Professor Riikka Rinnan, from the Center of Excellence CENPERM at the University of Copenhagen, is among this year’s five winners of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science’s Elite Research Prize. Professor Riikka Rinnan received the prize for her research in malodorous gasses that hide underneath the Arctic soil. The prizes are given annually by the Ministry to outstanding researchers under 45 years of age and of international excellence.
Professor Riikka Rinnan, from the Center of Excellence CENPERM, is among the five winners of the Ministry of Higher Education and Science’s Elite Research Prize 2020. Rinnan received the prize for her research on thousands of gasses, called VOC gasses, that hide underneath the frozen soil in the Arctic. VOC gasses function as the communication form for plants and trees and thus carry important information about how nature is affected for good or for bad by climate change.
But VOC gasses are also extremely volatile and reactionary. On the one hand, they can enhance global warming when in contact with human-made pollution such as exhaust from cars. On the other hand, the gasses can have a cooling effect on the climate by turning into particles and forming clouds that reflect the sun’s rays.
“It is really difficult to say what the overall effect is because it differs from place to place. But in the clean, Arctic air VOC gasses, released from plants and soil, are likely to be more significant than in densely populated areas with a lot of emission from human-made sources,” said Professor Rinnan.
In the future, Professor Rinnan hopes that the group’s research on VOC gasses can contribute to further developing advanced climate models used by the UN Climate Panel, among others. The models can help predict chain reactions that are activated when the permafrost melts because of global warming.
”We pay tribute to some of the sharpest researchers who are helping to make a difference in Denmark. The five researchers have each had an idea, been able to pursue it, and have brought that idea to life with outstanding research. These are very different research projects and results, which, in each its own way, sows the seeds for solving some of the great societal challenges facing Denmark and the rest of the world. This is important, and should, of course, be celebrated and recognized,” said Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, Minister for Higher Education and Science.
The five researchers received DKK 1.2 million in recognition of their great achievements in Danish research. DKK 200,000 of this is a personal award, while DKK 1 million is for research activities. The prizes were presented by H.R.H. Crown Princess Mary and Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen at an event at the Copenhagen Opera House.
Watch Prof. Riikka Rinnan talk about her research in a video from the Ministry of Higher Education and Science here (in Danish).