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In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian

Breast Cancer.

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths in women worldwide. In most cases, breast cancer patients do not die from the primary tumour itself, but from metastasis to different organs.

Unfortunately, metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured but can only be treated to extend patient’s life. Therefore, a better understanding of metastatic process is an urgent need to improve patients’ treatments and to pave the way for a cure.

Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian is a postdoctoral fellow at the Cytoskeleton and Cancer Progression unit at the Luxembourg Institute of Health. Her research work focuses on Breast Cancer invasion and metastasis.

Understanding the metastatic process to improve patients’ treatment

Breast cancer develops when abnormal cells in the breast begin to divide uncontrollably. Metastatic breast cancer is the most advanced stage of breast cancer.

When breast cancer is diagnosed, the aim of the current treatments is usually to remove the entire tumour. But this is no longer possible if it has spread to other parts of the body, i.e. metastatic breast cancer. The aim of the therapy is to keep the patient’s general health and quality of life as good as possible for as long as possible.

Metastasis refers to cancer cells that have spread to a new area of the body. Breast cancer that spreads to other parts of the body is still considered breast cancer.

In her research work, Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian is striving to get a better understanding of metastatic process to pave the way for new therapies able to prevent or reduce cancer cell dissemination.

Research to help others and patients

Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian’s research journey started in the ” Viral Infections and Comparative Pathologies ” Lab in Lyon, France. As part of her master’s thesis, she used Drosophila Melanogaster as a research model to study the passage of retroviruses from somatic cells to germ cells, i.e. how an exogenous virus becomes endogenous and is transmitted from generation to generation.

Drosophila Melanogaster, a.k.a. the fruit fly, is used as a model organism to study disciplines ranging from fundamental genetics to the development of tissues and organs. According to various studies, the Drosophila genome has many similarities to that of humans.

The Franco-Syrian biologist joined Research Luxembourg as a PhD student, focusing on the role of targeting autophagy in enhancing the anti-tumour immune response.

Upon completion of her PhD, she joined the “Acute and Chronic Cardiovascular Insufficiency” INSERM lab in Nancy, France as a postdoctoral researcher, where she worked on vascular ageing. Now, she is part of the Cytoskeleton and Cancer Progression team at the Luxembourg Institute of Health headed by Dr Clément Thomas and focuses on Breast Cancer invasion and metastasis.

“Contributing to improve the quality of life of people, especially patients, is a driving force. This vocation gives meaning to my life. Moreover, doing research satisfies my curiosity and gives me the opportunity to learn continuously”

Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

For Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian, Luxembourg has excellent research infrastructure and state-of-the-art research facilities.

While her postdoctoral position is currently supported by télévie, she has always accessed funding to support her research. As a matter of fact, her PhD programme was funded by the Luxembourg National Research Fund.

“I have seen since joining Luxembourg how the country supports research and how it is continuously developing in this field, while maintaining its excellent research quality.”

Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian

She was also successful in being selected for the Caloust Gulbenkian Foundation’s Global Excellence Scholarship, which supported her training and participation in various conferences throughout her PhD.

Stronger together: Collaborations make research more powerful

In Luxembourg, researchers are highly encouraged to collaborate. Since she has been at the Luxembourg Institute of Health, Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian has had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from other Luxembourg research institutions such as the University of Luxembourg and the Luxembourg National Health Laboratory.

“I work not only with biologists but also with researchers from different fields such as statisticians and bioinformaticians.”

Dr Takouhie Mgrditchian

More about the Cytoskeleton and Cancer Progression group in Luxembourg Institute of Health.

Meet our young researchers

In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Matthew Flood

How can technological solutions provide clinicians and patients with effective treatment outcomes for orthopaedic injuries and diseases? What role can motion capture technology play in delivering quantitative clinical diagnoses […]

In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Huizhu Sun

How can research help Luxembourg to maintain its international competitive position as a financial marketplace? Huizhu Sun is a Junior Research & Associate in the Luxembourg Institute of Science […]

Inside Research Luxembourg Latest news Personalised Healthcare

In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Matthew Flood

Biomedical engineering.

Walking, running and general mobility are key components of everyday life that are often underappreciated. The ability to move is critical for personal independence and sustaining a high quality of life, and when our natural capacity to move is impaired, our overall health, both physical and mental, is heavily impacted.

