FNR Awards 2020: The shortlists

Thursday, 19 November at 19:00 sees the kick-off of the first ever 100% digital edition of the FNR Awards. Join us this evening as we celebrate science and research in Luxembourg. Ahead of the ceremony, discover the excellent researchers and projects that have made the shortlist in each category. Who are the winners? Watch the FNR Awards online tonight at 19:00 to find out!

The FNR annually presents awards in the categories ‘Outstanding Scientific Publication’; ‘Outstanding PhD Thesis’; ‘Outstanding Promotion of Science to the Public’, with ‘Outstanding Research-Driven Innovation’ added for the first time in 2017. These are presented at the annual FNR Awards Ceremony, usually attended by the Minister for Higher Education and Research.

With the FNR Awards, the FNR aims to encourage communication between researchers, and to promote science-related activities aimed at the general public and the young. The FNR Awards highlight such work and reward both the awardees and their institutions. 64 FNR Awards have been awarded across the various categories since 2009.

Winners of an FNR Award are presented with a stunning 3D-printed unpolished steel trophy, assembled in a 3D polymer plinth, the latter being poplar and maple plated.

The trophy was designed by Rodolfo Baïz, and the 3D impression of the steel elements done in Luxembourg. The base is also in 3D print steel.

Normally held in Belval, in the heart of Luxembourg’s science and research, the FNR Awards are taking place in a 100% digital format this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Normally hosted by RTL Télé Lëtzebuerg’s Olivier Catani, 2020 also sees a new host for the FNR Awards: Lisa Burke.

Everyone is invited to discover the winners of a 2020 FNR Award and the outstanding efforts that led the jury to choose these winners, all in the comfort of their own homes: A free stream is kicking off at 19:00 on Thursday, 19 November 2020, which can be viewed on the following platforms:

The FNR Awards will be streaming from 19:00 on Thursday, 19 November on the following platforms:

Here on fnr.lu; Twitter, Facebook, as well as on rtl.lu and RTL Today.

Shortlist Outstanding PhD Thesis

Andrea Tamburelli for the PhD Thesis “Andi-de Sitter geometry: convex domains, foliations and volume” (conducted at University of Luxembourg)

Andrea Tamburelli has made very significant progress in our understanding of the geometry of so-called anti-de Sitter spaces.

The anti-de Sitter space was introduced originally as a model for gravity with a negative cosmological constant, and still plays an important role in theoretical physics.

Starting in the 1990s, it was realized that anti-de Sitter geometry — the geometry of spaces that look locally like the anti-de Sitter space — is particularly rich, in particular in dimension 3, where it mirrors some of the most interesting features of hyperbolic geometry, which have been the focus of considerable interest in the last decades.

Divya Balakrishnan for the PhD Thesis “Acidity control in miniaturised volumes” (conducted at Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology in lab of ATTRACT Fellow Cesar Pascual Garcia)

In her thesis, Divya developed nano-scale electrochemical devices that in the long run could help doctors detect very low quantities of biomarkers, which are molecules that indicate the presence of a disease.

She uses combinatorial chemistry – making a large number of chemical compounds rapidly on a small scale in in a single process.

Her work is pioneering and has the potential to transform the way combinatorial chemistry is used particularly for applications in personalised medicine.

Maciej Chrzanowski, for the PhD Thesis “Shear Trasnfer in Heavy Steel-Concrete Composite Columns with Multiple Encased Steel Profiles” (conducted at University of Luxembourg & ArcelorMittal Belval & Differdange s.a.)

In his thesis, he analysed the structural behaviour of a particular type of heavy composite columns, that form the backbone of modern high-rise buildings.

He also proposes an innovative engineering model and a new type of shear connectors that both help to improve the safety and cost-efficiency of tall building construction.

Thierry Ticheu Chekam for the PhD Thesis “Assessment and Improvement of the Practical Use of Mutation for Automated Software Testing” (conducted at University of Luxembourg – SnT)

He has investigated how to improve software testing techniques. This is important because bugs still happen in deployed software and can have serious consequences.

He has designed an automated (machine learning) test input generation technique that can improve the quality of one method used for testing (so-called mutation testing) by 20 to 30% compared to the state of the art.

