Professor Kenneth Hugdahl receives honorary Meltzer Award
The Meltzer Research Fund Awards were announced on 7 March, for excellence in research and for young researchers. This year there was also time for the honorary award for excellence in research, which was awarded to Professor Kenneth Hugdahl.
The Meltzer Research Fund Awards for excellence in the dissemination of research was awarded to Professor Gunnstein Akselberg, whereas Law Researcher Maja Janmyr and recent PhD Graduate Michał Pilipczuk received the Meltzer Award for young researchers.
Every five years, the Meltzer Research Fund also gives an honorary award for excellence in research at the University of Bergen (UiB). Past recipients include Kari Wærness, Bjarne Iversen, Holger Ursin and Gunnar Skirbekk.
On Friday 7 March, Professor Kenneth Hugdahl received the honorary Meltzer Award. Hugdahl admits to being speechless when UiB Rector Dag Rune Olsen called him recently to announce the prize.
“This means a lot to me. To be appreciated on home turf makes this award very special for me. Of the awards and prizes I have received, this is probably the one I rate highest,” said Hugdahl in his award speech.
Important for research environment
Professor Hugdahl has worked at UiB for large parts of his working career, as professor of biological and medical psychology. For many years, he has led the Bergen fMRI Group, who are pioneers in fMRI research in Norway. Along with the Trondheim fMRI Group at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the Bergen fMRI Group make up the National Resource Centre for fMRI in Norway.
In 2009, Hugdahl became recipient of a prestigious Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for his work on auditory hallucinations. The work of Hugdahl and his team has led to innovative solutions, such as an iPhone app based on dichotic listening tests.
Hugdahl and others from the Bergen fMRI Group are also part of the Oslo-based Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research (NORMENT), a National Centre of Excellence (SFF) since 2013 and co-ordinated at the University of Oslo.
Solving the mystery
The psychology professor believes that the honorary award is important also for all the people he works with.
“Many people are behind an award like this: PhDs, postdoctoral fellows, research assistants and technical support staff. They are all an integral and extremely important part of this work,” said Hugdahl. “Not to forget all the patients and people who have volunteered for our research. This award has an effect on everyone in our research environment as a signal of the quality of our work.”
Hugdahl also has ambitions for the future. In the last few years he has worked a lot on the mysteries connected with hearing voices.
“I am approaching pension age, but I want to do something remarkable before I retire,” he promises. “I hope we have a breakthrough in understanding what goes on in the brain when people hear voices that are not physically present. If we can understand what creates this experience, we may be able to treat and create new medicines to solve this mystery.”
The winner of Meltzer Research Fund Awards for excellence in the dissemination of research, Professor Gunnstein Akselberg, is praised for his work to strengthen the ties between academia and society.
In their explanation, the jury for the Meltzer Awards pointed that this language researcher has contributed to important basic research on the development of the Norwegian language today, as well as bringing joy and an infectious enthusiasm about research to a wide audience.
For years, Akselberg has made a name for himself on the radio programme ‘Snakk med oss’ at NRK Hordaland, the local branch of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. In the broadcasts he has answered questions about issues many have a close and personal relation with: language and dialects, how language changes and why things and places have the names they do.
The jury also notes Professor Akselberg’s abilities as a lecturer, writer and disseminator of knowledge to the local community and speaking directly to people in Western Norway.
Praising young researchers
Every year the Meltzer Fund also awards two young researchers for their excellent work. This year Researcher Maja Janmyr at the Faculty of Law was described as an extremely talented young researcher. The jury points out that Janmyr is internationally recognised for her doctoral thesis at UiB on the legal rights of refugees: Protecting Civilians in Refugee Camps: Issues of Responsibility and Lessons from Uganda.
According to the jury, Janmyr’s research touches upon important and difficult legal issues. She is an active participant in the public debate, where she disseminates research-based knowledge, be it in the press, by blogging or teaching and lecturing.
The 25 year old Mathematician and recent PhD Graduate at UiB, Michał Pilipczuk, was the other young researcher to receive this year’s Meltzer Award. Before arriving in Bergen, Pilipczuk held master’s degrees in mathematics and informatics from the University of Warsaw.
The jury praised his exceptional work at a young age, pointing out that not only did he get his PhD at a young age, but also that his research goes wide and deep. His contributions to informatics theory is the equivalent of several PhDs, according to the jury. To produce so much unique research is unusual even for internationally recognised professors in their most productive years.
Clearly, the jury believes that a lot is still to be expected from both Maja Janmyr and Michał Pilipczuk in the years to come.
(Translated from the Norwegian by Sverre Ole Drønen.)