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EU funding awarded to up-and-coming Norwegian researchers

Three researchers at Norwegian universities have been awarded the European Research Council's prestigious ERC Starting Grants for 2013. Two are researchers in medical science and bioscience while the third is in natural science and technology.

The grant recipients are:

  • Jonathan Whitlock (neuroscience), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim;
  • Phil Pope (biology), Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB), Ås;
  • Balpreet Singh Ahluwalia (optical nanoscopy), Arctic University of Tromsø (UiT).

The awardees will each be receiving roughly NOK 12 million from the ERC over a five-year period to fund their research projects. The EU funding will enable them to establish their own research groups and give added momentum to their careers as research leaders.

Photo: Håkon Sparre Phil Pope (Photo: Håkon Sparre) Investigating bacteria in the digestive system

How do bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract convert plant material into sugar? Phil Pope will study the bacteria in their natural environment to gain more insight into the processes carried out by bacteria and enzymes. He hopes that this will lead to knowledge on how to make more effective bio-based products.

Phil Pope is the first UMB researcher to receive an ERC Starting Grant.

Read more on the UMB website (in Norwegian).

Photo: NTNU Jonathan Whitlock (Photo: NTNU) What happens in the time between planning and action?

What takes place in the brain from the time a person decides to make a movement until the movement is executed? Jonathan Whitlock will be using electrodes on rats to try to see into the future. By observing cellular activity, the researcher will be able to predict a rat’s movements. The goal of the research is to study mirror neurons in rats to see if this gives a better understanding of what happens from the time an action is planned until it is actually performed and of how we can understand the actions of others.

Jonathan Whitlock is affiliated with the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at NTNU, also the site of the Centre for Neural Computation, one of Norway’s new Centres of Excellence.

Read more on the NTNU website.

Photo: Geir Antonsen Balpreet Ahluwalia Singh (Photo: Geir Antonsen) A new type of optical microscope

Balpreet Ahluwalia Singh is developing optical nanoscopy in order to generate images of living cells at high speed. This will make it possible to image such dynamics as the movement patterns of a single liver cell. In the study of the liver,hepatology, it is postulated that liver cells open and close dynamically, but this has not been possible to prove without sufficiently fast imaging equipment.

The new type of optical microscope being developed by Dr. Ahluwalia would be both faster and more powerful than current models, making it possible to see sub-cellular structures. This technology will result in more reliable diagnostics and improved medications for liver disease.

Read more on the UiT website (in Norwegian).

Written by:
Christian Lund/Else Lie. Translation: Glenn Wells/Carol B. Eckmann
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