VUB researchers calculate evolution of brain tumours and sea levels
VUB welcomes two promising researchers thanks to five-year FWO grant
David Tewodrose and Harry Zekollari are two of 13 researchers to receive a prestigious Odysseus grant, a start-up fund from the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). They will be based at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel for the next five years to develop their research practice. Tewodrose focuses on geometric analysis that is used in medical applications, among other uses. Zekollari studies the evolution of glaciers in a changing climate.
Tewodrose is currently a postdoc researcher in maths at the University of Nantes in France, but will soon join the Mathematics and Data Science department at VUB.The FWO commends him for his work on geometric analysis. “A good example of an everyday application in my research area is the design of geographical maps,” says Tewodrose. “As the Earth is a sphere, it’s not easy to translate that shape into a flat map. Because of the curvature of the Earth, you cannot render it correctly and you lose certain information, such as angles or ratios. You can see this on maps, where the angles are preserved, but the size of the African continent is much smaller than it is in reality. My research also has a link to the medical world. There are machines that can predict how brain tumours will evolve. The geometric analysis I’m working on is used by these machines when performing the predictions.”
For climate scientist Harry Zekollari, this is a return to where it all began. He received his PhD from VUB and has since worked at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and at ETH Zürich in Switzerland. “The Odysseus grant from the FWO offers me a unique chance to return to VUB and build a new research group,” he says. “We will simulate the global evolution of glaciers using advanced computer models. So, for the first time, we will model global glacier evolution in 3D using artificial intelligence. Our new glacier projections will form the basis of the next generation of water availability forecasts and projections of sea level rises. With this new research group, we want to contribute to Belgium’s role as a pioneer in research on global warming and its consequences.”
The study of glacier developments is also relevant to local geography. “The evolution of glaciers has a direct impact on the Belgian coast and the port of Antwerp, and will help determine how to defend Belgium against rising sea levels,” says Zekollari.
“I am delighted with the opportunity to build a solid practice at VUB,” says Tewodrose. “Temporary positions can be quite stressful, so I’m grateful for the stability of a five-year grant. Thanks to the grant, two doctoral students and two postdoctoral researchers will have an opportunity. With the time and support of VUB and the Odysseus grant, I will be able to tackle more difficult mathematical problems with them.”
An FWO grant makes a big difference in academia, according to the researchers. The FWO funds fundamental and strategic research in Flanders. Through the Odysseus programme, it aims to encourage notable researchers working outside Belgium to base themselves here and bring quality international research to Flanders. The selected researchers receive start-up funding for five years to build a research group or develop a line of research at a Flemish university. This is a biennial call. The search for new candidates will begin in September 2024.