Riikka Rinnan from CENPERM receives one of the Elite Research Prizes 2020

27. February 2020

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.

Riikka Rinnan EliteForsk 2020
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. Photo: the University of Copenhagen.

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).

  • The other recipients of the Elite Research Prize 2020 are:

    • Professor Sine Reker Hadrup, Department of of Health Technology, Technical University of Denmark
    • Professor Mads Meier Jæger, Sociology Department, University of Copenhagen
    • Professor Anders Møller, Department of Computer Science, Aarhus University
    • Associate Professor Tobias Richter, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen

Young researchers from DNRF centers receive travel grants

During the same ceremony, 20 Ph.D. students received an EliteForsk travel scholarship worth DKK 200,000.  The scholarships will assist the students in travelling around the world to work in some of the best international research environments. Among this year’s recipients are three talented researchers who are part of a DNRF center:

  • Rasmus Vangshardt, Ph.D. student, Master of Arts, University of Southern Denmark, Department of History, Centre for Medieval Literature (CML) Research Project: “The World Theater between Medieval Ages and Modernity”
  • Bastian Felter Vaucanson, Ph.D. student, Master of Theology, University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Theology, Center for Privacy Studies (PRIVACY). Research Project: “Power and Self Humiliation at the Royal Household of the Sun King: An Examination of Royal Privacy at Versailles (1689-99)”
  • Nikolaj Kofoed Mandsberg, Ph.D. student, M.Sc. in Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, DTU Health, Center for Intelligent Oral Drug Delivery Using Nano and Microfabricated Containers (IDUN). Research Project: “Bio-inspired Materials: Evolution’s Solutions Used on Society’s Technological Challenges”

Read more about Riikka Rinnan’s research in a press release from the Ministry of Higher Education and Science here

You can read the reasons from the Independent Research Fund Denmark behind the nomination of Riikka Rinnan here

More information about the EliteForsk prizes can be found at the Ministry of Higher Education and Science’s website here