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FNR AWARDS 2019 CELEBRATING SCIENCE & RESEARCH IN LUXEMBOURG

On Friday, 25 October 2019, the FNR held the 11th edition of the FNR Awards Ceremony, where around 200 people, including Claude Meisch, Minister for Higher Education & Research, gathered in the halle des poches à fonte in Belval, to reward Luxembourg’s best research and science communication efforts. Six FNR Awards were presented across three categories. Discover the winners!

The FNR presented six prizes in three categories – each doted with 5000 EUR – to researchers and science communicators who over the past year have demonstrated outstanding efforts in areas such as science outreach, innovation and science communication.

Opening the 2019 FNR Awards Ceremony, FNR Secretary General Marc Schiltz reflected on the past 20 years of research in Luxembourg, and the opportunities and challenges ahead in the next 20 years.

Listen to Marc Schiltz's full speech below [English part only]

"Public research in Luxembourg is a rapidly expanding field. Congratulations to tonight's awardees, you are proof of the quality of research & science communication in Luxembourg"

In his speech, Minister for Higher Education and Research, Claude Meisch, welcomed initiatives such as the FNR Awards and the Science Festival, which have undoubtedly contributed significantly to forging a positive image of public research. He also recalled the role of ambassador that the award winners can play for Luxembourg research.

The FNR Awards Ceremony was hosted by Olivier Catani, presenter at RTL Luxembourg - you may recognise him from the PISA show with the FNR's Mr Science!

AND THE WINNERS ARE...

OUTSTANDING PHD THESIS

RICCARDO RAO

UNIVERSITY OF LUXEMBOURG

“Conservation Laws in Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics: Stochastic Processes, Chemical Reaction Networks, and Information Processing.”

"His distinguished track record clearly demonstrates his exceptional abilities to perform high quality research in a competitive international environment." (Reviewer)

Riccardo worked on thermodynamic descriptions for the stochastic and chemical processes in small complex living organisms like cells.

The majority of biological processes happen far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Assessing their thermodynamic cost and dissipation is important to understand their fundamental working principles.

His PhD makes fundamental contributions to the field of thermodynamics lays the the foundation to better understand processes such as metabolic pathways or gene expression in biological cells.

The jury selected this thesis for the following reasons:

- Both the depth and breadth of this thesis are exceptional.
- The results are groundbreaking and highly original, as stochastic thermodynamics was mainly limited to physical problems so far. They offer the theoretical framework for future investigations of energy conversion and information processing in small living systems like biological cells. They are therefore of high significance and potential.

Riccardo Rao's PhD thesis was conducted in the research group of FNR ATTRACT Fellow & ERC grantee Prof Massimilliano Esposito [pictured with Rao] at the University of Luxembourg. Since completing his PhD in 2018, Riccardo has joined the renowned Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University (USA).

RTL Luxembourg does a segment in the evening news on each awardee [in Luxembourgish]. Discover Rao's segment below

OUTSTANDING PHD THESIS

LINDA WAMPACH

LCSB, UNIVERSITY OF LUXEMBOURG

For the thesis “Colonization and succession of the human gastrointestinal microbiome in neonates and infants at high risk of metabolic disease in adulthood.”

Linda wrote a PhD thesis on the colonisation of the human gut microbiome in newborns.

She compared babies born by vaginal birth and Cesarian section and observed differences in how the developing immune system is stimulated between the two groups of babies.

Babies born by C-section have a statistically higher risk to develop chronic immune disorders later in life.

Linda Wampach’s results are therefore of high interest for those working on innovative intervention studies that aim to restore an early ‘natural’ colonization and immune stimulation in babies born by C-section.

The jury selected this thesis for the following reason:

- The results are highly relevant and have advanced the research field on the establishment of the neonatal microbiome both from a biological point of view but also from a technical point of view.

Linda's PhD project was carried out in the Eco-Systems Biology research group of FNR ATTRACT Fellow Prof Dr Paul Wilmes [first from left]

RTL Luxembourg does a segment on each FNR Award - watch Linda's segment below [in Luxembourgish]

OUTSTANDING PHD THESIS - SHORTLIST

OUTSTANDING SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION

ANTONIO DEL SOL MESA & SATOSHI OKAWA

LCSB, UNIVERSITY OF LUXEMBOURG

“Transcriptional synergy as an emergent property defining cell subpopulation identity enables population shift.”

Published in Nature Communications, 2018, 9:2595 DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-05016-8

Antonio del Sola Mesa [pictured] and Satoshi Okawa wrote a paper about a computational tool that helps stem cell researchers with the conversion of cell subtypes.

They propose a computational tool that can help to identify the key genes necessary to convert one cell subtype into another, something researchers currently struggle to do.