How can technological solutions provide clinicians and patients with effective treatment outcomes for orthopaedic injuries and diseases? What role can motion capture technology play in delivering quantitative clinical diagnoses of sport-related injuries? How can researchers harness the data from wearable sensors and digital devices to understand the impact of impaired mobility during activities of daily life?

Dr Matthew Flood is a postdoctoral fellow at the Human Motion, Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine and Digital Medicine unit at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH). As a biomedical engineer, his day-to-day research involves clinical biomechanical assessments of individuals with orthopaedic and sports-related injuries.

Technological solutions to contribute to more efficient delivery of healthcare

To Dr Matthew Flood, effective prediction, diagnosis and treatment is vital to minimise the impact of orthopaedic or neuromuscular disorders in the short term and to prevent secondary health conditions in the long term. His research aims to develop technological solutions for clinicians and patients that provide effective treatment outcomes and ultimately contribute to more efficient delivery of healthcare.

Pursuing this objective, he applies nonlinear signal processing and advanced data analysis methods to biomechanical and neurophysiological data in order to understand the mechanisms underpinning orthopaedic conditions and other movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.

More recently, his research has been focused on gait analysis, i.e. walking patterns, in the clinic using motion capture systems, and in the real world assessing movement in everyday life using wearable sensors, called inertial measurement units.

Through wearable sensors, motion capture systems, and AI-driven smartphone applications, Dr Matthew Flood’s research looks for ways in which we can harness the latest advances in technology to provide more accurate and effective personalised healthcare.

Overall, Dr Matthew Flood has been collaborating with orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists at Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg and LIROMS to clinically assess patient recovery from sport-related injury using motion capture technology.

“As a member of a translational and transversal research group, I work closely with surgeons from the Dept. of Orthopaedics at Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg to develop collaborative research studies that utilise our technical and clinical expertise to bring about new and innovative treatment solutions.”

Dr Matthew Flood

Research to gain autonomy, expertise and purpose

Dr Matthew Flood’s interest in research was piqued when he started working with brain computer interfaces during his master’s project in biomedical engineering, completed in University College Dublin (UCD).

From that point on, the Irish researcher decided to continue in research, pursuing a PhD in electrical engineering. During his PhD he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to the motion analysis lab of the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital at the Harvard Medical School. This experience provided him with opportunities to design novel medical devices like exoskeletons and explore their implementation with rehabilitation specialists in a clinical environment.

Since completing his PhD, he has worked on several postdoctoral projects on stroke rehabilitation at university hospitals in Dublin and Germany before joining Research Luxembourg in 2021.

“In my opinion, a career in research, and particularly biomedical research, is so rewarding because it offers autonomy, expertise and purpose.”

Dr Matthew Flood

The working environment in Luxembourg has also allowed him to pursue personal research endeavours, such as the development of a software toolkit for entropy analysis, a helpful tool for capturing complex patterns in biosignals such as electrocardiograms.

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

Luxembourg’s geography and economy create a combination that fosters close interdisciplinary research. With a large number of research centres of excellence comprising internationally renowned scientists and state-of-the-art facilities, Luxembourg is an ideal destination for researchers from around the world. To the biomedical engineer, “it is impressive to see how well science is funded and the importance placed on it by the state. With so many great research organisations in close proximity to one another, it is easier to have face-to-face interactions with colleagues from different research fields, and the more opportunities people have to meet up and discuss their work, the greater the chances of producing innovative ideas.”

Indeed, Matthew Flood points out that working in a triumvirate of researchers, surgeons and physiotherapists, located in close proximity to each other, allows them to interact and discuss their work face to face, an advantage rarely possible in research.

“By coming to Luxembourg, I wanted to pursue new and alternative areas of research while simultaneously discovering new cultures. In this sense, the opportunity to join Research Luxembourg seemed ideal as it is a multinational hub at the heart of Europe.

The transversal and translational nature of the Luxembourg Institute of Health was also a big factor as one can work to bring clinical research directly into medical practice.”

Dr Matthew Flood

About living in Luxembourg

Matthew Flood recently moved to Luxembourg and is a big advocate of the free public transport. “In every place where I’ve lived for the last 12 years, I have relied on public transport to get around, factoring in fares and times of specific routes when trying to get from A to B. But not anymore. With free transport, I don’t have to think twice about stepping on a bus, train or tram, which makes it much quicker to get around.”

