75 years in the service of science

Jens Chr. Skou

Morten Arnika Skydsgaard about Jens Chr. Skou:

‘The smell of boiled crab became part of life for the employees at the Department of Physiology.’

Nobel Laureate Jens Chr. Skou (1918-2018) discovered the sodium-potassium pump after years of tests with beach crabs. It is just as fundamental a building block in our cells as the DNA, says Senior Curator at the Science Museums, Morten Arnika Skydsgaard.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

His greatest Eureka moment was probably when, in 1953, as a young scientist, he sat at a research library in the United States and read about an enzyme in the nervous system of giant squids. An American scientist had discovered the highly energy-consuming enzyme in 1948, but no one had questioned which function it might have. This ‘hole’ in the research that Skou spotted made him curious and set the direction for the next 35 years of his work as a researcher.

The work leading up to his big realisation was his legendary tests with thousands of beach crabs in 1954-56, during which he periodically conducted tests four to five days a week – and where the smell of cooked crab became part of life for the employees at the Department of Physiology.

He must have felt most deluded when, after several months of tests, he could not make sense out of his test results in spring of 1955. ‘I could not reproduce the tests and was in despair,’ as Skou recalled it. It turned out that there was a good reason for this as he discovered that on some days, the laboratory technician had prepared the crab nerves with a solution of potassium and on other days with a solution of sodium.

He was hooked on his specialty when he was a resident at Hjørring Hospital during World War II and found the medical work exciting. ‘I was like a fish in the water,’ Skou said many years later. He performed minor operations himself in the surgical department because – sheltered by the dark of the night – the senior registrar had to go out and pick up weapons for Danish resistance people. Skou's medical identity never left him and as a researcher at the university, he was the on-call GP for a number of years.

His research is relevant to other people because the sodium-potassium pump, which he discovered, is just as fundamental a building block in the cells as the DNA. It is found in the banana fly, in the fish, in the bird and in all other animals and humans. The molecule could be called the ‘battery’ of the cells, using 20% of the energy built up by food consumption. Just over a decade ago, Skou's heirs succeeded in linking defects in the sodium-potassium pump to specific diseases, including a migraine type.

He received support from the Foundation for his lifelong work of exposing the sodium-potassium pump structure and function. Work which other researchers at the university and in the rest of the world carry on today.

I think he was most proud of his work when, in December 1997, he stood on stage at the Stockholm Concert Hall in front of almost two thousand people as a world star, shook hands with the Swedish king and received the Nobel Prize. His name became known all over the world, and the prize framed his laborious scientific work for 40 years. It must have been some very intoxicating weeks for a modest person from Western Jutland, being the centre of so much positive attention from all corners of the world and in the streets of Aarhus, where citizens wanted his autograph.

BIOGRAPHY

Jens Chr. Skou (1918-2018)

Professor of Biophysics at the University of Aarhus 1978-88, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 1997.

MD from the University of Copenhagen and Doctor of Medical Sciences from the University of Aarhus.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 1982 for equipment for a project on the structure and function of Na,K-ATPase as well as the system's activity in relation to the contractility of smooth vascular musculature.

Bodil Due

The classical philologist:

‘Even old literature confronts us with our notions of the world.’

Former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Bodil Due, chose a university career because of her interest in classical Greek literature, an interest that still consumes her today.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

My biggest Eureka moment was when I started writing a dissertation and discovered how exciting it is to try to get to the very bottom of a text and then compare the result to other people's interpretations. I worked with a Greek writer who had a political career and at the same time was one of the first to teach rhetoric and who, with his own destiny, demonstrated the importance of communication.

What led up to my realisation was an acquired understanding of how we are mostly positively – but also negatively – influenced by words and their connotations.

I knew I wanted to work within my profession when, as a student, I began to teach and felt the joy of helping others get started. That joy has been my companion ever since.

My research is relevant to other people because literature of all kinds – also from earlier times – talks about people, their thoughts and actions. You are constantly confronted and challenged by your own ideas about the world.

I received support from the Foundation both in 1989 – as a researcher in classical Greek literature, for a small book written as a by-product of my dissertation, ‘Pantheia and Abradatas’ – and again in 1995, for a book entitled ‘Selection of Xenophon's Greek History, text, translation and comment‘. While dean of the Faculty of Humanities, we received support for the establishment of a humanistic PhD school. I also received support to ensure that my English was correct when I wrote my dissertation ‘The Cyropaedia, Xenophon's aims and methods’.

The support from the Foundation for the Faculty meant that we received a huge boost towards intensifying the PhD programme and making it more uniform for all PhD students.

I am most proud of my work when I am contacted by other researchers and asked to participate in professional discussions.

Right now, I am researching Greek history and literature in the 4th century BC. It was a time when many things changed in the Greek world, and it was the final period for Athens as an independent democratic city state.

BIOGRAPHY

Bodil Due

Former Associate Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Aarhus 1999-2011, currently acting as an advisor to the university management team in a number of different fields.

Master of Arts in 1967 and since Doctor of Philosophy in classical philology.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 2007, on behalf of the Faculty of Humanities, for the development of the Faculty's research training.

 

K.E. Løgstrup

Svend Andersen about K.E. Løgstrup:

'To him, criticism was a distinct prerequisite for serious thinking.’

K. E. Løgstrup (1905-1981) found that as a theologian, he also needed to be a philosopher, says Professor Svend Andersen who is the head of the K.E. Løgstrup Research Centre at Aarhus University.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

Løgstrup's greatest Eureka moment was probably when he realised that as a theologian, he also had to be a philosopher. He acknowledged that in today’s world, religion and Christianity are no longer a matter of course. Instead, today’s world is to a higher degree defined by natural sciences, and it is a dominant view that natural science is in fact the only well-founded way of looking at our existence. Philosophically, this view is called positivism, and if theology were to find a place for Christianity in modern thinking, it was necessary to break with positivism.

What led to his realisation were the studies which he completed as a young graduate while traveling in France and Germany. Amongst others, his travels brought him to Göttingen, where he studied with the philosopher Hans Lipps. About him, Løgstrup said that there were no others he had learned more from. What he learned was the form of analysis that is called phenomenology, i.e. careful descriptions of specific basic features of inter-human relationships. A good example is his analysis of trust in his 1956 main work The Ethical Demand.

He must have felt most deluded when as a researching minister he sympathised with the strict, Lutheran movement ‘Tidehvervsbevægelsen’, which had Søren Kierkegaard as its big idol. In Løgstrup’s opinion, this theological movement denied that ‘Christianity sends the Christian into the world to be absorbed in action by what is going on in it’. In the early 1960s, Løgstrup broke with the movement partly because it opposed internal criticism. And to the scientist Løgstrup, criticism was an essential prerequisite for serious thinking.

He was hooked on his profession already when in upper secondary school, ‘without any particular transition, he went from tin soldiers to philosophy’. It was especially the works of Immanuel Kant that challenged him. Kant's ‘scholastic conceptual apparatus and unreasonable syntax’ taught him, in his own words, to work thoroughly. He also spoke of his ‘aesthetic fascination with philosophy’ as he calls it. He saw something beautiful and pleasurable in philosophy. If the scientific work was cleansed of this aspect, it would become ‘a closed system’.

His research is relevant to other people precisely because it does not take place within a closed system, but to a great extent is about the basic features of human existence. His book The Ethical Demand, published more than 60 years ago, is still bought and read, even far outside the world of research. On the one hand, it contributes to making Løgstrup one of Aarhus University's international classic figures. On the other hand, it is read by so-called ordinary people. This is because the book argues in favour of ethics that are not found within a closed theoretical system, but belong in the concrete life of people.

He received support from the Foundation for an internship in France and England for the purpose of studying existentialism. In a way, this was a follow-up to his study travels as a young researcher. One of the main names of existential philosophy was the Frenchman, Jean-Paul Sartre, but Løgstrup also wanted to get first-hand knowledge of English philosophy. In his opinion, it was almost a duty for Scandinavian theologians and philosophers to acquaint themselves with the academic discussions both on the European continent and in the Anglo-Saxon world.

The support from the Foundation meant that he was able to expand his international network to the English-speaking research world. He stayed in e.g. Oxford, where he established personal contact with the prominent theologian Ian Ramsey.

I think he was most proud of his work when in 1974, he received the Amalienborg Award from the then Crown Princess Margrethe. The money that accompanied the award was earmarked for a French translation of Løgstrup's 1972 book Norm and Spontaneity. The award was both an acknowledgement of Løgstrup's work, a recognition of his importance as a prominent cultural personality – and an important basis for the international dissemination of his thinking.

BIOGRAPHY

K.E. Løgstrup (1905-1981)

Professor in Ethics and Philosophy of Religion, Aarhus University.

Master of Theology and Doctor of Divinity.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 1952 for an internship in France and England for the purpose of studying current issues within existentialism.

Henning Lehmann

Former rector:

‘It can take a long time before you realise how much you learned on that side road.’

For Professor Emeritus and former Rector Henning Lehmann, Armenian church and cultural history is just one research area. For him, peer recognition is more important than whether his research has made any contribution to the gross domestic product.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

I have had at least two Eureka moments. It is debatable which one is bigger. The first one was the professional satisfaction I felt when, in the mid-1960s, I identified the Greek version of three of the thirteen Armenian texts I worked with in my dissertation Per Piscatores. The second one was the surprise when, in 1978, in the Armenian patriarchate in Istanbul, I suddenly found myself holding an important Armenian manuscript from the 1300s. It was essential to my scientific work, and I had suspected that it had been lost in the chaos that struck Armenians in Turkey in 1915.