This computational tool is highly relevant in stem cell research and regenerative medicine.

The jury selected this paper for the following reasons:

The jury selected this paper for the following reasons:

- It is a great contribution to a field that needs better predictive tools to direct functional validation.
- The work relies on single cell data, making it much more robust than other similar studies.
- The paper goes all the way to demonstrate with experimental data that the predictions of the model are correct.

RTL Luxembourg does a segment in the evening news on each awardee [in Luxembourgish]. Discover Del Sol/Okawa's segment below

OUTSTANDING SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION

EVA LAGUNAS; SHREE KRISHNA SHARMA; SINA MALEKI; SYMEON CHATZINOTAS; BJÖRN OTTERSTEN

SNT, UNIVERSITY OF LUXEMBOURG

“Ressource Allocation for Cognitive Satellite Communications With Incumbent Terrestrial Networks.”

Published in IEEE Transactions on Cognitive Communications and Networking, Vol. 1, No. 3, September 2015

Eva Lagunas, Shree Krishna Sharma, Sina Maleki, Symeon Chatzinotas, and Björn Ottersten wrote a paper about optimising the radio spectrum use between satellite and terrestrial communication systems.

The publication presents a new idea to tackle the problem of the lack of available unlicensed radio spectrum.

Together with the increasing spectrum demand by multimedia applications, this has resulted in a spectrum scarcity problem, which affects both satellite and terrestrial communications.

The authors proposed a scenario and techniques where the satellite system shares the spectrum with the terrestrial frequency bands.

The jury selected the publication for the following reasons:

- The work includes empirical data from project partners to build and test its experimental evaluation for satellite networking.
- The work has gathered significant number citations, seeming to increase at a fast rate.
- Indeed, this was one of the first works on satellite-terrestrial coexistence, a ground-breaking idea in 2015, but now a trending idea that is being further investigated at both ESA and Horizon 2020 level.

RTL Luxembourg does a segment on each award in the evening news [in Luxembourgish] - watch Eva Lagunas et al.'s segment below

OUTSTANDING PROMOTION OF SCIENCE TO THE PUBLIC

CARLO HANSEN; NATALIA SLIOUTOVA; SOUSANA EANG

FONDATION JEUNES SCIENTIFIQUES LUXEMBOURG

For the national young scientist contest 'Jonk Fuerscher'

The Fondation Jeunes Scientifiques organises the national young scientist contest every year since 1971.

In 2018 around 55 young people participated in the contest, resulting in 30 scientific projects.

All participants are rewarded with the participation in an international science competition or get the chance to participate in traineeships or scientific expositions in Europe.

The jury selected the publication for the following reasons:

- It is an established contest, giving young people an opportunity to engage in and come up with scientific projects and exchange with like-minded people.
- Many former students end up doing scientific studies or pursue science-related professions.
- The contest has good visibility in traditional and social media

OUTSTANDING PROMOTION OF SCIENCE TO THE PUBLIC

JULIETTE PERTUY; LAURA STAR; NOÉMIE GUERISSE; MALOU FRAITURE; JOANNA MUZ; ARNAUD D’AGOSTINI; FEDERICA AMATO

LUXEMBOURG INSTITUTE OF HEALTH (LIH)

INTEGRATED BIOBANK OF LUXEMBOURG (IBBL)

For the activity 'Science Quest'

The 'Science Quest' was organised by the communication team of the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) and the Integrated BioBank of Luxembourg (IBBL)

The Science Quest was a large escape-room-style science-promoting event aiming to present the institutes’ biomedical research activities to a lay audience in an unconventional and entertaining way. Over 300 people participated.

The jury selected the activity for the following reasons:

- The event was exceptionally creative, fun and hands-on
- very good feedback from schools, general public and participating researchers
- A variety of audiences were reached

RTL Luxembourg does a segment on each FNR Award, watch the LIH's segment below [in Luxembourgish]

The 11th edition of the FNR Awards was concluded by Véronique Hoffeld, Chair of the Board of the FNR.

ABOUT THE FNR AWARD TROPHY

The FNR Award trophy is a two-piece, 3D-printed unpolished steel trophy, assembled in a 3D polymer plinth, the latter being poplar and maple plated.

Nearly the whole Luxemburgish public research is now gathered on the Belval Research and Innovation Campus. The aim of the new design [used since 2017] is to link the past and the present of this site: firstly steel – which for many years in the 20th century contributed to the development and richness of Luxembourg – and secondly, the sole natural resource Luxembourg has in the 21st century – knowledge.

Designed by Rodolfo Baïz. dimensions: 84,4 x 85,8 x 287,5 mm. Weight: 1,85 Kg

TIME TO MINGLE!

Credits:

FNR / Olivier Minaire