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.
Excessive use of fertilisers in agriculture has led to nitrogen pollution, and calls for bio substitutes are getting louder. PhD candidate Bella Tsachidou from Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) gathers scientific evidence on the benefits of biogas residues and their suitability as biofertilisers, while providing support for the modification of nitrogen-policies on European and global level.
Eating disorders affect up to 5% of people. At the University of Luxembourg, Dr Annika Lutz and Lynn Erpelding study the brain mechanisms that help form body image, and want to understand how eating disorders develop. Using a multidimensional approach, the team’s ultimate goal is to improve treatment for people suffering from eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa.
Growing up in Botswana and Zimbabwe, Nathasia Mudiwa Muwanigwa did not see science as a career option. Fast forward a few years: Nathasia is studying Parkinson’s disease as part of her PhD at the LCSB at the University of Luxembourg, and has co-founded a STEM initiative that was featured in Forbes.
Science has no gender, but it is an undeniable issue that the gender of scientists can have an impact on the development of their scientific career. We find ourselves making assumptions about gender, based on the scientific domain, or the level of seniority. Can you tell the gender of this scientist based on their profession, or maybe based on their experiences? We present: A scientist in the field of mathematics.
Noémie Catherine Engel has just begun her researcher journey – and she has found her niche already: As part of her AFR PhD at the University of Bath, the Luxembourg national investigates the evolution of sex role traits in a small shorebird species in Cape Verde.
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.