I do not remember having felt really deluded in terms of research, but according to the old dissertation scheme where you worked in ‘splendid isolation’, you would occasionally walk down a side road, including some dead-end ones. It can take a long time, indeed a very long time, before you know how much you learned on such a side road.

I sensed that I would probably like to get into research, already when I wrote the prize paper in 1957 and received a gold medal for it the following year.

The good question of usefulness and relevance usually applies to the significance of research in relation to the national product, industrial development or patient care. I can assure you that in this regard, my research has been absolutely useless. In all modesty, I am most satisfied when international peers recognise that I have contributed to the understanding of the linguistic, cultural and ecclesiastical processes that took place when Armenia became Christian 5-600 years before Denmark. In my world, this is extremely useful and relevant knowledge – for all church historians and all Armenians.

I received support from the Foundation in 1972 for the purchase of Armenian literature. As, according to the rules of the Foundation, the books must be transferred to Aarhus University upon my death, I have thus spared the state the expense of the books. Thus, albeit with the express knowledge and approval of the University and the Foundation, I may be violating the rule formulated in 1944 that the Foundation would never finance anything that the state should have paid for.

After retiring, I have studied both the history of the Foundation and various Armenian issues, including the stock of old Armenian books at the Royal Library in Copenhagen. Right now, I am considering whether the more general presentation of Armenian culture and history that I published in 1984 should be updated.

BIOGRAPHY

Henning Lehmann

Professor Emeritus and Rector at Aarhus University 1983-2002.

Master of Theology from Aarhus University in 1960 and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Copenhagen in 1975.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 1972 for the acquisition of Armenian literature.

Helle Prætorius Øhrwald

The biomedical scientist:

‘Even small amounts can make a huge difference to research that is somewhat off the beaten track.’

Professor Helle Prætorius Øhrwald is working to uncover new ways to fight bacterial infections such as urinary tract infection. It requires some wild hypotheses – and a lot of control tests.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

I have been fortunate enough to have been the primus for several conceptual discoveries that have subsequently given rise to the establishment of new research areas. Fortunately, you often succeed in obtaining very exciting research results. But when you hold the evidence of a possible paradigm shift in your hands and know that just the few of us are involved in a project that suddenly identifies a fundamental new truth, you become humble and exalted at the same time. The latter was the case when my group and I showed that pore-forming, bacterial toxins utilise the body's own cellular signalling molecules to exert their harmful effects on the cells of the host organism. Overall, this means that you have a possibility to intervene and fight off the bacteria's attack on the body cells by means of the cells' own local signalling pathways.

What led to my realisation was a thorough preparatory work in the laboratory in tandem with thorough literature studies with pre-testing of our hypotheses in relation to existing knowledge – leading to completely surprising results that suddenly unveiled a gigantic lack in our understanding of the very key principles behind the way in which this group of bacterial virulence factors works. It was a simple, 'boring' control test by an exceptionally skilled PhD student which suddenly turned out not to be so boring after all and which revealed entirely new dimensions of our research.

I felt most deluded when we tried to prove our findings using in vivo models, i.e. living organisms, and it turned out to be even more complicated than we had originally imagined. After a terribly frustrating period, this allowed for reflection, thus helping to constructively target the future projects.

I knew I wanted to work within my field when in the medical degree programme, I was introduced to physiology and membrane transportation. It was the first discipline where you would not primarily be focusing on learning, but where you were able to independently deduce a new understanding of what goes wrong under pathophysiological conditions – i.e. the changes in the body's functions that accompany a disease.

My research is relevant to other people because my group and I work on the interaction between bacteria and host, with the goal of discovering new ways to fight bacterial infections. Our hypotheses try to challenge the conventions in hopes of identifying new ways to treat both more serious and milder urinary tract infections.

I have received support from the Foundation several times. The first time, in 2002, as a newly arrived researcher from the National Institutes of Health, I had to establish myself with the essential laboratory equipment to continue my research. The Foundation co-funded my first live cell imaging equipment, which was the basis for all my initial publications at Aarhus University – it is still working and is still being used. Later, I received funds for some lab assistance. This was during a phase where in my group, we had some exciting results coming our way, but not all studies had been finally completed. It turned out to be very significant support that helped bring home decisive control tests for the final publication of our findings.

The support from the Foundation meant that I could keep up the steam during the group's activities in critical stages up to a major conceptual breakthrough. It shows that small amounts at the right time and in the right place can make a huge difference to research that is somewhat off the beaten track during a phase of testing whether it will be all or nothing.

I am most proud of my work when the younger researchers in my group present their hard work, and it creates respect among colleagues for its innovation and potential relevance for the future treatment of patients.

Right now, I am studying the significance of pore-forming toxins for severe urinary tract infections, including blood poisoning. We are about to deduce which effector cells are the most important for the bacterial toxins. This allows us to isolate the best point of attack for interaction. In addition, we have exciting new findings about the reason why these pore-forming toxins actually make it easier for the bacteria to survive in the organism, and I believe that, once again, we are facing something very fundamentally interesting.

BIOGRAPHY

Helle Prætorius Øhrwald

Professor at the Department of Biomedicine, Aarhus University.

Master in 1994 and PhD in 2000.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 2002, 2006 and 2009 for several medical research projects.

Anne Landau

The brain researcher:

‘The disease stole her mental abilities.’

Associate Professor Anne Landau is conducting research on new and non-invasive ways to test the treatment of Parkinson's and depression, amongst others. It was her grandmother's disease that led her to that particular area of research.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

My biggest Eureka moment I experienced as a PhD student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Here, I discovered that the FAS molecule, which is closely related to cell death, had the opposite effect and actually helped protect the brain in the models of Parkinson's that I was studying. The discovery was later published in the ‘Journal of Experimental Medicine’. We showed that the properties of a molecule to a large extent depend on the context – and that there are thus many opportunities to make new discoveries.

What led to my realisation was a study of mice with a defect on the FAS gene. These mice turned out to be more susceptible to a toxin that causes Parkinson's. We later showed that the ‘gene error’ is also found in people with Parkinson's.

I feel most deluded when I need to balance my working life and my family life. Both my PhD and my postdoctoral supervisor were women, but none of them had children, so I lack good examples of how to make the two worlds come together. With a two-year-old daughter, a six-month-old son and a research group, it is a constant balancing act that involves making tough decisions every single day. I hope that I can set a good example for my research group and help increase the opportunities for female researchers, so that in the future there will be more women at the associate professor and professor levels at Health and in the health field in general.

I knew I wanted to work within medical research when I watched my grandmother Czernia Kegel contract Alzheimer's. The disease stole her mental abilities. She was a Holocaust survivor, and when she got really sick, the only thing she could remember was the atrocities she had survived – those were horrible memories that haunted her several times each day in the period leading up to her death. Seeing her suffer that way motivated me to study neurodegenerative diseases.

My research is relevant to other people because we try to develop new tools to uncover the biological mechanisms that are found in depression and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's. It involves, amongst other things, better use of laboratory animals and biological markers that can help us to monitor the development and response of diseases to various new forms of treatment. Hopefully this will lead to more gentle screening and, not least, better treatment of patients.

I received support from the Foundation for a pilot project in which we examined the effects of a very fatty diet as well as repeated exposure to sugar water on the reward centres of the brain. Amongst other things, we focused on the release of dopamine, which is closely linked to Parkinson's disease, by means of non-invasive PET scans of the minipigs. The Foundation financed the cost of the animals and the scannings.

The support from the Foundation meant that I was given the opportunity to develop a new collaboration where we got closer to understanding the addictive potential associated with the intake of sugar and the changes that occur in the brain when eating food that is too fatty.

I am most proud of my work when my students are doing well and are passionate about conducting research.

Right now, we are investigating two overall topics in the research team. One is the development of new models of Parkinson's in minipigs. The pig is an animal with a relatively large brain, suitable for PET scans and testing of new treatments – e.g. stem cells that produce dopamine. The second topic is the validation of a new substance that can be used in PET scans to map the density of synapses. Hopefully, our work can increase our understanding of the changes in the brain that, amongst other things, lead to neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders – and thus lead to new and better treatment methods.

BIOGRAPHY

Anne Landau

Associate Professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine (Translational Neuropsychiatry Unit and Department of Nuclear Medicine and PET Centre), Aarhus University.

MSc in 2002 and PhD in 2007 from McGill University in Canada.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 2011 for the AU IDEAS project ‘Imaging the obesity epidemic: Cortical processing of liking, wanting and homeostatic regulation in minipigs’.

Per Bendix Jeppesen

The Physician:

‘I have always been fascinated by the natural habitat of Brazil.’

Associate Professor Per Bendix Jeppesen conducts research into, amongst other things, insulin production. He made a great discovery when he found that a Brazilian plant could help diabetic patients.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

My biggest Eureka moment was when I, as a PhD student, found out how the sweetener steviol glycoside from the stevia plant was able to treat type 2 diabetes by, amongst other things, increasing the secretion of insulin from the pancreas.

What led to my realisation was that I have seen how, in e.g. Latin America, extract from the stevia sugar plant was used to treat symptoms that are similar to type 2 diabetes.

