20 August 2018

European talent programme bets on UCPH-researchers

Eight talented young researchers from University of Copenhagen will receive a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) this year. The grants vary between 1.5 and 2 million euro and may be used by the researcher to establish a research group around their groundbreaking ideas.

"We have every reason to be glad that the UCPH's researchers continue to be successful with their ERC-applications. Eight grants in Europe's toughest field, where talent and the quality of the research are the only parameters, bodes well for the future," says Kim Brinckmann, Deputy director for Research and Innovation.

The path to a solid matter will be mapped

Assistant Professor Kirsten Marie Ørnsbjerg Jensen from the Department of Chemistry is one of the researchers who have been awarded a Starting Grant. She is a material chemist, and her project MatMech will create a better understanding of the chemical mechanisms that come into play when solid matter is formed.

"As chemists we lack understanding of the actual chemistry that controls how a new material is formed. It is very challenging to study the materials while they solidify, which is why we lack insight into the fundamental processes controlling the change. In practice, this means that a lot of trial and error experiments takes place when developing synthesis methods of new materials. This is neither particularly rational or particularly effective, "she explains.

Using the powerful x-rays, such as those found in the MAX IV laboratory in Lund, Kirsten Marie Ørnsbjerg Jensen and her research group will follow the chemical reactions in real time, so their data can reveal how molecules and ions form and solidify. It will lead to a greater understanding of the formation of functional materials, for e.g. improved batteries and solar cells.

A rarely even distribution

The eight grants tie the University's record for the number of Starting Grants, which was set in 2014. But while 2014 saw only male researchers in the recipient list, the gender balance for this year’s list is much more even. Four female recipients and four male recipients.

The equal distribution is noteworthy in light the overall distribution of UCPH’s Starting Grants during the past decade. Seven female researchers have been among the recipients prior to this year's allocation, while 36 male researchers have been awarded grants.

A report from the European Research Council shows that in the period between 2007 and the end of 2016, 27 percent of all Starting Grants went to female researchers.

University of Copenhagen is registered for a ninth Starting Grant in this year's allocation, but the researcher behind the application has since moved to a foreign university and the grant will follow.