Two Elite Researcher travel grants awarded to Science and Technology students

Two PhD students have been awarded travel grants of DKK 200,000 each in the 2017 Elite Research (EliteForsk) prizes.

2017.02.22 | Christina Troelsen

PhD student Johannes Christensen, Department of Mathematics

PhD student William Joyce, Department of Bioscience

The travel grants will contribute to long-term study periods for extremely talented PhD students at the very best research environments in the world.

The two recipients at Science and Technology are:

PhD student Johannes Christensen, Department of Mathematics

Johannes Christensen carries out research into quantum statistical mechanics. His research is based on a mathematical theory developed in the 1930s, which can describe quantum mechanical systems. This theory laid the foundation for an interaction between mathematics and physics, largely in connection with quantum statistical mechanics. Within the field of quantum statistical mechanics, researchers are interested in describing equilibrium states. In his PhD project, Johannes Christensen aims to provide mathematical descriptions of these states, as well as developing a better understanding of the mathematical theory used to describe them.

“The challenge in my project consists of the fact that there is only one relatively small group of systems where we’re able to provide a good and specific description of equilibrium states. To actually become familiar with equilibrium states for a larger group of systems, it’s therefore important for us to find new methods, techniques and ideas. The description of equilibrium states for several systems will provide physicists with a larger catalogue of models to work with. Better mathematical understanding of the deeper correlations between equilibrium states and the systems they describe will possibly also open up for a better mathematical understanding of quantum mechanical systems,” he says.

The Elite Researcher travel grant means that Johannes Christensen can travel to New Zealand for six months, and visit a group of the leading researchers in the world in the area of mathematical modelling of equilibrium states.

Johannes Christensen was born in 1990, and grew up in Rold Skov, North Jutland.

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PhD student William Joyce, Department of Bioscience

William Joyce carries out research into zoophysiology, and his PhD project is concerned with the form and function of vertebrate hearts, with a particular focus on the mechanisms that determine cardiac filling and the regulation of cardiac rhythm.

“I work with comparative physiology and therefore study different animal groups, but I’m particularly interested in reptile hearts. More specifically, I’m interested in the way venous return is regulated and thereby increases the heart’s minute volume during periods of activity, ventilation and digestion. I also carry out research into how the blood from the lungs and body is separated in the hearts of different species of reptiles such as turtles, lizards, snakes and crocodiles,” he says.

Research into the form and function of animal hearts is important because it also provides a better understanding of the human heart – and thereby knowledge that could possibly be used in the treatment and prevention of heart diseases.

“To understand how the heart works, we must understand how it developed. It’s impossible to directly study the hearts of our ancestors but, by studying the hearts of different reptiles – and other animals – it’s possible to explain the fundamental properties in the hearts of vertebrates. Reptiles provide an opportunity to understand how the heart made important evolutionary adaptations, such as the transition from water to land and the associated evolution of lungs, and the development of the warm-blooded animals. In addition, the hearts in different reptiles are comparable with a number of congenital cardiac abnormalities in humans,” explains William Joyce.

The Elite Researcher travel grant will be used for purposes including trips to the University of North Texas, USA, to study how the circulatory system of turtles is adapted to life in water.

William Joyce was born in England in 1992. He came to Aarhus University for the first time in 2012 on an Erasmus fellowship, and returned in 2014 to begin his PhD degree.

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