Kira Astakhova, new associate professor at DTU Chemistry. Photo: Anne Frejberg

Young researchers to strengthen DTU Chemistry

Tuesday 18 Jul 17
by Janwium


Erling Halfdan Stenby
Head of Department
DTU Chemistry
+45 45 25 20 12


Jens Øllgaard Duus
DTU Chemistry
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A strategic initiative

“DTU Chemistry has made a major decision to appoint no less than six new researchers within organic and inorganic chemistry,” says Head of Department Erling H. Stenby.

“Four of the new researchers have been employed in the area of organic chemistry with special focus on chemical biology. The decision to appoint the researchers was based on a strategic decision to strengthen this particular field in line with DTU’s overall life sciences strategy”.

For many years, chemical biology has generated successful research results and received a large number of grants, but has recently been less visible as the mature researchers have retired.

“We’re convinced that DTU Chemistry once again will be a key player in the field, and that it will provide the framework for many new activities together with other DTU departments.”

The Department has decided to strengthen its position significantly within both organic and inorganic chemistry. This means that six talented young researchers have been offered permanent employment at DTU Chemistry as associate or assistant professors. Two of them, Kira Astakhova and Luca Laraia, are recruited externally.

Kira Astakhova takes up her position as associate professor at DTU Chemistry, Organic Chemistry on 1 August. Originally from Russia, she comes from a position as associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark.

Young but experienced associate professor
Despite her young age, the 31-year-old chemist is among the best in the world in her field and has already five years’ experience as an associate professor.

“I conduct research into synthetic biology in the cross-field between chemistry and biology. Part of my previous work has been centred on producing small pieces of fluorescent DNA—so-called probes—which adhere to the DNA strand and can reveal diseases. Another part of my work has focused on imitating the molecules of the body. This can help patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.”

Kira Astakhova’s research will enable doctors to diagnose their patients at an earlier stage. “I’m first and foremost a chemist, but I like to work across disciplines,” she says. At DTU Chemistry, she will be heading a diverse group of nine other young researchers.

New assistant professors
Also giving new impetus is Luca Laraia. On 1 November, he will be employed as an assistant professor at DTU Chemistry, Organic Chemistry. Luca Laraia comes from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Germany, where he has worked as a postdoc and project manager. Born in Vienna, Austria, he describes himself as a chemical biologist with extensive experience in, e.g., synthetic and medical chemistry.

In addition, four young researchers who, until now, have been temporarily employed at the department have been offered permanent employment as assistant professors:

Sophie Beeren, Organic Chemistry. Sophie Beeren is from Australia, and before coming to Denmark, she was conducting research at the University of Cambridge. Her research in supramolecular chemistry utilizes non-covalent interactions to create ‘smart’ materials and functional nanostructures, and she focuses on unconventional approaches to solving chemical synthesis issues. She is studying a new biotechnological approach to carbohydrate synthesis by combining molecular recognition and enzymology.

Read a detailed article about Sophie Beeren’s research.

Katrine Qvortrup, Organic Chemistry. Her research focuses on different areas of chemical biology, including the design and production of chemical compound libraries and of modified peptides and biomolecules, screening for biological activity and assay development, as well as identification of new biological targets.

Martin Nielsen, Inorganic Chemistry. He works with homogeneous metal catalysis, where he studies hydrogen production from biomaterial, multi-metallic nanostructures, and synthetic enzyme models.

Kasper Steen Pedersen, Inorganic Chemistry. Among other things, he is working to develop new 2D material production methods by means of a chemical synthesis collection of molecular building blocks, allowing chemical encoding of specific properties. Two-dimensional materials are particularly relevant to advanced computer technology and spintronics.

Read a detailed article about Kasper Steen Pedersen’s research. 

Extensive international experience

Jens Ø. Duus, Head of Section, Organic and Inorganic Chemistry, says: “The new researchers have all produced excellent results and have extensive international experience. Two new assistant professors have been appointed within inorganic chemistry. The areas related to synthesis of new materials and catalysts are perfectly in line with the department’s expertise within inorganic chemistry, and with the new permanent employments, new and exciting research methods are introduced.” 

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15 NOVEMBER 2018