I felt most deluded when we could not get our lab tests with islets of Langerhans (cells in the pancreas that produce insulin) to function. It turned out that the cause was too high summer temperatures in the lab.

I knew I wanted to work within my profession as I have always been fascinated by nature, especially the amazing nature of Brazil, with its huge diversity of plants and animals and, not least, by the knowledge regarding use of medicinal plants that the indigenous part of the native indian population has acquired throughout generations.

My research is relevant to other people because it has led to the understanding and use of natural bioactive compounds from plants in the treatment of e.g. diabetes (stevia plant) and osteoporosis (red clover extract). For many years, I have also worked with sports scientists to clinically test new nutrients, bioactive compounds and tailored training methods in athletes, diabetic patients and healthy individuals. In particular, I have worked on developing and testing new dietary interventions and supplements for different types of patients.

I received support from the Foundation to perform experimental studies to investigate how especially steviol glycosides from the stevia plant can improve the state of diabetes, but also for a science cookbook that describes how in a large project we could treat patients with type 2 diabetes by increasing their intake of indigenous vegetables from the Nordic Gene Bank (the MaxVeg project).

The support from the Foundation meant that we were able to identify how, amongst other things, steviol glycosides work in an animal model with diabetes.

I am most proud of my work when I see that the knowledge we have generated is being applied in practice.

Right now, I am studying how specially produced fruits and vegetables may reduce inflammatory conditions in patients with chronic intestinal infection such as Chron’s and ulcerative colitis. In addition, I am working to develop a new energy drink for top athletes, using a unique slow-release formulation with a special carbohydrate and protein composition.

BIOGRAPHY

Per Bendix Jeppesen

Research Associate Professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University.

MSc in 1997 and PhD in medicine in 2002.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 1999 in the form of equipment and an assistant for a project which studied the stevia plant’s ability to alleviate diabetes.

Morten Kyndrup

The Cultural Researcher:

‘I am unhappy with the way many colleagues lock themselves up in theoretical camps.’

Professor Morten Kyndrup has been director of Aarhus University's interdisciplinary Institute of Advanced Studies, AIAS, for eight years. He calls for more researchers to dare to ask critical questions of each other.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

I cannot point to one particular Eureka moment in my research. There have been a few over the years. But they have all been moments when it suddenly dawned on me that by combining fundamentally different theoretical approaches, I could see entirely new analytical possibilities. Unfortunately, within the humanities, many people traditionally work within fairly rigid theoretical universes, or ‘discourses’ if you will. It is far too rare for research to think across, in connections between the different universes. It is the moments when I have suddenly been able to see that kind of non-obvious connections open up as fruitful opportunities that I have experienced my greatest Eureka moments.

The starting point for it all has been my fundamental interest in how art is functioning, i.e. its effects, both on a more general societal level and very specifically in the individual's encounter with the individual work. What art does, you might say. My starting point in ‘functional analysis’ of literature in particular led me, through reception aesthetics, semiotics and language theory, to a new understanding of meaning as something that always takes place as actions, ‘statements’. In this way, it has been possible to establish comparative analyses of the respective possibilities and limitations of the art forms – all for the purpose of exploring the special aesthetic generation of meaning, also in the light of the great historical changes of both art and culture.

I have felt deluded many times, especially when the sources of inspiration and the fields of interest have not been able to communicate with each other. Getting lost in ultra-complex theories without being able to find a solution – or an appropriate application. Furthermore, I must admit, I often feel a very frustrated with the way in which many peers nationally and internationally insist on locking themselves up in theoretical camps, in sanctuaries, without much interest in furthering the arts through critical, relevant research questions.

I have always been driven by a desire to understand the mystery of the work of art itself. What it can do and what it does to us. Not to ‘solve’ it and demystify the art. But the effect of the mystery will diminish if you are able to understand its mechanisms. And within the arts, scientific research has historically to a large extent either locked itself up within its subject area or reduced it by emotionally detaching from it. Been either too close or too far away.

My research is relevant to other people because the arts and the possibilities of the arts are there for all of us, but in their own way for us as individuals. Understanding the mystery would also allow us to utilise the arts better, and this applies to artists, scientists and art users alike – i.e. all of us.

The support from the Foundation meant it was possible for AIAS to be realised at all, and that it has now evolved into one of the world's leading institutes of its kind. Together with Aarhus University, the Foundation has paid almost two-thirds of the total expenses for AIAS 2012-22. The last third we have obtained externally, through EU programmes. With the build-up of AIAS, we have created a fruitful environment for top researchers from all over the world – for the benefit of the research as clearly demonstrated by the results. But not least for the benefit of Aarhus University, for our international reputation, and thus for our ability to continue to attract the best qualified researchers internationally. I am happy and proud to have been a part of that process.

In my research work, I am most proud when I experience being able to pass on scientific insights into the mechanisms of generation of meaning, imparting an understanding of the functioning of an aesthetic experience without simultaneously anticipating or directing the experience itself.

Right now, I am trying to become more all-embracing, more accurate and also easier to understand in my descriptive analysis of the aesthetic relation. I am on my way back to my professorship after the time as director of AIAS, and I look forward to spending much more time on research. 

BIOGRAPHY

Morten Kyndrup

Professor in Aesthetics and Culture at Aarhus University since 1995 and – from 2012-2019 – director of AIAS.

Master of Arts in modern and comparative literature in 1978 and Doctor of Philosophy in 1992.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation from 2013 onwards for development of AIAS in the capacity of director of the Institute until September 2019.

Miriam Flickinger

The management researcher:

’The managers of even the largest companies are only human.’

Professor Miriam Flickinger conducts research into management, and she has found that both employees and managers are often more biased than they realise.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

My biggest Eureka moment
was when I realised that management is more about people's perception of reality than reality in itself. Managers, employees and other stakeholders are more biased than they are actually aware.

What led to my realisation was my research into the way in which a manager's status in a company may be related to his or her dismissal. Since then, I have observed the same phenomenon several times.

I feel most deluded when I have collected and just started working based on very large data sets. This is the way it feels every time until some patterns begin to emerge.

I knew I wanted to work with management research when I gave my first presentation at a conference. It made me aware that there are many other scientists in the world who are interested in the same subjects as me.

My research is relevant to other people precisely because it shows that we all – even the managers of the largest companies – are only human. I find that quite reassuring myself with all its good and bad consequences.

I received support from the Foundation for my research into the way in which board members are selected for corporate boards. The support meant that I had the opportunity to conduct several different research projects simultaneously with my postdoc.

I am most proud of my work when I see that my research results make a difference in the companies.

Right now, I am preparing for my research stay at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Chicago.

BIOGRAPHY

Miriam Flickinger

Professor at the Department of Business Management, Aarhus University.

Master and PhD from the Passau University. Has, among other places, worked at LMU Munich University.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 2017 in the form of an AUFF Starting Grant.

Michael Svarer

The national economist:

‘You can explain the pairing of people with inspiration from economic theory.’

Professor Michael Svarer conducts research into what may be the most important decision in many people's lives – their choice of partner. And there is one factor in particular that explains quite a bit.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

My biggest Eureka moment, amongst others, was when my research showed how strong the explanatory power is in the presence of search frictions when it comes to shedding light on pairing in the marriage market. There is a pronounced overrepresentation of pairing between people with the same level of education and even the same education. This overrepresentation is, amongst others, due to the fact that the partners have been attending the same educational institution – i.e. a market with low search frictions.

What led to my realisation was the option of linking different personal registers in Statistics Denmark's databases. With inspiration from the economic theory of market dynamics under imperfect information and with the presence of search friction, we statistically analysed data from the unique Danish registries which made it possible to understand the factors which influence pairing in the marriage market.

I felt most deluded when I spent a summer trying to prove the hypothesis of the Nobel Prize-winning economist, Gary Becker: that the exploitation of specialty gains in the marriage market supports pairing between men with a high earnings potential and women with a low earnings potential and vice versa. As with a lot of other factors, there is also here a clearly positive assortative pairing – i.e. we tend to hook up with people who are similar to ourselves.

I knew I wanted to work within my field when I discovered that I was able to combine economic theory and statistical methodology to make empirical analyses of socio-economically interesting issues.

My research is relevant to other people because it combines economic theory and empiricism to (hopefully) describe relevant socio-economic issues. This applies both to the perhaps most important decision in many people's lives – when they choose a partner – but also when the research field is the setup of the unemployment benefit system or the effects of the active labour market policy that draws on the same economic ingredients.

I received support from the Foundation to conduct empirical analyses of how so-called search frictions – i.e. the fact that market participants do not necessarily have an overview of all options in a given market – affect the dynamics of, amongst others, the labour market and the marriage market. Search frictions mean that it takes time to locate potential partners. Thus, in equilibrium there may be both vacancies and job seekers and thus a naturally positive level of unemployment.

The support from the Foundation meant that I was able to finance data purchases and student aid, thus allowing me more time to pursue other ideas.

I am most proud of my work when I can use my financial insights and analyses to make a difference when it comes to understanding economic mechanisms, and when my work can be used to refine the pursued economic policy towards a more efficient use of the resources that are available in the economy.

Right now, I am studying, among other things, how public spending affects economic core concepts such as employment and GDP through so-called dynamic effects. There is an ongoing discussion about the use of the rule of arithmetic in economic policy development. The goal is to help uncover the blind angle that is currently characterising the assessment of changes in public spending.

