Dr. Hanne Christensen, a Norwegian biologist, talks to us about her work on large carnivores and her interest in recent Neanderthal studies. Kate, Morgan and Arnit are three exciting young minds taking part in the Young Scientists Contest, and join me with the director of FJSL, Sousana Eang.

Just hours after my interview with Dr. Hanne Christensen, who passionately describes her interest in Neanderthal genomics, thanks to the work of Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this work, rendering her respect all the more warranted.

Hanne is a biologist from Oslo, Norway, but has lived in Luxembourg since 2008, moving for her husband's work, Dr. Arno Gutleb.  In Norway, ecology and big carnivores was her field. She worked with wolves, lynx, red fox and otters.

Her PhD was a government project - why were otters disappearing from southern Norway? And it wasn't just Norway. Much of Europe saw the same decrease in population. The culprit turned out to be toxic chemicals like PCB which accumulate in the fat of fish, which the larger carnivores then go on to eat. PCBs are still present in our environment.

Dr. Christensen worked with the WWF in Norway aiming to protect the mountain habitat for wild reindeer.  Norway as the last refuge of wild reindeer in Europe.

More recently Hanne's interest in genetics and the work of Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck institute in Leipzig has caught her attention. His team worked for many years to decipher the Neanderthal genome from bones found in different caves in Europe.

"What they found, and how they did it is genius work of clever scientists." 

So inspired was Hanne that she has even written a book inspired by the new knowledge of the Neanderthals, currently being translated into English.

Fondation Jeunes Scientifiques Luxembourg 

This weekend 69 participants from 17 countries will present their work and ideas at Expo-Sciences Luxembourg 2022 at Forum Campus Geesseknäppchen. It’s open to the public and free to enter!

Sousana EANG is the Director of Fondation Jeunes Scientifiques Luxembourg, FJSL.

Her aim is to make sure young scientists get all they need to succeed in their science journey!

My younger guests all participated in the National Jonk Fuerscher Contest 2022: Aikaterina (Kate) Karageorgiadi, Arnit Dey and Morgan Csarno Peklar.

Kate Karageorgiadi is 18, Greek, came to Luxembourg 7 years ago with her family. In her project, ‘Colour, how it affects emotion and its associations’ she investigated the emotions associated with each colour and how those associations affect the liking of the colours individually.

Kate grew up in a house full of colour and art. Her mother studied fine arts and Kate imbibed this passion without knowing it. Alongside her A level subjects of biology and chemistry, Kate is studying psychology. She wants to go on to study medicine or genetic biology.

“The idea for ‘colour and emotion’ came from my love for art and my constant exposure to it. My house never had white walls. I was free to choose the colour of my room’s walls since l was little. When I started studying psychology the idea clicked. My life involves around colour without me realising it. It sets my mood. It’s a subconscious process that happens constantly.”

So she looked into it. What is colour? What emotions does it trigger in us? What response? How can these results be used in hospitals or businesses to help the surroundings?

Arnit Dey, 14, is Indian but born in Dubai. He moved to Luxembourg just one year and has designed a pair of ‘glasses’ for blind people using sonar technology and translating its data into an audio description of the bearer’s surroundings. His teammate is Punya SENTHILKUMAR.

The idea was inspired by a walk in Bambesch, seeing some bats and realising they use echolocation.

His interests go well beyond science though, with a deep passion for football, music and writing.

The title for our science project was 2020ForAll and it's a pair of glasses which helps blind people understand their surroundings better and increases their mobility. It is just in the initial phase of product development and we need to further develop this but we already have created a prototype of the idea.”

Morgan Csarno Peklar is 16, and was born in Canada but of Hungarian origin.

His project, Ormcrypt – Encryption Decryption Program is a python code (coded in python version 3.7.9) based on cryptography and the technology of encryption and decryption. It offers an encryption and decryption function, along with many other functions to experiment with encryption keys. He was awarded participation to Mobisciences Morocco.

Despite his talent for coding, Morgan wants to make it as an actor! We wish you luck Morgan!

Get in touch!

Please do subscribe to the podcast, rate and review on Apple and Spotify !

I'd love to know what shows you want more of, and what ideas or guests you enjoy so that I can tailor my show to suit your requests.

Europe's Otter Population, Neanderthals & Young Scientists