“Being so international means that you come across people from all walks of life, especially in research. [As for the size of Luxembourg, it] is ideal for getting around to all the great attractions it has on show.”

Dr Matthew Flood

More about Human Motion, Orthopaedics, Sports Medicine and Digital Methods in Luxembourg Institute of Health.

Meet our young researchers

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In conversation with our young researchers: Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez

Tumor immunology.

Most preclinical models lack effective immune system components. There is an urgent need to test new immunomodulatory agents for brain cancer patients.

How studying the interactions of tumor cells with tumor microenvironment can help immunotherapy in glioblastoma patients?

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez is a PhD candidate at the NORLUX Neuro-Oncology laboratory in the Department of Oncology of the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH). Her research mainly focuses on tumor immunology for glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of brain cancer.

Contributing to new cancer treatment possibilities

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez is developing effective preclinical immunocompetent models for glioblastoma, that can reliably predict tumour-induced immune responses.

Her PhD project is driven by the current need to develop novel immunomodulatory therapies that can overcome the lack of response to immunotherapy in patients with glioblastoma.

Immunomodulatory therapies

An immunomodulatory therapy treats diseases through the regulation of the patient’s immune system. In other terms, such a therapy boosts the immune system so it can find tumor cells in the body and kill them to effectively tackle the disease. 

Indeed, her project addresses the reduction and/or absence of immune system components in most preclinical models. This situation limits the possibility of testing new immunomodulating agents.

As such, the aim is to study the immune component of patient-derived 3D glioma organoids and xenografts and to investigate the interactions of tumour cells with the tumour microenvironment.

Patient-Derived Xenografts

In oncology research, xenografts are used as patient avatars to develop a personalised treatment. To do so, a small fragment of the patient’s tumor may be excised and subsequently grafted into an immunodeficient or humanised mouse.

The patient avatars are then being used to assess therapeutic options focused on the glioma microenvironment, thus providing reliable results that could be applied in the clinic.

“With our findings, we hope to provide the scientific community with robust models that will be relevant for future immunotherapeutics development and therefore could directly contribute to new glioma patient’s treatment possibilities.”

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez

Research to fight cancer

The Spanish researcher developed an interest in oncology early. After graduating in Biochemistry at the University of Murcia, Spain, she then earned a master’s degree in Molecular Biomedicine with a focus on Oncology at the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain.

Before starting her PhD, Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez worked as a research assistant in a project focused on humanised preclinical models for renal carcinoma, i.e. the most common type of cancer.

She also obtained an accreditation to work with laboratory animals, and the Good Clinical Practice certificate to perform clinical research.

“Cancer hit a deeply loved member of my family nine years ago, my grandfather […] it was the key point that made me want to change the situation, I felt it as a responsibility to show my family there were people who cared and were willing to fight against cancer. This is the whole reason why I got into science and Biochemistry, because we need to make people believe in science and have hope again and I am happy to contribute with my tiny bit in that.”

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez

A member of the i2TRON project

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez joined Research Luxembourg via the i2TRON fellowship. This doctoral training unit is on “integrating immune strategies for Translational Research in Oncology and Neurology”.

The aim of i2TRON is to train next generation translational scientists to advance research innovations focusing on immunological components across model diseases, and to turn new mechanistic insight into diagnostic and therapeutic strategies to improve patient care. 

Overall, 20 experienced supervisors, including  four  physician scientists representing the focus areas,  join forces across the Luxembourg the Institute of Health (LIH), the University of Luxembourg, the Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS) and the Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg (CHL) to bridge and translate fundamental and clinical research into novel strategies for clinical practice. Each partner institution offers specialised research expertise as well as access to cutting-edge IT-, laboratory- and clinical infrastructures and combining their domain expertise in a collaborative scheme to push the frontier of knowledge.

i2TRON is funded over a period of 6.5 years by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) through the competitive PRIDE programe.

Luxembourg fosters research collaboration

Since her arrival in her lab group, Pilar has realised that collaboration is the key to success.