BIOGRAPHY

Michael Svarer

Professor at the Department of Economics at Aarhus University and ‘lead economic wise man’ (chairman of the Danish Economic Councils).

MSc in Economics in 1997 and PhD in Economics in 2001.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation for an assistant to the project ‘Estimation of Matching Modes’ in 2002.

Osman Skjold Kingo

The development psychologist:

‘One-year-olds also have a memory’

Associate Professor Osman Skjold Kingo is conducting research into the memories of toddlers, and when he took a chance research-wise, he ended up demonstrating something no one believed existed.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

My biggest Eureka moment was when it became clear that we had demonstrated that one-year-olds have a good memory. Even after two to three years, they could remember a person they had only met once before. We found that the children looked more closely at an entirely new person than they did at someone they had met only once at the age of 12 months. It was an expression of memory for the ‘well-known’ person, but not necessarily something the children themselves were aware of.

What led to my realisation was that we had taken a chance and studied something that we basically did not think existed or could be done. Based on previous empirics and theory, there was little evidence to suggest that you could demonstrate a memory of other people in children that young, after such a long time. But the opportunity to study it came up a little randomly, and so we decided to give it a try.

I felt most deluded when, after writing my PhD dissertation, I completely changed my area of research.

I knew I wanted to work with psychology when in upper secondary school, I became more and more occupied with the interaction between people's thoughts, feelings and behaviour and with everything that could be adequately described based on psychological theories.

My research is relevant to other people because general knowledge especially about children's mental development is of great importance for the way in which we understand the child's ‘good’ development and also the way in which we understand ‘lopsided’ or pathological development. For example, it is difficult to help children with different kinds of problems if we do not know what normal development typically looks like.

I received support from the Foundation to broadly promote my research work in connection with an award for best PhD dissertation.

The support from the Foundation meant that I felt more secure in my research and that in the long term, I could commit myself to the research world. I took that as a big pat on the shoulder.

I am most proud of my work when I am able to communicate it to lay people in such a way that it makes sense in relation to their own specific experiences.

Right now, I am studying, amongst other things, the spontaneous memories of toddlers as well as the importance of the parents' conversational style, i.e. the way parents ask questions about children's experiences, for the child's memory of events.

BIOGRAPHY

Osman Skjold Kingo

Assistant Professor in development psychology at the Department of Psychology, Aarhus University.

MSc in Psychology in 2003 and PhD in Psychology in 2010.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in the form of the PhD award in 2011 for best dissertation within the main subject area.

Lone Sunde

The gene researcher:

 ‘Some pregnancies consist of two cell lines. A normal and an abnormal.’

Chief physician Lone Sunde conducts research into molar pregnancies at cell level. Her research contributes, amongst other things, to uncovering hereditary disposition to infertility and placenta cancer.

Af Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

My biggest Eureka moment was when we found out that some human pregnancies consist of two cell lines: a normal cell line with one set of genes from the father and one from the mother, and an abnormal cell line with two sets of genes from the father, but none from the mother. The genes in the two cell lines may originate from one egg cell and one sperm cell. The discovery gives us hints as to how the very first cell division may take place.

We already knew that with the rare form of pregnancy that is called molar, there will often be a majority of genes from the father – either two sets of genes that both originate from the father or three sets of genes, of which only one originates from the mother. In molar pregnancies, there is no viable foetus, and the placenta has a characteristic appearance with fluid-filled blisters. Therefore, molecular pregnancies are a source of infertility, but also a source of cancer, as approximately 10% of moles are followed by cancer of the placenta.

But it was new that there could simultaneously be cells with normal gene line-ups and cells with gene line-ups as the ones we knew from molar pregnancies. Sometimes, the two kinds of cells are mixed. This is called mosaicism, and then the pregnancy may have features of a molar and also features of a normal pregnancy. Other times, the two kinds of cells grow separately. The woman then has a twin pregnancy where one twin is normal and the other is molar.

What led to the new realisation were repeated, unexpected findings when we studied the origin of the genes in molar pregnancies. The idea that the unexpected findings might not be errors, but results, was shaped by countless discussions in large and small groups of ‘molar nerds’, including my former PhD supervisor Lars Bolund, PhD students and others with whom I cooperate.

I felt most deluded at the time when we studied moles with a new technique and thought that we had discovered that moles often lack certain parts of a chromosome. Fortunately, a colleague pointed out a source of error about this technique before we had time to publish the ‘results’.

I knew I wanted to work within my field, when during my medical studies, I realised that genetics is the subject area that allows you to look for the causes of biological phenomena and diseases to the greatest extent.

My research is relevant to other people because we shed light on what is happening at the time right around conception and the first cell divisions – i.e. basic research – and at the same time provide data that can be used specifically to help women with molar pregnancy – i.e. clinical research.

I received support from the Foundation to search for genes in mice that have the same function as the human genes NLRP7 and NLRP2. Those are the two genes that are involved in hereditary predisposition to molar pregnancies, and thus to infertility and risk of cancer.

The support from the Foundation meant that I could start a fruitful collaboration with Associate Professor Karin Lykke-Hartmann – who worked on egg cell maturation – about the study of NLRP genes. The NLRP genes are intriguing, amongst other things because several of them are important for imprinting other genes so that they can ‘remember’ whether they are inherited from the father or the mother.

I am proud of my work when I succeed in explaining something which we previously did not understand, and most proud when it is done in collaboration with colleagues.

Right now, we are studying, amongst other things, which genes – out of a person’s total number of 20,000 genes – have to be inherited in one father version and one mother version in order for early foetal development to go smoothly.

BIOGRAPHY

Lone Sunde

Chief Physician at Aarhus University Hospital as well as Clinical Associate Professor at the Department of Biomedicine. Previously, professor MSO at the same place.

Medical Doctor in 1981 and PhD in Genetics in 1992.

Support from Aarhus University Research Foundation in 2011 for an AU IDEAS project about genes and fertility.

Marianne Glasius

The Chemist:

‘Airborne particles represent the greatest uncertainty when trying to understand how people affect climate on Earth.’

Associate Professor Marianne Glasius is conducting research into the way in which air changes due to the man-made particle pollution, which each year causes the premature death of millions of people and which affects the climate on earth.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

My biggest Eureka moment was the time when a few years ago we analysed molecular trace elements in airborne particles collected in the Amazon rainforest and discovered that surprisingly, these particles contain a certain type of substance called organosulfates. These compounds are formed when e.g. organic gases from plants are oxidised in the air and then react with sulphate in particles, typically from air pollution such as combustion of sulphur-containing coal and fossil fuels.

What led to my realisation was several years of work on developing analytical methods for organosulfates and the detection of them in particles collected in the Arctic, among other places. I came up with the idea for the study during a lecture on a major study regarding the ways in which air pollution interacts with the natural compounds of vegetation in the Amazon rainforest. During a research stay at the University of California at Berkeley, I collaborated with a research team that collected samples of particles during the project in the Amazon rainforest, and in this way, I was given an opportunity to test my hypothesis.

I felt most deluded when I started as an associate professor and had to build up a laboratory and research group from scratch. There were many new, exciting opportunities, but raising funds was difficult. Therefore, I am very grateful for the first large grants that enabled us to establish an internationally recognised research group.

I knew I would work within my field when, during a research stay in Italy at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, I performed tests with oxidation – i.e. conversion – of natural organic gases from, amongst others, conifers which give them their distinctive scent. When these gases are oxidised in air, airborne particles are formed, and we did some of the very first analyses of the oxidation products in particles using advanced mass spectrometry, which produced completely new knowledge of chemistry in the atmosphere.

My research is relevant to other people because it addresses important issues within climate and environment. Particles affect the radiation balance and thus the climate on earth, so it is important to have a thorough knowledge of their sources and chemistry. Airborne particles represent the greatest uncertainty when trying to understand how human activities affect climate on earth. Globally, millions of people die prematurely each year due to air that is polluted with especially particulate matter, so we need to understand the sources of particles and the relevant processes in the environment.

I received support from the Foundation to purchase an advanced mass spectrometer. It allows us to determine the mass of individual chemical compounds very accurately and thus identify the types of molecules since the mass depends on the atoms which the molecules are made up of. We have used the equipment for a wide range of particle chemistry studies in both urban and remote areas. In addition, we have used it to study the chemical processes that occur when, under high pressure and temperature, biomass is converted into an oil phase and into by-products – it is research for the purpose of developing new biofuels and bio-based products.

The support from the Foundation was crucial for me to be able to build up a research laboratory with the latest and the best equipment, which has helped to make us a leader within this research area.

I am most proud of my work when we publish a scientific article and when one more talented student finishes his or her studies. It is great to finish a project and disseminate our results to other researchers who may use them to understand other issues. But the best part of my job is seeing a happy, newly graduated Master or PhD, whom I have known and guided over several years where they have developed and now are ready to embark on new assignments and contribute to the creation of a better society.

Right now, I am studying the chemistry of airborne particles and the formation of organosulfates in China. In addition, I work with colleagues and students to study the formation of particles from candles and their health effects in order to create a scientific basis for the development of candles that produce fewer particles.

BIOGRAPHY

Marianne Glasius

Associate Professor at the Department of Chemistry, Aarhus University.

MSc in Environmental Chemistry in 1996 and PhD in Chemistry in 2000.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 2007 for the acquisition of equipment in connection with the project ‘High-Performance Liquid Chromatography – Quadrupole Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer’.