Violetta Schaan for the PhD Thesis “Early life adversity and its long-term effects on stress responses and mental health” (conducted at the University of Luxembourg)

Her thesis was about how child-hood trauma such as divorce or adoption may affect mental health at a young adult stage.

Five different studies were conducted with populations that are difficult to recruit, using a combined behavioural-clinical-psychobiological approach rarely seen in this research field.

The results are of important social and clinical relevance; the findings have potential meaningful applications in the real world.

Shortlist Outstanding Promotion of Science to the Public

Maiti Lommel, Claudia Gaebel (Fondation Cancer), Sabrina Fritah, Anaïs Oudin, Laura Star (Luxembourg Institute of Health), Elisabeth Reckinger, Alexandre Salsmann, Serge Haan (University of Luxembourg) for cancer research awareness activities.

The team had a research booth with five different stations at the Relais pour la Vie organised by Fondation Cancer in 2019.

Workshops were offered by researchers from different institutions working on cancer (Fondation Cancer, Luxembourg Institute of Health and University of Luxembourg).

Activities included a giant cell that can talk; a slide show on cellular functions, cancer and metastasis; and the comic strip “the cell that wanted to become immortal”.

Carole Blond-Hanten (Luxembourg Institute Of Socio–Economic Research) for the activity ‘GG – Play the Gender Game’

She designed “GG”, a giant board game that helps to raise awareness among children, young adults and adults towards gender imbalances and stereotypes.

In addition, it teaches players the underlying scientific method that was used to collect the research data on which the game is based.

Sophie Wagner, Sabine Schmitz, Ruxandra Soare Lelubre, Lucie Debroux Lisa Smits, Philippe Lamesch (University of Luxembourg – LCSB) for the activity ‘Mind the Brain’

The 10-year anniversary project combined art and science by collaborating with renowned Luxembourg-based artists.

10 giant painted brains with a link to different brain research topics were exhibited at public spots in Luxembourg city and sold afterwards to raise funds for research.

Shortlist Outstanding Research-Driven Innovation

Carole Devaux, Xavier Dervillez (Luxembourg Institute of Health) for the project “CoMiX: Complement Multimers Immunotherapeutic CompleXes”

The researchers describe an innovative strategy to combat breast cancer with a new technology platform. The products could be used to treat patients currently resistant to standard care medication.

Patents have been filed and discussions with pharma companies for the valorisation of the technology and products are ongoing.

Claudine Kirsch, Simone Mortini (University of Luxembourg) for the project “Educational Movies of Language Learning Practices”

They developed a series of short videos that show educators and teachers how multiple languages can be used throughout the day.

The videos are used in professional development courses and are currently the only evidence-based videos that exist to show practical examples of multilingual pedagogy, activities and strategies for both the formal and non-formal education sector.

Shortlist Outstanding Scientific Publication

Anna Golebiewska, Anne Dirkse, Simone Niclou (Luxembourg Institute of Health) for the publication “Stem cell-associated heterogeneity in Glioblastoma results from intrinsic tumor plasticity shaped by the microenvironment.”

The publication challenges an important theory in brain cancer biology that has emerged as a dogma in the past few years.

The findings of this publication may represent a paradigm shift in the field.

Aside from key fundamental biological insight, this work provides a basis for future studies for the development of more effective therapies.

Laurent Pfister, Núria Martínez-Carreras, Christophe Hissler, Julian Klaus, Gwenael E. Carrer, Mike K. Stewart, Jeffrey J. McDonnell (Luxembourg Institute Of Science And Technology) for the publication “Bedrock geology controls on catchment storage, mixing, and release: A comparative analysis of 16 nested catchments.”

The team from LIST explored how the deeper storage space below the thin layer of soil that mantles the river basin controls how catchments store, mix and release water.

Tracking the movement of water (i.e. rainfall, turning into stream and river flow) below the surface of the Earth is fundamental to understanding the impacts of humans on the landscape and mitigating the impacts of climatic change on society.

Carole Linster, Nicole Paczia, Julia Becker-Kettern, Jean-François Conrotte, Daniel Kay (University of Luxembourg – LCSB) for the publication “NAD(P)HX dehydratase (NAXD) deficiency:a novel neurodegenerative disorder exacerbated by febrile illnesses.”

The team helped identify the cause and mechanism of a previously unrecognised rare childhood disorder.

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