The Danish For Women in Science prizes were launched in 2007 by L’Oréal in Denmark in partnership with the Danish national commission for UNESCO and the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. The purpose of the program is to put a spotlight on promising women in science as role models to inspire more excellent women to have a career in science and to promote equality in Danish research. Since the launch, 36 promising scientists have become part of the For Women in Science network.

This evening this year’s award winners gave three short public lectures where we will get an insight of the research and what makes them strive for their goals.

The lectures were in English

Foto: L’Oréal/ Stine Heilmann

Ass. Professor Charlotte Mason, Astronomy
The Cosmic DAWN Center, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen University

How did we get here? There is a missing chapter in our Universe’s history: we cannot see the first stars and galaxies that lit up the Universe. How and when did galaxies form from the primordial soup of atomic hydrogen and helium to produce the diversity we see today? This is still an open question and a frontier in astrophysics. 
Theoretical models predict the first stars and galaxies formed in our Universe around 100 million years after the Big Bang. As they burned and exploded, the stars created every atom in our world, except hydrogen and helium, and the early galaxies were the building blocks for galaxies like our own home, the Milky Way. But all of this is untested – until now we have not been able to see the earliest galaxies, so we do not have concrete evidence for how these first stars and galaxies formed.
In the last few months, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has expanded our observational horizon to the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang, and early results have challenged our theoretical models of how stars and galaxies formed. My research lies at the intersection of theoretical modelling and observations, and aims to analyse and interpret these data to understand the properties of the first generations of stars and how they set the stage for the subsequent evolution of our Universe.

Watch the lecture here:

Ass. Professor Sophia Yakoubov, Cryptography
The Aarhus University Crypto Group, Aarhus University

There are compelling benefits to outsourcing data storage and processing to the cloud: minimizing
the risk of data loss (e.g. when we spill coffee on our laptops), and using resources more efficiently.
However, there are also serious drawbacks, such as having to trust a cloud provider to maintain both
the availability and privacy of our data. Cryptography can help us retain control of our data even as
we outsource it.
My research focuses on securely and efficiently outsourcing data processing to large-scale distributed
systems, such as clouds and blockchains. The challenge lies in balancing security with efficiency:
if the computation is distributed among too few machines, a data thief might be able to launch
a targeted attack against all of the machines involved, thus compromising the privacy of the data
and the security of the computation. On the other hand, if the computation is distributed among too
many machines, the amount of communication between these machines can prove to be prohibitive. I
work on designing new outsourced computation techniques that remain efficient while simultaneously
providing security against even the most clever attackers.

Watch the lecture here:

Ass. Professor Fatima AlZahra’a Alatraktchi, Medical Biology
Department of Science and Environment, Roskilde University

The World Health Organization has estimated that antibiotic resistance will be the leading cause of mortality in less than thirty years. We have essentially depleted our antibiotic resources, which in many ways can also be described as a fossil resource. Although the issue of antibiotic resistance is growing, it is not irreversible. Studies have shown that reduced use of antibiotics in certain environments has resulted in non-resistant bacteria re-colonizing the area. So, there is still something we can do.
When bacteria are exposed to antibiotic concentrations that are lower than what kills them, it can trigger them to change their pathogenic behavior. What does not kill them can make them stronger, but it can also disarm them and make them more benign. The aim of this project is to investigate if it is possible to “tame” pathogenic bacteria that are difficult or impossible to eradicate by very small concentrations of existing antibiotics. If successful, this sustainable antibiotic approach could help to slow the development of antibiotic resistance and make existing antibiotics more effective. This would give society more time to address the issue and potentially reverse the effects of resistance.
By cracking the code on how to tame otherwise disease-causing bacteria with very low doses of antibiotics, we can eventually reduce our antibiotic consumption. The same goes for resistant bacteria, which we cannot currently kill. It may be enough to tame them and live with them.

Watch the lecture here: