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Promising young researchers receive European Research Council grants

Four promising young top researchers from the Faculty of Science at Lund University get over 1 million Euro each in so-called "Starting Grants" from the European Research Council, ERC. These are the biologists Jessica Abbott and Helena Westerdahl, the physicist Caterina Doglioni and the mathematician Erik Wahlén.

Read briefly about their research areas below, which also include contact information for the researchers.

Jessica Abbott

Portrait of researcher Jessica Abbott

In her ERC project, Jessica Abbott uses experimental evolution to investigate how sex chromosomes evolve, and how selection pressures on the sex chromosomes influence the evolution of differences between males and females. She uses fruit flies and flatworms as her model organisms.

“The long-term perspective the grant affords is really important, because experimental evolution is time-consuming, and you often don't know how it will turn out until many generations have passed. It will allow me to dig into the response to the experimental evolution set-ups in detail, letting us better understand how genes on the sex chromosomes shape the physical differences between males and females.”

Contact Jessica Abbot for more information about her project: jessica [dot] abbott [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Caterina Doglioni

Portrait of researcher Caterina Doglioni

Caterina Doglioni´s research aims to help solving one of the puzzles of our universe: we know that our universe is not just made of visible matter, so what is dark matter made of? The searches in her ERC project will use data from the LHC particle accelerator at CERN in Geneva, recorded with the ATLAS detector.

“This grant allows me to build a group at Lund University that is dedicated to the search of dark matter mediators. These are the particles that would carry the interaction between the particles we know and the yet undiscovered dark matter particles, in the same way the photons are the carriers of the electromagnetic interactions. We will collaborate with researchers from other Universities all over the world and make a difference in the ATLAS collaboration, in terms of both analysis techniques and physics outcome. We will use novel techniques for data collection and background estimation strategies in order to find signatures of the new particles we seek.“

Contact Caterina Doglioni for more information about her project: caterina [dot] doglioni [at] hep [dot] lu [dot] se 

Erik Wahlén

Portrait of researcher Erik Wahlén

The research of Erik Wahlén concerns mathematical models for water waves, specifically the interaction of surface waves and currents in three dimensions. Such interactions are e.g. important near beaches and are also believed to be one of the mechanisms behind rogue waves.

“I will develop new mathematical methods to analyse three-dimensional models. The methods previously used for two-dimensional models don’t work in three dimensions. The grant means that I can build my own research group with several PhD students and postdocs, which is very exciting. It will give the research in this area a big push forward.”

Contact Erik Wahlén for more information about his project: erik [dot] wahlen [at] math [dot] lu [dot] se (erik[dot]wahlen[at]math[dot]lu[dot]se)

Helena Westerdahl

Portrait of researcher Helena Westerdahl

The Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) proteins are key components for initiating immune responses in vertebrates. MHC is probably the most extreme example of how diseases can affect genetic diversity in humans. However, the functions of the MHC genes and MHC proteins are only known in detail in humans and a few model organisms.

“In my project I will characterize MHC genes and MHC proteins in songbirds. Songbirds have a surprisingly large number of MHC genes. Does this indicate that songbirds can recognize and combat more pathogens than other animals? One idea is that songbirds have a particularly good immune system since they have to fight a broad range of infections at their breeding-, stopover- and overwintering- sites. Furthermore, I think that a deeper knowledge of the immune system in wild animals can help us to understand novel details about the human immune system.”

Contact Helena Westerdahl for more information about her project: helena [dot] westerdahl [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se