A considerable amount of excellence and commitment was gathered in Aalborg Congress & Culture Centre when Aalborg University celebrated its most outstanding researchers and lecturers at the traditional Annual Celebration. As always, the event was characterised by applause and words of praise to the new higher doctors and honorary doctors and to the recipients of the five awards presented at the event.
The first award recipient to enter the stage was Hjalte Holm Andersen of the Department of Health Science and Technology. He received the Spar Nord Foundation Research Award [Spar Nord Fondens Forskningspris] of DKK 250,000 for his PhD thesis ’Studies on Itch and Sensitization for Itch in Humans’. In his thesis, Hjalte Holm Andersen is the first researcher to ever point to a direct link between atopic eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, and increased skin sensitivity.
Hjalte Holm Andersen is the youngest researcher to have received the Spar Nord Foundation Research Award; however, despite his young age, Hjalte has already gained international recognition for his research in itch and skin irritation. The Spar Nord Foundation Research Award is awarded to a junior researcher who deserves special recognition for their research excellence.
‘Itch is a major clinical issue, however, still fairly unexplored by researchers. It’s a very interesting niche that may develop significantly in the future,’ said Hjalte Holm Andersen. The findings of Hjalte’s PhD thesis may lead to new insights into new treatments and the future prospects of this research area are exciting. ‘Many of us look forward to keeping an eye on Hjalte’s research, and we hope that the Spar Nord Foundation Research Award will help pave the way for his research to gain even more international recognition,’ said Professor Thomas Graven-Nielsen of the Spar Nord Foundation assessment committee in his motivational speech.
Thomas Yssing Michaelsen, MSc in Biology, received this year’s Roblon Prize along with DKK 100,000 for his further development of a method for the examination and classification of cancer of the lymph nodes. Each year, the Roblon Prize is awarded to a master's thesis which is considered particularly innovative. In his master’s thesis ‘A differentiation dependent classification of diffuse large B-cell lymphomas by the NanoString technology’, Thomas Yssing Michaelsen has further developed a method for categorising patients according to their prognosis and treatment needs. This increases the potential for finding the right treatment for individual patients.
‘Thomas has combined modern machine learning with the advanced methods of bioinformatics and biotechnology and is therefore at the forefront of biotechnological development. Thomas solved the task in a very mature and independent manner and was able to prove the correlation between the two technologies through a new set of patient samples which were not involved in the development of the method. He thereby proved the method to be reproducible,’ said Anker Laden-Andersen, chair of the Roblon Foundation when he presented the award.
He also mentioned that according to Thomas Yssing Michaelsen’s co-examiner, the master’s thesis only needed a little extra work for Thomas to be able to hand it in as a PhD thesis.
The Obel Family Foundation Award for Teacher of the Year focused on pedagogical practice and innovation and was awarded to associate professor Louise Møller Haase of the Section for Industrial Design at the Department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology. Louise Møller Haase was honoured by her students for her ability to bridge the gap between theory and practice and for her unparalleled commitment and involvement. These are among the skills which led to her receiving the award for teacher of the year at the Technical Faculty of IT and Design along with DKK 25,000 from the Obel Family Foundation which was awarded to all faculty teachers of the year. Along with the title of AAU Teacher of the Year, Louise Møller Haase received an additional DKK 25,000 from the foundation and a round of applause from the guests attending the celebration.
‘Through your great efforts in your teaching activities, continuous evaluations and your focus on coordinating courses and semesters, you make sure that we are able to offer high quality education. You are committed and have high academic standards. Moreover, your students describe you as a lecturer with an inspiring passion. At the Obel Family Foundation we strongly support this,’ CEO Christen W. Obel said to Louise Møller Haase.
This year's faculty teachers are:
- Sanne Lund Clement, the Faculty of Social Sciences
- Ane Søndergaard Thomsen, the Faculty of Humanities
- Sergey Kucheryavskiy, the Faculty of Engineering and Science
- Louise Thomsen Schmidt Arenholt, the Faculty of Medicine
- Louise Møller Haase, the Technical Faculty of IT and Design
The last award to be presented was the newly established entrepreneur scholarship, the NOVI NewTech Scholarship, which was awarded to the three master students Morten Brodersen Jensen, Thomas Holm Thomsen and Jonathan Toftegaard Hansen for their business concept e-shoptimizer. The three software engineer students specialise in helping online shops monitor competitor prices, stock availability and delivery time. This means that e-shoptimizer’s tool can automate what would otherwise be a time-consuming job for online shops.
‘All three judges agreed that e-shoptimizer be awarded the scholarship. They had the best team. The team presented a carefully-planned business idea and had spotted a gap in the market enabling them to scale their business. During their presentation, the team also demonstrated a highly convincing prototype of their product,’ said Henrik Lundum CEO at NOVI when he presented the award.