“My lab is a very multidisciplinary and international research group, comprising experienced researchers and technicians with various expertise. The environment of Department of Oncology is also very collaborative. Our laboratory actively collaborates with numerous researchers in Luxembourg and abroad.”

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez praises Luxembourg for its healthy research atmosphere and international environment.

To her, Luxembourg managed to create effective connections between research institutes. It also gives the chance to work at different places according to the resources one need. “In my opinion it is very well equipped and a country that cares and invests in research, even more than other bigger countries in Europe.”

About living in Luxembourg

According to Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez, Luxembourg is a nice country to live in. In particular, she highlights that public transport is free.

“I really love the good organisation and coherence of Luxembourg in general. Everything seems to be put in place so the citizens’ life can be easier. The many different nationalities make Luxembourg a very attractive country with the possibility to learn from many different cultures.”

Pilar Maria Moreno Sanchez

Meet our young researchers

Industrial & Service Transformation Inside Research Luxembourg Latest news

In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Huizhu Sun

Alternative investment and assets.

Luxembourg is a major global hub for alternative investment funds and a cross-border distribution centre. It is the leading investment fund centre in Europe and second worldwide behind the U.S.

How can research help Luxembourg to maintain its international competitive position as a financial marketplace?

Huizhu Sun is a Junior Research & Associate in the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST). His research mainly focuses on alternative investment and assets, i.e. private equity, venture capital, infrastructure assets, and collectible assets/funds such as art, wine, etc.

Revealing the drivers of the competitiveness of Luxembourg’s fund ecosystem

Huizhu Sun is examining investment fund performance, its underlying drivers and the related implications of the fund structure. Such a project is instrumental in revealing the drivers of the competitiveness of Luxembourg’s fund ecosystem and maintaining its international competitive position as a financial marketplace. It allows to identify the drivers of performance and the role the alternative investment industry plays in the systematic risk of the economy.

In addition, understanding the performance drivers underlying different fund structures related to the investor pool or available distribution channels is crucial for the alternative fund industry. The second Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, i.e. MIFIDII, that came into force in January 2018 asks for a rigorous analysis of expected investor pools. Finally, apart from performance implications for investors, the public-private partnerships (P3) that emerge in the Venture Capital (VC) and infrastructure industry also have broad societal effects, given the growing public-private engagement in boosting innovation hubs and contributing to social infrastructure development.

“My focus on the structure of Venture Capital funds with the associated liquidity risk and investor pool sheds light on this topic.”

Dr Huizhu Sun

Research to develop his critical mindset

Dr Huizhu Sun developed an interest in economics and finance when working in a financial institute after graduation from Tongji University, Shanghai China, in Information Management. Naturally, he pursued a Master of Finance in the same university where he had a chance to participate in an exchange programme with the University of Luxembourg

After earning his master, he continued as a PhD candidate in the Department of Finance at University of Luxembourg, focusing on alternative investment research. “FNR CORE ALPHA project is a collaboration between my team in LIST and Department of Finance from University of Luxembourg, and prof. Roman Kräussl is the project Principal Investigator. I also work with Ankit Arora from LIST, Denitsa Stefanova from University of Luxembourg and Kalle Rinne from a private partner, Mandatum Life Fund Management S.A.”

“Taking research as a vocation not only trains you for the challenge to your ideas but develops critical and analytical way of observing life. It brings the fulfillment of disseminating cutting-edge ideas, research and innovation to the world.”

Dr Huizhu Sun

The researcher’s work is based on empirical analysis with proprietary industry data where his ideas and methods have been implemented and tested in private sector scope.

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

Luxembourg is an ideal destination for financial research that focuses on industry practice and private sector in terms of industry support and collaboration.

“Most research projects in Luxembourg, including mine, are collaborative between different organisations. I am surrounded by data scientists and analysts who provide additional insights besides economic interpretation. This interdisciplinarity and collaboration environment brings various expertise.”

“Luxembourg research infrastructures provide supportive facilities and channels that make researchers’ ideas and work easily disseminated and visible, meanwhile motivate them with responsive solutions for their needs.”

Dr Huizhu Sun

About living in Luxembourg

Huizhu Sun initially moved to Luxembourg as an exchange student. He recalls that “University of Luxembourg took a good care of international students.”

“Living in Luxembourg gives you a hybrid experience combining relaxed European country life with fast pace working environment. It is an ideal place to have a work-life balance.”

