In early 2017, a small exhibition in Luxembourg City highlighted a selection of ‘WiSE – Women in Science and Engineering’. Here we introduce FNR Award winner Pascale Engel de Abreu, a Psychologist who studies cognitive development of multilingual children at the University of Luxembourg and is featured in the exhibition.
Research close to the needs of Luxembourg society
The questions Dr Engel and her team ask themselves include:
Which conditions must be met in order to properly learn a second language?
How can you diagnose learning difficulties in a multilingual child?
What effect does multilinguism have on the cognitive development of the brain?
To get her data, Pascale Engel frequently tests several hundred children and studies the results using statistical models. In some studies, she tests the same children over several years to observe how certain cognitive processes change.
Multilingualism as brain training
Dr Engel de Abreu has established that multilinguism is a kind of brain training for children. For example, Portuguese children grow up in Luxembourg are less fluent in their mother tongue compared to monolingual children. However, the children who grow up with multiple languages have an advantage in other areas, such as a better ability to focus their attention.
But Pascale Engel does not only study the cause of problems, she also tests methods that aim to help the children. One of her main goals is the development of science-based tests and intervention materials that help identify children with educational difficulties (e.g. dyslexia) at an early age, helping to ensure appropriate care.
When Dr. Irina Burlacu completed her AFR PhD thesis on the tax and benefit system for cross border workers in Belgium and Luxembourg, she asked herself: Now that I have spent years on this research, how can I best communicate it? The answer: translating the research outcome into a board game combining income and tax levels from 41 countries with country knowledge – ‘Mobility Era: Play Your Taxes!’.
For each Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, the FNR runs a Call for promising young researchers with a connection to Luxembourg to attend. For the 2019 Lindau Meeting, dedicated to physics, Hannah Rana, PhD candidate in Space Cryogenics at Oxford University had this rare opportunity. Hannah shares her highlights – from speaking to all 39 Nobel Laureates in attendance, including Donna Strickland; realising the importance of science communication; feeling inspired, and much more.
Splitting her time between the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and company LuxSpace as part of an Industrial Fellowship, Postdoc Ramona Pelich uses data from earth observation satellites to improve maritime surveillance and flood hazard monitoring.
Are creative people better at regulating emotions, and are there cultural differences? This is one of the questions Henderika (Herie) de Vries wants to answer. Having already discovered that cultural differences impact the creative potential of children, the Dutch-Luxembourgish national hopes to understand more aspects of how our cultural circumstances can influence our capacity for creative thinking.
In school, we are taught three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas. The focus of University of Luxembourg PhD candidate Anjali Sharma’s research lies between solid and liquid: liquid crystal. She studies them in unusual shapes that are no larger than the width of a human hair, yet they are considered as large by the scientists of the field. As part of her research, the Indian national got an opportunity for a rare experiment: Taking her research into a zero gravity environment.
Divya Balakrishnan, Dipti Rani and Serena Rollo are women in science working in a field that could have a major impact on how health is managed: In the group of FNR ATTRACT Fellow César Pascual García at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), the team works on developing sensors for biochemical applications focusing on medicine.
Rarely has a scientific discovery led to a Nobel Prize as quickly as the first production of graphene. The British researchers who managed to make it in 2004 were honoured with the Nobel Prize in Physics only six years later. What is particular about this material, which consists of pure carbon, is its two-dimensional structure: the atoms in this material are arranged in a single, extremely flat layer. Electrons can only move within this 2D plane, and always feel the influence of their constraint. This leads to unusual properties that are not found in ordinary, three-dimensional crystals.
Sparked by a collection of over 2,000 images, two projects led by Prof Karin Priem from the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH) reflect on the industrial heritage and societal impact of major Luxembourg-based steel and iron producing company ARBED, examining the social and educational initiatives of the company and how it helped shape Luxembourg’s national and international identity in a time of industrialisation.
Silvia Girardi is a sociologist with an interest in studying policies that aim to contrast poverty. As part of her joint PhD at Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) and KU Leuven, the Italian national looks at the social policies that support low-income households in Luxembourg, taking the perspectives of the citizens on the receiving end, and the social workers involved in implementation.
Why can our bodies defend itself against some diseases but not others? This is something Carole Lara Veiga de Sousa has always been eager to understand. In the framework of her PhD at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) and Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), the Portuguese national took at closer look at the microglial cells – immune cells in the central nervous system – and what impact they have on the brain’s ability to fend of infections.