VIPO grants to female scientists

This year, six highly promising researchers are the grantees under VILLUM FONDEN’s talent programme Villum International Postdoc – aka VIPO. The programme is targeted at female researchers in the technical and natural sciences.

Villum International Postdoc is VILLUM FONDEN’s career kickstarting programme earmarked for female researchers in the period 2019-2023. The programme has been developed in collaboration with the Danish universities, and many of the grantees focus on making a difference in society in relation to sustainability issues. This year, their projects range from DNA-based methods for studying biodiversity to experiments with vibration response in wind turbines and other structures.

This year’s six Villum International Postdocs are: Marie Brøns (DTU), Rocio Rodriguez Cano (Aalborg University), Laura Kacenauskaite (University of Copenhagen), Christina Lynggaard (University of Copenhagen), Jette Katja Mathiesen (DTU) and Laura Stidsholt (Aarhus University).

Gender Policy

VILLUM FONDEN supports the development of a diverse research environment in Denmark with a special focus on women in research. 

We are working to ensure that the gender balance among applicants and grantees as a minimum requirement matches the national gender balance. Read more in our Gender Policy

Talent development and diversity

The goal of the Villum International Postdoc programme is to help strengthen talent development in Danish research in the technical and natural sciences:

“The academic career path still poses challenges with the so-called ‘leaky pipeline’, which leads to a greater drop-out rate among women than men in research career positions. It’s a loss for Denmark that we’re missing out on research talent in this way. Diversity among researchers can also increase the likelihood that the research covers a wider range of subjects and approaches, and consequently contributes to strengthening the relevance of the conducted research in relation to our society’s need for knowledge. The research subjects for this year’s Villum International Postdocs range very widely, and we hope that the six talented and ambitious recipients can inspire more women to choose a research career in the technical and natural sciences,” says Jens Kann-Rasmussen, chair of VILLUM FONDEN.

Bolts for sustainability

Bolted joints are the tangible pivot for 30-year-old postdoc Marie Brøns from DTU Mechanical Engineering, who is one of this year’s six grantees. She is one of few female researchers in the field of mechanical vibrations. In her PhD project, she developed a method for ascertaining by listening whether a bolt in a wind turbine blade is tight enough. The wind turbine industry spends immense resources on tightening up bolts to prevent the turbines from collapsing under the impact of the enormous wind forces, which means there is great potential in developing a technique so you only need to tighten up loose bolts. In the postdoc project entitled Dynamic Disturbance Substructuring, Marie Brøns will now experiment with disrupting the vibration response in engineering structures in a controlled way to arrive at more sustainable structures of everything from wind turbines to large industrial machines:

Women in research

The Ministry of Higher Education and Science’s reports show that there are relatively fewer women at Danish universities the higher up you go in the academic career. Although the proportion of women in the Danish research community is increasing, progress remains slow.

In the main area of the technical and natural sciences, the development of the proportion of women has been more limited than for the other areas. The area is already the scientific field where the proportion of women is lowest – in 2018, women made up 27 per cent of the scientific faculty: At PhD level, there are 38 per cent women, at assistant professor level 33 per cent, at associate professor level 24 per cent and at professor level the figure is 15 per cent.

See the report Danmarks Talentbarometer 2019 (only in Danish).

“The Villum International Postdoc programme is a unique opportunity. I can hardly believe that I now have a full three years to delve into my own project, extend my academic competences and international networks and focus on realising my own research ideas. It’s absolutely brilliant. Today, women are few and far between in mechanical engineering, both in front of and behind the lectern in the auditorium. With VILLUM FONDEN’s grant, I’ve been given the chance to make my contribution to increasing diversity in this discipline. I’ve planned several initiatives and events where I hope I can spread my enthusiasm for mechanical engineering to others, and hopefully inspire other young women to take the plunge into differential equations, wind turbines or 3D printers, for the benefit of both the individual and society,” stresses Marie Brøns, who is an experimentalist with her feet solidly planted in calculation techniques.

International pivot

As part of the programme, all Villum International Postdocs must plan an extended stay abroad to ensure an international outlook and establish a network. Marie Brøns’s research path will take her to the Technical University of Munich (TUM):

“I’m really looking forward to my stay at TUM, where I will be learning new methods from a world-leading group of researchers in mechanical vibrations. I would like to pursue a career in research, because I’m passionate about the intersection between immersion, innovation and communication. The grant gives me the time and means, not only to implement my ideas here and now, but also to acquire the competences needed to create a permanent career in research. A step in which it’s difficult to succeed, and which I hope to take one day. I can’t wait to get started!,” says Marie Brøns.

See this year’s Villum International Postdocs

The grantees have been selected as special talents by the universities and subsequently academically assessed by VILLUM FONDEN’s Technical and Natural Sciences working group, which has nominated them for grants to the foundation’s board.

Villum International Postdocs 2021 with chair Jens Kann-Rasmussen. Photo: Thomas Frandsen. Please credit VILLUM FONDEN. Download press photos. 

From left:

Marie Brøns, DTU Mechanical Engineering, Technical University of Denmark (DKK 2.2 million): ’Dynamic Disturbance Substructuring’ (DDSUB)

Rocio Rodriguez Cano, Department of Electronic Systems, Aalborg University (DKK 2.4 million): ‘Antenna design and integration on glass surfaces for the next generations of mobile communication’ (5G/6G)

Christina Lynggaard, Globe Institute, University of Copenhagen (DKK 2.5 million): ‘Biodiversity hotspots in tropical forests in West Africa: a DNA-based framework to aid vertebrate conservation efforts’

Laura Stidsholt, Department of Biology, Aarhus University (DKK 2.5 million): ‘A biologging approach to studying wild animals in the Anthropocene’

Jette Katja Mathiesen, DTU Physics, Technical University of Denmark (DKK 2.5 million): ’Tailoring Shape-Controlled Multimetallic Nanoparticles for Conversion of Sustainable Energy’

Not present in the group photo: 

Laura Kacenauskaite, Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen (DKK 2.5 million): ‘Looking into the molecular structure of a sustainable future - New tools for better insights into complex materials’


Anna Høxbro Bak
Communications Adviser, THE VELUX FOUNDATIONS
+45 22 64 03 55