Julia Nafziger

The Behavioural Economist:

‘Most of us struggle with self-control problems or limited attention span.’

Professor Julia Nafziger conducts research within behavioural economics and has found that some of our behavioural biases are good - because they keep other behaviorial biases at bay.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

My biggest Eureka moment was when I realised that certain behavioural biases which – when seen separately – are considered negative, may actually be beneficial to people because they offset other negative behavioural biases. Specifically, I found that the behavioural bias known as ‘mental accounting’ – which is about splitting decision-making problems up into small parts rather than optimising everything at once – may actually be beneficial because it offsets behavioural biases such as self-control problems.

What led up to my realisation was when – with mathematical proof – I was able to show that my intuition was correct. In doing so, I started to look at the part of behavioural economics which I was researching in a new way.

I felt most deluded at the time when I had an interesting research question, but could not find an economic model that was appropriate as a tool to study it.

I knew I wanted to work within economics when it dawned on me what a wide field the applications of economic theory cover. Behavioural economics in particular allows me to work in an interdisciplinary manner within many different subjects within the social sciences.

My research is relevant to other people because most of us struggle with behaviorial biases, such as self-control problems or limited attention span. I am trying to establish which tools (e.g. nudging and self-control strategies) can be used to offset these behaviorial biases.

I received support from the Foundation to study the relationships between student behavioural patterns (e.g. dropout and internet surfing), their self-control strategies (including goals and mental accounting) and their personal traits (risk preferences and certain behavioural biases).

The support from the Foundation meant that I was able to complete a major questionnaire survey and an experiment and link the results to data from Aarhus BSS. In addition, I was able to build on the research and start three large, new projects with focus on reduced university drop-outs, on equipping young people better to get an education and on furthering their interest in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

I am most proud of my work when it adds a small piece to the puzzle, thus helping to find solutions to social problems, and when I publish my work in reputable journals.

Right now, I am studying how to design ‘nudges’ in complex environments where consumers have a limited attention span.

BIOGRAPHY

Julia Nafziger

Professor at the Department of Economics, the University of Aarhus.

MSc from the University of Munich in 2014 and PhD from the University of Bonn in 2017.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 2011 for the AU IDEAS project ‘What makes a student successful? A large-scale experimental investigation of behavioural correlates’.

Lotte Bøgh Andersen

The social scientist

‘The self-image of leaders often differs from the way their employees see them.’

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

Professor Lotte Bøgh Andersen is conducting leadership research at the Department of Political Science, and in her experience, leadership development works better than you would think offhand.

My biggest Eureka moment was when we found out that leadership development actually works. We had done a big field test called LEAP. The test showed that the employees in the three test groups had actually come to view their leaders as more active within the particular forms of leadership in which we had trained them. It may seem evident that the employees would see their leaders act differently – be more active – after a leadership course. But it is not self-evident in a reality where there is often a big difference between the way in which leaders perceive themselves and the way in which their employees perceive them.

What led to my realisation was a large research project with more than 500 public and private leaders and their many employees. Together with a group of talented colleagues, I had designed and completed three different types of leadership training. Afterwards, we compared with a control group in which leaders and employees were monitored in the same way as in the three leadership development groups. Naturally, we had drawn lots among the leaders about who would join the individual groups.

I felt most deluded when my first conference abstract was rejected in 2001. Back then, I did not know that some workshops at those kinds of conferences were a closed club of older, male researchers. They merely accepted each other's abstracts and affirmed each other. Fortunately, things have improved a lot over the past ten years. And I myself do my best to give young researchers a chance - even if they have not yet mastered everything.

I knew I wanted to work with leadership research when I saw my first results within the field of municipal primary and lower secondary schools. I could see that good leadership has an impact on the value that is created for the citizens in our society. It was back in 2004 that I did an analysis of the relationship between municipalities and teachers and the significance hereof for the students' grades at the final examination.

My research is relevant to other people precisely because together with my colleagues I am trying to find out what works within leadership. ‘Works’ in the sense that initially, it leads to more motivated employees and subsequently to better results in public and private organisations.

I received a PhD award from Aarhus University Research Foundation for my dissertation in 2005, when I presented my first results within the field of leadership, where I am still working today.

The support from the Foundation meant that I myself realised that I could actually succeed in my research. I also believe that the award helped me to succeed in 2006 as a project manager for the first grant from the Research Council for Independent Research, Social Sciences. It is important to be able to obtain funding in order to do research that actually moves things along and is shared within the society.

I am most proud of my work when the leaders in public and private organisations can actually use the results that we have arrived at together. In my research, I am interacting more and more with ‘real’ leaders and employees, and at the recently held MatchPoints Seminar on leadership we could see how the new knowledge is used in many different contexts. It is good to see our research converted to concrete action.

Right now, I am studying how public organisations are getting better at meeting their goals. Together with other researchers from the Crown Prince Frederik Center for Public Leadership, I look at different types of leadership: data-informed leadership, distributed leadership, professional leadership, vision leadership and recognition. And then we explore how these types of leadership interact in a way that ensures better goal fulfilment in the public sector.

BIOGRAPHY

Lotte Bøgh Andersen

Professor and Director of the Crown Prince Frederik Center for Public Leadership, Department of Political Science, the University of Aarhus.

MSc Political Sciences in 2000 and PhD in political science in 2005.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in the form of an award for best PhD dissertation within the main subject area in 2005.

Hans Jørgen Schanz

The idea historian:

’I simply let things float.’


By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

Professor emeritus Hans-Jørgen Schanz lets time work for him when he sets out to think innovative thoughts about compelling social issues.

I did not have any real Eureka moment. My research is humanistic. But I have often had the feeling that I have succeeded in arguing in favour of an innovative view on a problem, including documenting and demonstrating why this view fruitful.

I have not had an experience of feeling radically deluded in my research. Before systematically setting out to solve a task – which incidentally I almost always decide upon myself and which has not been set by others – I allow myself ample time to think and try to come up with ideas of all sorts. I simply let things float. Usually, some contours will start to appear, and then I begin. If the beginning has been fruitful, the ideas will now have a specific direction.

I knew that I wanted to work within my profession as early as 1967, when I started on idea history. I was convinced of it because I hoped and expected that it could accommodate a wide range of intellectual and academic issues – often across the old well-trodden paths.

I have an expectation that my research is relevant to many people, both academics and the generally curious. I give many lectures in all sorts of contexts, from universities to popular gatherings and often, many people will turn up. In addition, I have published about 50 books and more than 500 articles. I think the relevance is due to the fact that I usually hit upon something contemporary that calls for clarification – or at least some information.

Over the years, I have received support for many of my books through the Aarhus University Research Foundation, most recently for the book ‘Ånd’ (Spirit) which was published in 2017.

The support from the Foundation meant - in cases where the subject was narrow - that the books could still be published. Besides, the support meant that the price of the books became manageable for both publishers and readers.

I am most proud of my work when I am very pleased with it myself, but naturally also when it attracts the attention of the public and helps to initiate new thoughts.

Right now, I am working on, well actually finalising, a book entitled ‘Menneskene og alt andet(People and Everything Else). It is an attempt to reconstruct how, from ancient times and until today, people have perceived themselves as different from everything else alive, but also as connected to everything. I am trying to shed light on the way in which human ethnicity has seen itself as different from everything else, how individualisation has been perceived, and how the two issues are embedded in our nature and cultural history.

 

BIOGRAPHY


Hans-Jørgen Schanz

Professor in the history of ideas at the University of Aarhus from 1992 and emeritus from 2018.

MA in the history of ideas in 1973 and Dr. Phil. in 1981.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation, amongst others, in 2002 for the translation of a French essay. Most recently received support in 2017.

 

Vibeke Lehmann Nielsen

The Public Management Researcher:

‘Feeling lost is part of the realisation.’

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

Professor Vibeke Lehmann Nielsen conducts research within public management and would like to take a critical look at the way in which we organise our society.

My biggest Eureka moment was, in retrospect, probably when it dawned upon me during my PhD project that when colleagues were critical of my ideas and arguments, it was not necessarily because the ideas were completely wide of the mark. My arguments were just not sufficiently convincing. Belief in your own ideas and arguments, combined with the willingness to strive to make them clear, is an important companion in research. But being a researcher is a lifelong learning and realisation process, and you are responsible for your own learning. So, in many ways, the work days are filled with small, and hopefully sometimes not so small Eureka moments.

What led to my realisation was some repetitive criticism from my counsellors and colleagues in relation to a basic argument in my PhD dissertation. A criticism that I simply could not follow.

I felt most deluded back then, yes, phew … as a researcher you often have that feeling. It is part of the realisation process. As a human being, I feel most lost when there are so many tasks on my desk that I feel I only have time to stir one pot a little bit and then another one a little bit, and when I do not have time to immerse myself and do things properly. Then I try to ‘steal’ some time for immersion by prioritising homework days, where I shut out everything but a single project – such as writing an article – totally shut it out.

I knew I wanted to be a researcher when for two years in-between my master's degree and my PhD scholarship I worked ‘in the real world’ and missed time for reflection, the freedom to choose for myself what I wanted to study and how. It simply gave me peace of mind and body to step back behind the Department's yellow walls again.

My research is relevant to other people because it can hopefully contribute to a critical look at the way in which we organise society – and point out potential solutions.

I received support from the Foundation several times for both shorter and longer ‘research hibernations’ in Møllehuset.