The NOVI NewTech Scholarship is awarded to final year master students who are able to present a business idea with potential to be converted into a business. The recipients of the scholarship will receive DKK 250,000, the opportunity to rent an office space at NOVI for one year at half price as well as accounting and legal assistance.
Prior to the awards ceremonies, Rector Per Michael Johansen and the deans presented this year’s five honorary doctors. The honorary doctors are all internationally recognised within their fields and have all contributed to the scientific development of AAU. This year’s honorary doctors are:
- Barbara Czarniawska, Senior Professor of Business Management and Economics at Gothenburg Research Institute, School of Business, Economics and Law at University of Gothenburg, Sweden
- Theodore Schatzki, Professor of Geography and Philosophy at University of Kentucky, USA
- Nico Verdonschot, Professor of Orthopaedic Biomechanics at Radboud University Medical Center, the Netherlands
- Thomas Parisini, Professor of Control Theory, Imperial College London, Great Britain
- Dario Farina, Professor of Neurorehabilitation, Imperial College London, Great Britain
More information on the five honorary doctors are available via the above links.
Following the presentation of the honorary doctors, the four AAU researchers who were awarded the higher doctorate degree at Aalborg University in 2017 were presented. The four researchers to have been awarded the higher doctorate degree received their doctoral letter on stage along with a lithograph by artist Allan Nordmark.
More information on the research of the four researchers are available via the following links.
- Tarec Christoffer El-Galaly, clinical associate professor at the Department of Clinical Medicine
- Oleg Osadchiy, associate professor at the Department of Health Science and Technology
- Carsten Hjort Lange, associate professor at the Department of Culture and Global Studies
- Bo Poulsen, associate professor at the Department of Culture and Global Studies
Prior to the awards ceremonies that involved both researchers and lecturers, Chair of the University Board Lene Espersen welcomed the guests, and in her speech she focused in particular on a number of the areas within which AAU has evolved during the past year. She mentioned the interdisciplinary research projects, the further development of PBL in a digital age, AAU’s increased popularity among prospective students, the quality assurance of degree programmes and the upcoming institutional accreditation.
She also mentioned an analysis conducted by the American elite university MIT which recently named AAU number four in the world for engineering programmes.
‘To me, this honour is iron-clad proof that Aalborg University is no longer just a driving force for regional development which it has been now for decades. Aalborg University is also an important player in the development and exchange of knowledge, nationally as well as internationally. This is the result of a large commitment on the part of researchers and staff members at Aalborg University,’ said Lene Espersen.
Minister for Higher Education and Science Søren Pind was in Japan and therefore unable to attend the Annual Celebration; instead he had recorded a video greeting. In his video greeting he said that he had high expectations for the AAU model which combines problem-based learning with cooperation with the outside world.
‘Aalborg University is very good at combining theory and practice. They have close connections with the business community. Their graduates often find employment in the companies with which they have collaborated during their master’s thesis. And this connection between theory and practice is a very strong connection in that it combines theory with the practical work of an actual workplace. This model is very good and I think we can expect even more from it in the future,’ said Søren Pind who quite simply advised AAU to keep doing what the University is already doing.
In his speech, Rector Per Michael Johansen promised the minister that a revolution was underway.
‘We can see that knowledge acquired in collaboration with others leads to more and new knowledge. We become richer in knowledge and insight when we share it with others. And as Lene said earlier, this has not kept Aalborg University from being recognised by MIT as one of the best engineering universities in the world. And it proves that there is no contrast between close collaboration with the outside world and world-class research,’ said Per Michael Johansen.
He also promised that a revolution was underway. A revolution in the sense that the university sector will see fundamental changes in structures and systems. Changes which are essential in order to meet digitisation and the technological development in which the graduates of the future must be able to navigate.
‘Young people should not learn what robots and computers can learn so much better anyway. That is artificial intelligence. We cannot compete with artificial intelligence. In the future, we need more human intelligence - we need this to be able to manage the use of all the knowledge constantly accumulated by artificial intelligence. We must not allow technology to control us humans It should be rather the opposite: that we humans control technology. Revolution over disruption,’ said Per Michael Johansen, who, much like the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, calls for a revolution led by humans to challenge the revolution led by technology.
In his speech, the chair of the Student Society Johannes Hellmers also referred to disruption and the requirements development imposes on students.
‘We need people who are passionate about what they do and we’ll all be better off for it. Therefore, I’m frustrated by the lack of respect for young people who choose a university degree, simply because the labour market of today is not ready for them when they begin their studies. It’s a shame - an academic should be respected for their qualifications and hard work and not just for the size of their salary 2 years after their graduation. This is particularly true in this rapidly changing world we live in - a world of disruption. We must have passion,’ said Johannes Hellmers.
When the ceremony came to an end, Aalborg University invited their guests to take part in a reception in the foyer of Aalborg Congress & Culture Centre. After the reception, some of the guests attended the University Party which also took place in Aalborg Congress & Culture Centre and was attended by 1,500 guests, staff and students.
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