How is Denmark to sustain itself in the future? How do we generate the innovation needed for Denmark to retain its leading position in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology? How do we get young people more interested in studying the natural sciences?
These are pressing issues for 21st century Denmark, and the Novo Scholarships brings part of the answer as 43 MSc students in the biotechnological and pharmaceutical sciences are awarded.
“Denmark’s future depends on high academic standards, and we face stiff competition from other countries pushing the natural sciences,” says Morten Østergaard, Danish Minister for Research, Innovation and Higher Education.
“We must learn how to nurture the wealth of research talent to be found in Denmark. The Novo Scholarships are a good example of this and can inspire more young people to become interested in the natural sciences.”
The minister also stresses that the scholarships serve as a welcome seal of approval for the students and their projects, and that it is positive that so many students are being given an opportunity to devote themselves entirely to their theses.
The Novo Scholarships are funded jointly by Novozymes and Novo Nordisk. A total of DKK 2.6 million (€350,000) is being awarded this year, divided into scholarships of up to DKK 84,000 (€11,300) each to supplement the students’ standard grants while they are writing their theses so that they do not need to work alongside their studies.
This is the 16th year that the scholarships have been awarded, and altogether more than DKK 30 million (€4 million) has now been awarded to more than 500 promising young researchers.
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One of the students to receive a scholarship is Duy Michael Le, who is studying nanobiotechnology at Aalborg University. His project has its roots in a fundamental global challenge: With more than 7 billion people on the planet, we are consuming more and more food and energy.
The project looks at how we can get more nutrients and energy out of existing raw materials – specifically how natural enzymes can break down cereals in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.
“One of the biggest challenges is breaking down the cell walls in corn, but if we can get enzymes to do this, we can get more energy out of the corn and make it more nutritious for both humans and animals,” says Duy Michael. “It’s all about getting much, much more out of the same amount of corn.”
The Novo Scholarship will make a big difference for a delighted Duy Michael: “Now I’ll be able to focus 100% on my research without having to take a part-time job.”