The support from the Foundation meant that without any disruptions at all – and in beautiful surroundings – I was able to enjoy getting immersed in the workflow.

I am most proud of my work when practitioners recognise it and feel enriched by my research results. And when students, through guidance, brighten up when the light dawns upon them and feel joyful about their work.

Right now, I am studying variations in citizen behaviour vis-à-vis various public authorities as well as the state administration's interaction with mothers and fathers in visitation cases.

BIOGRAPHY

Vibeke Lehmann Nielsen

Professor in public management at the Department of Political Sciences, the University of Aarhus.

MSc Political Sciences and PhD.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation, amongst others, in 2011 for a research stay at Møllehuset.

Per Aage Brandt

The Semiotician:

‘No, I did not get to lean back.’

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

Professor Per Aage Brandt is one of the world's leading researchers within semiotics. But first the subject had to be defined, and that took time.

My biggest Eureka moment was probably the discovery of the fundamental role of modal semantics in our generation of meaning. Let me explain: modality is what we mean when we e.g. talk about opportunity or impossibility; when we say that we shall, must, should, can do something or not. Without it, communication and thinking are not possible all. The new models and applications in textual analysis, semiotics and linguistics then led to the new research paradigm dynamic semiotics. It became the entry way to our basic research centre 1993-98 at the University of Aarhus and subsequently led to the semiotics programme.

What led to my realisation was the intense theory development in structuralist and semiotic circles that had taken place since the 1960s in Denmark and throughout Europe. On top of that, we saw the flourishing of cognitive research in semantics which invited collaboration on the new ways of understanding language, e.g. in the analysis of metaphors and mental spaces. The so-called Aarhus model for semiotic-cognitive blending of mental spaces derives from this collaboration. New models of diegesis, eviction and stemmatic grammar (the subject of my doctoral dissertation) sailed in the same waters, most recently including ecologically based socio-semiotics, which in turn leads to a new character theory. The development continues.

I felt most deluded when my first dissertation with the bleak title ‘Sandheden, sætningen og døden’ (The Truth, the Sentence and the Death) was rejected. If it was not possible to follow my rather straightforward, chorematic analyses of the relationship between spaces, forces, narratives, subjects and discourse, then how would the future look? It turned out quite well, thanks to the enthusiasm in my dear language programme, Spanish, and then the phenomenal working environment at the Center for Cultural Research, where after semiotics got its own place, up in the clouds in the top floor of the Trøjborg complex.

I knew I wanted to work within my profession when it became clear that I was not going to be a composer as I had first thought. Imagine being able to lean back while other people play your music so you do not have to practice! But no, I did not get to lean back. Rather, it turned into something that had to be tackled ‘head on’, as you say. But the subject had to be defined first, and it would be a long process.

My research is relevant to other people because (or if) it creates new realisations. That is what it is all about, and you never know if you will succeed. Semiotics is, after all, research in the generation of meaning, a kind of basic humanist research, and if any such new realisation can make humankind more insightful, sensible, critical and constructive as a part of social life, then why not? Furthermore, semiotics is most exciting.

I received support from the Foundation to publish works within an area which at that time did not have the necessary journals at its disposal because it was long regarded as very nerdy and different. It is still a bit different, but most humanists in Denmark now know what semiotics is, pretty much.

The support from the Foundation meant that the journal could be published and grow big internationally. Today it is called Cognitive Semiotics, still with the University of Aarhus in the editorial office.

I am most proud of my work when I succeed in some of what I hoped for, when it fulfils the expectations of all participants, is somewhat understood and is part of a larger context. It does not happen all the time though, far from it!

Right now, I am studying how to reconcile basic ecological social structure, characters and meaning, the basic structures of language and the configuration of the human psyche. It is a big loaf of bread for a single table, but my desk is so solid that you can safely jump and dance on it. The worst thing is almost the philosophical preparation. That is hard and difficult and must be started from the beginning, over and over again.

BIOGRAPHY

Per Aage Brandt

Professor from 2005-2011 and Professor Adjunct (sort of a semi-active emeritus) at the Department of Cognitive Science, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, Ohio.

MA in romance philology in 1971 from the University of Copenhagen and Doctorat d'Etat en sémio-linguistique from Sorbonne in 1987.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 2002 for publication of Almen Semiotics (General Semiotics) No. 18. In 2007, the Cleveland journal became the Journal of Cognitive Semiotics, now just Cognitive Semiotics.

Marianne Qvortrup Fibiger

The researcher of religion:

‘It took me an entire year to recover from the shock.’

Associate Professor Marianne Qvortrup Fibiger is an expert in Hinduism, and she quickly found out that it is not easy to understand this world religion.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

My biggest Eureka moment was ... well, that question is hard to answer as I believe I have been fortunately enough to have many. This is probably often the case within humanistic research because we do not discover a new form of treatment or a new DNA chain. But some of the most interesting moments have been where, with field work and specific empiricism about Hinduism as a religion, I have helped shape new theories. That, I think, is fantastic. During my field work among Hindus in Mauritius, I could e.g. observe that secularisation with a new understanding of Hinduism has not led to the phasing out of certain archaic rituals. Rather, they have been strengthened as they fit well into a modern performance culture.

What led up to my realisation was long-term field work and a lot of observations. I have done field work in several places in the world: Punjab in North India, Kerala in South India, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, England, Kenya and Denmark. Everywhere I have focused on the living Hinduism. Time and again, I have therefore encountered a Hinduism that I did not recognise from the professional literature. It says something about the difficulties in capturing Hinduism as a religion. It simply does not fit into the theoretical attempts to classify religions. But it also says something about religion as a dynamic and contextual phenomenon.

I felt most deluded at the time when I had only done field work in Punjab, Kenya and England. I thought that now I knew fairly well what Hinduism is like as a religion. But then I started doing field work in South India, Sri Lanka and Denmark among Tamil Hindus. Here, I came across a completely different form of Hinduism. I think it took me an entire year to get over the ‘professional shock’ that the encounter with a whole new form of Hinduism was. Of course, the easiest thing would have been to turn a blind eye to it, but I did the opposite and made a virtue out of watching that my image of Hinduism cracked. I never regretted it.

My interest in the science of religion slowly emerged due to of my interest in human behaviour and the significance of history, society and mythologies to man’s understanding of the world. That it became Hinduism is probably because during my studies, I was invited to do field work in Southall in the western part of London among the Punjabi Hindus there. Until then, I really thought I was going to specialise in Tibetan Buddhism, but I was quickly carried away by the great challenge that is the very core of work with Hinduism.

My research is relevant to other people because it helps to understand the importance of religion in today's world. It provides an insight that religions are dynamic and adapt to new conditions in order to still make sense to those who feel connected to them. That is why I have been particularly interested in exploring Hinduism outside India and in the ways in which Eastern concepts such as karma and practices such as yoga are exported to the West and are given new meaning here. That is so interesting!

I received support from the Foundation to do field work in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where you find a strong Śhaktism, i.e. goddess worship, not least among lay people. Śhakti is a female divine dynamic energy that all goddesses possess, but it can also be expressed through human media.

The support from the Foundation meant that I was given a unique opportunity to uncover how goddess worship is one of the most widespread forms of Hinduism among lay people in South India - even though it is still not recognised as an independent tradition by many Indologists. The field work sharpened my researcher’s eye and meant that subsequently, I approached my research among Tamil Hindus in Denmark in a new manner. Suddenly, I was able to uncover patterns around a particular Tamil goddess temple in Denmark that I had not previously had an eye for.

I am most proud of my work, when my research can reach out broadly and help to give us a diverse understanding of religion, its significance and its new modes of expression. And here I am very lucky to have present-day Hinduism as my exploration. In my view, it is the one world religion that continues to challenge and hone any attempt to capture what religion is.

Right now, I am studying several different things. First and foremost, I follow the Sri Lankan Tamil Hindus in Denmark and study how their traditions are continuously adapted to Danish conditions, but at the same time are up for negotiation between the generations. I am also studying why female Hindu gurus seem to gain more and more appeal. And then I am interested in finding out how concepts and views of life with an Eastern background take root in the West, simultaneously adapting to Western conditions. This new and changed form can then be traced back to the East again as it fits well with e.g. a changing India with a growing middle class and increased secularisation. In other words, religion circulates and moves. And as a researcher I try to move along.

BIOGRAPHY

Marianne Qvortrup Fibiger

Assistant professor in religious studies at the University of Aarhus.

MA in 1992 and PhD in 1999 with a dissertation about the Sri Lankan-Tamil Hindus in Denmark.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 2006 in connection with the project ‘Shaktism as a local and global phenomenon’.

 

Jens Chr. Djurhuus

The Urinary Tract Researcher:

‘When She Saw My Results, She Said That This is What it Should Look Like’

Professor emeritus Jens Chr. Djurhuus has helped change the view on children peeing in bed. Now they are no longer punished, but treated.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

I have had at least two great Eureka moments. The first moment happened before I came to Aarhus. In my animal experimental work, I was relegated to working with pigs unlike the few others in the world who studied the so-called upper urinary tract. My results were different from theirs because they worked with dogs and rodents. I was close to being bullied for working with pigs until I met Edith Bülbring in Oxford. She was the ‘mother’ of all smooth muscle research and at the time 82 years old. When she saw my results, she said that this is what it should look like in the case of smooth musculature. That was the moment when I realised the importance of animal model choice, and when it comes to the pig, that it looks very much like humans. It became a landmark in my career and for what I managed to establish after I came to Aarhus.

