TMS Starting Grant 2021

Starting Grants awarded to outstanding researchers

Carina Strell, Mali Husby Rosnes and Suzette Flantua have been awarded the Trond Mohn Foundation’s Starting Grant for 2021.

TMS Starting Grant
Carina Strell, Mali Husby Rosnes and Suzette Flantua will conduct research into breast cancer, the production of sustainable plastics and climate change in alpine regions respectively, with support from the Trond Mohn Foundation and the University of Bergen.
Melanie Burford, Trond Mohn stiftelse

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The grant provides Strell, Rosnes and Flantua with research positions and the funding to create their own research groups at the University of Bergen for up to four years. They will each be allocated around NOK 20 million, through funding split between the Trond Mohn Foundation and the University of Bergen. 

“I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations to these three outstanding young researchers,” says Margareth Hagen, Rector of the University of Bergen.

Early breast cancer

Carina Strell has been awarded the TMS Starting Grant for the “Understanding Early Breast Cancer Evolution in Space and Time (EvoMaps)” project. The host department is the Department of Clinical Medicine. Strell looks forward to getting started with the project, which will be linked to the research group at the Centre for Cancer Biomarkers (CCBIO), a Norwegian Centre of Excellence (SFF) at the University of Bergen.

According to Strell, early breast cancer, or “ductal carcinoma in situ” to use the medical term, currently accounts for around 10 % of all breast cancer cases in Norway. The overall aim of this project is to uncover and map new mechanisms of early breast cancer evolution.

“With this knowledge, I hope to improve current diagnostic tools for breast cancer patients, to reduce the treatment burden for women with early-stage breast cancer and thus improve their quality of life and spare them treatment related comorbidities,” Strell explains.

“In the long run, data from this project can contribute to identify new treatment strategies and overcome radiotherapy resistance,” she says.

Sustainable plastics

Mali Husby Rosnes has been awarded the TMS Starting Grant for the “Recyclable Catalysts for Sustainable Polymers from CO2 and Bio-based Epoxides (ReCat4Polymer)” project. The host department is the Department of Chemistry, with which she is currently affiliated. Here, she will now build her own team to study recyclable catalysts for the production of sustainable plastics and will use CO2 as one of the raw materials.

“A catalyst increases the speed of a chemical reaction without being consumed. Catalysts are essential to modern society as they enable the sustainable production of the materials we already rely upon. The goal is to develop efficient and fully recyclable catalysts that allow us to create modern materials without the use of fossil fuels,” Rosnes explains.

“An industrially profitable production of sustainable plastics from biological raw materials and CO2 will be a key contribution to the UN’s 12th Sustainable Development Goal: “Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”, Rosnes says, before thanking the research group at the host department and the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences for the support and input to the process.

Climate change in alpine regions

Suzette Flantua has been affiliated with the University of Bergen and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research through the ERC project HOPE (Humans On Planet Earth) since 2018. As a recipient of the TMS Starting Grant, she will have the opportunity to lead the “Past, Present and Future of Alpine Biomes Worldwide (PPF Alpine)” project, which is affiliated with the Department of Biological Sciences.

“In this project we will study the past, the present and the future of the ecosystems that are along the highest parts of mountains globally, the ‘alpine’ zone. The assumption is that these ecosystems might be especially vulnerable to future global warming. In my project we will look at how past climate change, during the last 130,000 years, impacted what we see today. This will give key insights in understanding how ecosystems will cope with future change”, she explains.

“For me personally and professionally, being awarded the TMS Starting Grant is the “golden-buzzer” moment, where many ideas and collaborations during my career have come together in a perfect synergy. And that is a feeling of utter excitement and thankfulness which is difficult to describe”, she says, also expressing gratitude to the research environment at the Department of Biological Science for the support.

44 TMS Starting Grants

The Trond Mohn Foundation started awarding Starting Grants in 2008. Over the years, 44 national and international researchers have been given the opportunity to lead research projects in Bergen for periods of up to four years.

“This year’s three winners are ambitious, creative and driven women who will make a significant impact on the research environments in their fields at the University of Bergen,” says Sveinung Hole, Managing Director of the Trond Mohn Foundation. He adds that the independent external evaluations that were carried out on the projects prior to allocation have been extremely positive.

Through these appointments, the University of Bergen will strengthen its strategic efforts within key fields of research. The winners will also become part of a strong academic community through the TMS UiB Career Program. The conditions are therefore in place for the recipients to realise their potential as both researchers and research leaders.

“We would like to congratulate the winners and the University of Bergen. We look forward to following the researchers and their projects and we are confident that their work will make a difference,” says Hole.

New knowledge in crucial areas

The Rector of the University of Bergen, Margareth Hagen, is grateful for the long-standing collaboration with the Trond Mohn Foundation. Since the start of the collaboration, funding from the foundation has contributed to both the establishment of infrastructure and state-of-the-art equipment at the University of Bergen and Helse Bergen, world-leading academic environments through the Toppforsk programme, as well as the recruitment of many talented researchers with innovative research ideas.

“Strell, Rosnes and Flantua are embarking upon exciting projects that could contribute new knowledge in crucial areas to society. I look forward to seeing the results of the projects over the coming years,” says the University of Bergen Rector.