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University researchers win FNR Awards 2020

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Published on Thursday, 19 November 2020

The Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) has presented the FNR Awards 2020, conferring five awards to researchers and administrative staff from the University of Luxembourg on 19 November.

The University won awards in four categories: Outstanding PhD Thesis, Outstanding Promotion of Science to the Public, Outstanding Research-Driven Innovation and Outstanding Scientific Publication. Each award is endowed with 5,000€.

Outstanding PhD Thesis

Maciej Chrzanowski (Faculty of Science, Technology and Medicine) for his thesis “Shear Transfer in Heavy Steel-Concrete Composite Columns with Multiple Encased Steel Profiles”

Inspired by the close collaboration between the local industry and the University of Luxembourg, Maciej Chrzanowski completed his doctoral studies at the University’s ArcelorMittal Chair of Steel Construction, headed by Prof. Christoph Odenbreit, in collaboration with ArcelorMittal.

His research, supervised by Prof. Odenbreit, on composite columns with multiple encased steel profiles, which are used to construct tall buildings, aimed at improving their safety when carrying the weight of the construction and the sustainability to guarantee the optimal use of building materials. He studied the local acting shear forces – the movement between steel and concrete within the column – analysed the transfer of forces across the whole column and proposed a new innovative engineering model to properly assess the structural behaviour of columns in tall buildings

“At the University of Luxembourg, you benefit from a very good environment to do research. Close connections to the top international universities, research centres and top engineering offices foster extraordinary exchange and collaborations. Moreover, high expertise and accessibility of all supervisors allow to conduct high-quality research,” says Chrzanowski.

Today, Chrzanowski works as a construction engineer at ArcelorMittal Steligence, where he can apply R&D techniques in practice.  


Thierry Titcheu Chekam (Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust) for his thesis “Assessment and Improvement of the Practical Use of Mutation for Automated Software Testing”

After completing a Master’s degree in China, Thierry Titcheu Chekam joined the University of Luxembourg to conduct his doctoral research on quality control of software testing.

Software requires testing before being released, to prevent failures that can lead to economic losses or effects on the health and safety of others. However, software testing does not always detect all faults. Titcheu Chekam addresses this problem in his thesis by developing a machine learning technique for a software testing method that is usually very expensive and tedious for software developers. In addition, he designs an automated test generation technique to further enhance the set of already existing tests. 

“The University of Luxembourg provided me with all the resources I needed to do my work: excellent close supervision from my advisors, funding to attend academic events in order to learn from and connect with researchers from around the world, computing resources to run experiments, and work flexibility that enabled me to work more effectively,” says Titcheu Chekam.

The research results are applied in a PayPal project. Currently, Titcheu Chekam is a postdoctoral researcher at the SnT and extends the work of his doctoral thesis to software updates.


Outstanding Promotion of Science to the Public

Sophie Wagner, Sabine Schmitz, Ruxandra Soare Lelubre, Lucie Debroux, Lisa Smits, Philippe Lamesch (Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine) for the exhibition “Mind the Brain”

The “Mind the Brain” exhibition marked the 10th anniversary of the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) of the University of Luxembourg. The anniversary represented an important milestone for biomedical research in Luxembourg. Combining art with science, Mind the Brain exhibited 10 giant sculptures in the shape of a brain throughout the city center of Luxembourg. Each of the giant brains was decorated by a renowned Luxembourgish artist and represents one of the research areas of the LCSB. The exhibition offered a gateway to biomedical science for the public, with accessible information on research conducted at the LCSB. To support both Luxembourgish art and biomedical research, the 10 sculptures were on sale. Half of the funds collected went to the artists and the other half supports a research project in the field of neurodegenerative diseases.


Outstanding Research-Driven Innovation

Claudine Kirsch and Simone Mortini (Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences) for “Educational movies of language learning practice”

Claudine Kirsch specialises in Language Learning and Teaching, Multilingualism, and Early Childhood Education. Together with Simone Mortini, the doctoral student on the project MuLiPEC, and other members of the research team, she developed a series of videos that help educators and teachers implement multilingual pedagogies in their institutions. Multilingual approaches in day care centres and nursery schools are very important in Luxembourg because they value the children’s resources – linguistic and cultural – and contribute to the children's participation and inclusion. However, some teachers and educators are unsure about how to deal with the linguistic diversity and how to build on these resources.

The eight online videos produced as part of the project MuLiPEC show concrete and evidence-based examples of how to develop and implement multilingual pedagogies. The videos are used in professional development courses of the Service National de la Jeunesse and the University of Luxembourg, and in Bachelor courses at the University.


Outstanding Scientific Publication

Carole Linster and her team members Nicole Paczia, Julia Becker-Kettern, Jean-François Conrotte and Daniel Kay (Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine) for the publication “NAD(P)HX dehydratase (NAXD) deficiency: a novel neurodegenerative disorder exacerbated by febrile illnesses”

Carole Linster and her team, in collaboration with partners from Australia, America, England, India and Spain, have identified the genetic cause of a severe childhood disease. Affected children suffer from severe skin lesions and episodes of neurological regression, typically triggered by mild fever or infection, eventually leading to early childhood death. The publication shows that mutations in the NAXD gene are the cause of this disease. The NAXD gene encodes an enzyme that is responsible for the degradation of toxic waste products of cellular metabolism. In children carrying the disease, this sanitary mechanism no longer works. It can now be classified as a disorder of metabolite repair, a process that is studied as a main focus in the Linster group.

Researchers could also show that the degradation of the metabolic side products works well again if expression of the functional NAXD gene was restored in the patient cells. Based on the research, there have been first therapeutic approaches with Vitamin B3 treatment. This treatment had a drastic positive effect on the skin lesions and stabilised the neurological symptoms. This promising result gives hope for understanding, treating and maybe even curing other rare diseases in the future.


Rewatch the award ceremony on the FNR website.