The second moment was when in Aarhus we managed to realise my dream of investigating why children pee in bed. Basically, I thought there was something wrong with the bladder function. However, in the children we examined, the bladder function was normal. We saw something else though, i.e. that they had a much higher urine output at night than what is usual. We compared to children who were not bedwetters. We found a clear difference and therefore proceeded to provide a substitute for the lacking increase in the hormone that controls the nocturnal reduction in urine production. This has led to increased focus on and understanding of bedwetting worldwide and a radical improvement in the children's situation. Research is still ongoing because naturally, it is not all bedwetting children who have a high urine production. Rather than one explanation, now there are many.

What led to my realisation was probably a touch of serendipity.

I felt most deluded at the time when I was alone with my research results that deviated from the rest of them.

I knew I wanted to work within my profession when in the 3<font size="2">rd</font> year of the upper secondary school, I had a teacher whose teaching was so stimulating that it made me want to become a doctor. He was one of the few people at the school who did not wear a doctor's signet ring, but also one of the least frustrated when it came to the ‘burden’ of having to teach students in upper secondary school.

Our research is relevant to other people because it has changed the view on children peeing in bed, shifting from punishment, mental deviation and something real doctors should not deal with to a more diagnostic and treatment-oriented approach.

I received support from the Foundation for several parts of my research within bedwetting, but also for other parts within my area of responsibility at Aarhus University. The support meant that we could realise many facets of the research at the Department of Clinical Medicine.

I am most proud of my work when it engages and stimulates young people to be curious and pay attention to the unexpected. And not least when you hear from a child and its parents that now there are dry nights.

Right now, I am studying by glancing over the shoulders of other researchers – as I am emeritus – the development of poor bladder function. It is research that has an impact on how we deal with the consequences of congenital valve creation in the urinary tract of boys.

BIOGRAPHY

Jens Chr. Djurhuus

Professor emeritus from 2016 at the Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University, which he has also managed for many years.

MD from the University of Copenhagen in 1970 and DMSc in 1980 from the same university.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in, amongst others, 1999 for orthopaedic surgical research.

Lise Bek

The Art Historian:

‘It was not just provincial brick masonry’

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

On a study trip to ancient Pompeii in 1968, Professor Emeritus Lise Bek found that the houses of the ancient Romans were carefully designed, even though they were not geometrically rigorous. 

My greatest Eureka moment was when, on a study trip to ancient Pompeii in 1968, I arranged myself in the proper Roman way, laying down and supported on the left elbow at the place of honour in a garden triclinium – which is a dining setup with three benches in a U-form. From there, from that asymmetrical, lying position, I could see with my own eyes that the visual impression along the diagonal axis fell into place as a symmetrically composed harmonious visual image.

The same result could be seen in other city houses and in other locations – in reception rooms, panorama windows and the like, where the optical axiality and the diagonal views repeated themselves in the floor plan in different variants. It strengthened my assumption that when constructing houses in ancient Rome, they exploited the optics of the Hellenistic naturalist Euclid. So, they built based on the then prevailing human way of seeing things, and not on the Euclidean geometry which became the norm from the Renaissance onwards.

In its static harmony, the geometry represented the perfect, the eternal. It therefore gained an almost divine status as otherwise reserved for the gods and their temples. The optics, on the other hand, with its dependence on the human view represented the temporal world in all its volatility.

It was this ambiguity in the architecture and the architectural planning that the Renaissance put an end to by its humanisation of geometry or, if you will, its apotheosis of man as presented in my dissertation.

What led to my realisation was my incredulity that the ordinary Roman house – with its carefully thought-out design based on function, interior climate as well as aesthetics and preferably paired with a sophisticated decoration – should be simple provincial 'brick masonry' as previously claimed due to the twisted lines and angles of the houses. On the contrary, it was actually built using a far more advanced architectural principle than the geometric one. As the facade was more important than the floor plan, the effect of the finished building as a visual image had to be taken into account right from the initial outline.

I felt most deluded when I tried to substantiate my discovery at that time because there was very little literature and only a few studies on the subject. In addition, there were no viable art historical methods for analysing my material. I therefore had to work in an interdisciplinary manner, which has benefited me greatly ever since.

I knew I wanted to work within my field already when I completed upper secondary school followed by a period at a folk school in 1956 when I enrolled at the newly established Department of Art History at the University of Aarhus.

My research is relevant to other people because the visual arts in the form of architecture and images make up an essential part of the framework of people’s everyday life. And because it is through the arts that our way of seeing and perceiving, understanding and interpreting reality is reflected in its purest form. Through the arts we can find ourselves and orient ourselves within our society, as I have tried to argue in my later works.

I received support from the Foundation for, amongst other things, the publication of the book Virkeligheden i kunstens spejl in 1985-88, the revised English edition of that book Reality in the Mirror of Art in 2003 and for the book Måltidet som stilleben: Fra offergave til fastfoodobjekt (The Meal as a Still Life: From Offering to Fast Food Object in 2018. In addition, I have received support in connection with the arrangement of several of the interdisciplinary Sandbjerg seminars for architects, urban planners and humanists in collaboration with, amongst others, the country's architectural schools, and for the publication of the results.

The support from the Foundation meant that I could go on the necessary journeys in connection with the search, inspection and processing of the material related to the various projects - and that the publication of my results could appear in a proper art-historical manner.

I am most proud of my work when the results can open the eyes of ordinary people to the arts and their importance both to the individual and to the society. But also, when professionals can use my results as a research or practical tool, e.g. when, after the Pompeii earthquake in 1987, my theory of Euclid's optics and the resulting diagonal views in Roman buildings were included as part of the foundation for the restoration work.

Right now, I am studying the relationship between Dante's Divine Comedy and the visual arts, focusing in particular on the visual and spatial relations as well as figure layout and interaction. Here Dante, with his famous work, stands as a transitional figure between the old way of seeing things and thinking in the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance and the modern way of both seeing and thinking. At the same time, Dante is also an ever-present source of inspiration, and my contribution shall help mark that in 2021, it is 700 years since he died.

BIOGRAPHY

Lise Bek

Professor emeritus in the history of art, the University of Aarhus.

MA from the University of Aarhus in 1966 and DPhil from the University of Copenhagen in 1980.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation, amongst others in 1978 for the photo exhibition 'Art on Rocks' in the lobby of the University of Aarhus on early Christian churches in Armenia as an introduction to an international, interdisciplinary seminar on Armenian church art and theology.

Johan Fjord Jensen

Per Dahl about Johan Fjord Jensen:

‘He was an existentially committed dissident and an imaginative utopian.’

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

In the 1980s, Professor Johan Fjord Jensen (1928-2005) opened the narrow literary studies to the outside world. These are the words of Associate Professor Emeritus Per Dahl about his old colleague from literary history.

Fjord's Eureka moment was probably when, during the 1960s, he effectively opened the then very narrow and philologically founded literary studies. He did this partly by introducing and systematising Anglo-American New Criticism and partly by introducing literature research to the educational-political debate. In the following years, both were followed up by ideological-critical analyses.

The work that led to his realisation and initiative can be found in the 1966 essay collection Homo manipulatus which contains analyses of the cultural-radical tradition. In this connection, one of Fjord's first myth analyses is unfolding. The very distinctive point it made included not just the reading of an advertisement, but also focusing on the social context in which the advertisement works and which may lead to manipulation.

Here lies the core of the large, ground-breaking collective projects where Fjord became the organising and analytically driving force. In the first instance, it was about trivial literature such as the weekly magazine Søndags-B.T. and comic strips. On a large scale, it was unfolded in the nine-volume Dansk litteraturhistorie (Danish Literary History) that was published in 1983-85 and later came in two further editions. Nine volumes in three years was a literary-political triumph. Fjord was also engaged in the launch of the journal Kritik (Critique) together with Aage Henriksen and – from a university-political point of view – in the establishment of humanistic science theory, basic programmes, interdisciplinary programmes and the Jysk Open University.

Certainly, Fjord was an existentially committed dissident and an imaginative utopian, but those traits contained a constructive duality, a willingness to ‘live under conditions which simultaneously we seek to escape from’, as he put it.

He must have felt most deluded during the first years of his studies. Originally, he enrolled (in 1948) in history and classical studies, then switched to Danish, but gave up and became a conscientious military objector for two years, now with plans to return to national economics. That he also gave up and went back to Danish with a renewed love of literature, but gave it up once more, now in favour of ordinary and comparative literature, at the time called literary history. He finished with a dissertation on Turgenjev which was honoured with the university's gold medal and published in 1961. It once and for all established Fjord's reputation as a literary analyst, methodologist and systematist, and it is still a major work within comparative literature research.

The work by Fjord that has reached the widest audience is, however, probably Livsbuen (the Arc of Life) from 1993. The book is about adult psychology and life stages, not least the Third Age and the opportunities that are open to seniors who in the best cases have both the health, energy, curiosity and resources to launch and unfold anything they want.

When Fjord became a professor in literary history in 1974, one of the challenges was to continue the Brandes archive which was closely linked to the establishment of the General and Comparative Literature programme at Aarhus University in 1939. Here, Paul Krüger had for many years built up an extensive Brandes archive, but upon his death in 1965, the work had stopped. Thanks to support from the State Humanities Research Council and the Aarhus University Research Foundation, it was reorganised in the early 1980s and has since been a crucial resource for almost all later Brandes research, most recently in connection with the digital release of Brandes' Main Currents in 2019.

