Veterinary Medicine (Germany).

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