BIOGRAPHY

Johan Fjord Jensen (1928-2005)

Professor in literary history, the University of Aarhus, 1974-92, and honorary doctor at the Universities of Bergen and Minneapolis.

MA in 1959.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 1981 for the preparation and publication of Georg Brande’s Bibliography (together with Per Dahl).

Ellen Margrethe Basse

Professor Ellen Margrethe Basse is a researcher within environmental law. It all started with 3,000 appeals board decisions and the acquisition of the first computer for the Institute of Law back in 1984.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

My greatest Eureka moment was when, in the 1980s, on a solid empirical basis I was able to uncover and explain how politicians – in collaboration with interest organisations and government officials – steer the administrative practice in different directions through the regulations that stipulate the composition of appeals boards.

What led to my realisation of the concrete significance of the public complaint systems was when I incorporated various political theories into my forensic analysis. I studied decisions made by one and the same appeals board – but with different member compositions - within 11 different areas of law.

I felt most deluded at the time when I had read the well over the 3,000 decisions made by the Environmental Board of Appeal, the composition of which was different from one area of law to the next. Based solely on the traditional way of looking at the system of justice, I could not immediately explain the differences in the decisions.

I knew I wanted to work on environmental research when I gained insight into the complexity and inconsistency that characterise the extensive environmental legislation and practice.

My research is relevant to other people because climate, energy and environmental legislation and practice basically relate to everyone: The composition of new legislation, as it is laid down internationally, regionally or in the EU and Denmark, can be crucial in ensuring protection of the biodiversity, the climate energy balance, clean air and water quality, quality food and so on – for both present and future generations.

I received support from the Foundation in 1984 to buy the first computer for the Department of Law. The Department had already bought the computer for educational purposes for DKK 70,000, which was a lot of money in the 1980s. But in order for me to use it in my research, I had to raise some external funds. This is where the Foundation helped. In 1999, I received support to conduct one of many Nordic researcher training courses and in 2016 I received support to invite a visiting researcher from the Political Science Department, University of Northern British Columbia, Canada, to a stay at the Department of Law.

The support from the Foundation meant that the computer for which I received financial support in 1984, allowed me to categorise and analyse more than 3,000 appeals decisions. The support provided in 1999 to conduct Nordic PhD courses for researchers within environmental regulation helped us to establish a Nordic environmental regulation research network, which was later developed into a European network. The support for the visiting researcher stay in 2016 made it possible to write an interdisciplinary, internationally published article on the lack of transparency that characterises the decisions on uranium extraction in Greenland.

I am most proud of my work when some of my former PhD students and graduate students choose a university career within the field of environmental law or choose a career where, in practice, they work with environmental regulatory tasks.

Right now, I am studying the development and content of environmental legislation at international, EU and national level. Amongst other things, I am looking at the interaction in which the European Court of Justice plays an important part. The significance of digitalisation for the development of environmental law is another key research area.

BIOGRAPHY

Ellen Margrethe Basse

Professor of Environmental Law, Department of Law, Aarhus University.

LL.M, LL.D and jur.dr. (h.c.).

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 1984 for acquisition of a computer for the Department of Law, in 1999 for development of a researcher training course and in 2016 for the stay of a visiting researcher.

Johannes Sløk

Ole Morsing about Johannes Sløk:

‘He became an apprentice in a factory, but decided that he wanted more out of life.’

‘Professor Johannes Sløk (1916-2001) was an apprentice at a factory for electrical articles prior to becoming one of our greatest theological thinkers’. These are the words by Ole Morsing, Professor Emeritus in history of ideas. Ole Morsing is the author of the book ‘Løgstrup and Sløk’.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

His greatest Eureka moment was probably the time when, as a 15-16-year-old, he got to spend a holiday with a doctor’s family and someone slipped Kierkegaard's Works of Love into his hands. Sløk himself writes in his so-called ‘memory lapses’, Me and Godot, that until then he had been reading the usual ‘steamroller novels’, but that the meeting with Kierkegaard was an awakening for him.

The work leading up to the realisation was the holiday he got to spend with the doctor who was passionately occupied with everything spiritual and who, to the amazement of Sløk, had become enamoured with him. He ‘became more important to my destiny in life than any other human being,’ he wrote in his memoir.

He must have felt most deluded when first, he had to work as an apprentice in a draper’s shop and after the trial period refused to sign the apprenticeship contract. Next, he became an apprentice in a factory for electrical articles, but, in his own words, he could not possibly accept that there would be no more to life. And he was quite honest that obviously, he was just not fit for the practical work.

He was seriously smitten by his profession as he dived into the thinking of Kierkegaard and later of other existential philosophers. He himself wrote that ‘this first, fierce immersion in the philosophical dimensions became of crucial importance for all that I subsequently did’.

He received support from the Foundation for the publication of a book about Søren Kierkegaard. The support meant that his book Die Anthropologie Kierkegaards could be translated and published by the publishing house Rosenkilde and Bagger in 1954.

I think he was most proud of his work when he decided that he wanted to be himself and not let others influence his work: ‘I could keep them at arm’s length through irony and ambiguity and gibberish and a sufficiently arrogant behaviour. What I had in mind was far too important for me to let any highwayman snatch any of it away‘. Sløk's desire to do things himself and think for himself defined his entire work.

BIOGRAPHY

Johannes Sløk (1916-2001)

Professor in systematic theology at the University of Aarhus.

MA Theology in 1941 and Doctor of Divinity in 1947.

Support from the Aarhus University Research Foundation in 1952 for the preparation of a work about the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard.

Bodil Marie Stavning Thomsen

Professor Bodil Marie Stavning Thomsen conducts research into, amongst other things, the audio-visual expression of films. Blurry images and noise both play a bigger part in our experience than you might think.

By Jakob Jørgensen Vestergaard

My biggest Eureka moment was when in 2008, I worked across media with 'the signaletic material'. It is a term that defines the part of the media expression that calls the attention of the audience to the materiality of film, television, and digital media and technologies. With the 'signaletic material' I was able to connect forms of aesthetic-ethical sensation and crosswise thinking. I focused on the expressive element in blurry images and various kinds of noise. In doing so, I was able to contribute with analyses of how so-called haptic audio-visual forms expand the character theory in significant ways. This laid the foundation for my work on several book projects and for my current research project 'Affects, Interfaces, Events'.

What led to my realisation was when in the 1980s, I read Gilles Deleuze's film books. He replaced representative and stylistic analyses of media and arts with philosophical readings of how our senses can be linked to a qualitative time consciousness. That realisation inspired me to the research project 'Reality, Realism, the Real in Visual Perspective' which I was heading from 1999 to 2002. Here, seven researchers worked with new forms of realism, and I worked mainly with haptic images in electronic and digital media. This is where I began the analysis of how Lars von Trier's films directly and sensually affect our cognition ability – what in technical terms, we call affective cognition.

I felt most lost in the mid-1990s, when I was not yet a full-time employee and where the academic environment did not yet recognise aesthetic and philosophical cultural analyses across media and arts.

I knew I wanted to work within my field when I was well underway with my dissertation, which was submitted in 1982. It was an image-aesthetic study of a group exhibition at the Aarhus Art Museum. It prompted me a few years later to apply for a postgraduate fellowship in fashion and modernity which looked at fashion as a visual medium that required an aesthetic-cultural analysis. The project expanded the style-historical analyses of fashion and led to many lectures as a lot of people were interested in understanding fashion in a new way.

My research is relevant to other people because across cultural phenomena, it can demonstrate how media are created and shaped in and through cultures, and how cultures are affected by and changed through media. This is important for anyone with knowledge of how visual and audio-visual forms such as fashion and films play a part in today’s social media.

I received support from the Foundation for the release of Filmdivaer: Stjernens figur i Hollywoods melodrama 1920-40 (Film Divas: The Character of the Star in the Hollywood Melodrama 1920-40) in 1997, but I have also received support for more recent releases, including Lars von Trier's Renewal of Film 1984-2014: Signal, pixel, diagram in 2016. The support from the Foundation meant that the books could be published in an academic format that was also educational and illustrated with pictures.

I am most proud of my work when I see that my analyses and my perspectives are used and quoted by others. It is a pleasure to be used as an assessor of dissertations and in employments at home and abroad and to receive professional response at conferences and in other professional contexts. But the very best thing is when students find inspiration for their own analyses.

Right now, I am studying how the digital interface works in the culture, and how it influences both communication and art forms affectively. It is not just about the way in which interfaces in e.g. social media take part in media events or how interface media are changing democratic structures. It is also about understanding how the interface intensification of the affective level can create events and cultural connections across time and space.

 

BIOGRAPHY

Bodil Marie Stavning Thomsen

Professor MSO in culture and media at Nordic Institute, Aarhus University.
Master of Arts in Danish 1982 and PhD in cultural studies 1994.
Support from Aarhus University Research Foundation for the release of, amongst other things, Filmdivaer: Stjernens figur i Hollywoods melodrama 1920-40 (Film Divas: The Character of the Star in the Hollywood Melodrama 1920-40) in 1997 and Lars von Trier’s Renewal of Film. Signal-Pixel-Diagram in 2016.