Dr Huizhu Sun

Meet our young researchers

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In conversation with our young researchers: Christopher Morse

 Human-computer interaction.

Museums and cultural institutions around the world have been digitising their collections for decades, resulting in large networks of digital repositories all around the world that are not only accessible by the public, but usually free to use.

In an age when the museum experience is no longer tethered to physical spaces, how might we design for memorable experiences in the digital?

Christopher Morse is conducting a doctoral project as a joint member of the Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C2DH) and the Human-Computer Interaction Research Group of the University of Luxembourg. The human-computer interaction researcher specialises in the design of user interfaces for digital arts and cultural heritage.

Bringing together the digital humanities, museum studies, and computer science

Christopher Morse’s work is grounded in human-computer interaction methodologies, which emphasise human-centered design thinking approaches to the development of new technologies. His project is highly interdisciplinary, drawing from the digital humanities, museum studies, and computer science.

The American researcher investigates the application of user experience (UX) design methodologies in the development of next-generation interfaces for museums.

“Within my own project, I partnered with the Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art in Luxembourg City to host a series of design workshops with the public on the subject of digital museum interfaces.”

Christopher Morse

In terms of impact, Christopher had the opportunity to present his research to cultural institutions in Luxembourg, i.e. the Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art and the Lëtzebuerg City Museum.

A researcher at heart

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst in Japanese Language and Literature and Harvard University, earning a Master of Theological Studies and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, Christopher developed an interest in library and museum studies, as well as the emerging field of digital cultural heritage.

Christopher moved to Luxembourg from the United States in 2017 to run his research project.

“I have always been a researcher at heart, and the doctoral programme certainly put those skills to the test. Research is more than just reading and writing; it’s also about defending your point of view, challenging your own thoughts, and developing resilience against rejection.”

Christopher Morse

Before moving to Luxembourg, Christopher was a Senior Research Computing Specialist for Arts & Humanities Research Computing (DARTH) at Harvard University.

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

Two main factors were appealing to the researcher: “First, Luxembourg is a multilingual country, something I appreciate tremendously as a lifelong language learner. Second, the description of the call itself was a perfect fit: research at the intersection of the digital humanities and psychology.” Indeed, this doctoral programme felt like a natural continuation of efforts he made as a co-founder of an annual symposium at Harvard University called ArtTechPsyche.

“In my experience, the research infrastructures are robust and well supported. I never felt like I was missing out on anything I may have needed to conduct my work. What I have found is that researchers have a lot of agency to make the most of their time in Luxembourg, they must merely speak up about their needs.”

Christopher Morse

A TED speaker

In 2019, Christopher Morse was one of the speakers at TEDxUniversityOfLuxembourg. Titled “Experiential Culture: Feeling the Museum of the Future”, his talk offered a new approach to interacting with our shared cultural heritage.

The experience of visiting museums has evolved to extend beyond the walls of the institutions themselves into digital spaces, where online galleries, exhibitions, and virtual tours invite audiences to explore arts and culture from their personal devices. However, generating interest from the public around these platforms remains a challenge, and the digital experience rarely compares to an in-person visit. Building on research that demonstrates the effectiveness of emotional design as a way to generate public engagement with physical museum spaces and exhibitions, Christopher showed that a user-centered design approach has the potential to develop novel experiences around digitised museum collections.

Experiential Culture: Feeling Museum of the Future | Christopher Morse | TEDxUniversityofLuxembourg

About living in Luxembourg

Christopher has found in Luxembourg a place he can call home. “I have discovered so many things about Luxembourg itself that have motivated me to stay long term. It feels like a place that embraces the values that are most important to me, such as multilingualism, multiculturalism, and open-mindedness.”

“My favorite thing about Luxembourg is how well I feel it matches my values. No country is perfect, but during this time of sociopolitical upheaval, it is a privilege to live in a place where many people embrace differences, rather than fear them.”

Christopher Morse

Christopher Morse’s research comes from the FNR PRIDE funding. Find out more about him and his projects.

Meet our young researchers

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In conversation with our young researchers: Dr Chiara Amorino

Stochastic differential equations.

Stochastic differential equation models have a major contribution in many fields of application, including biology, chemistry, physics, finance as well as social and economic science.

Why do we need stochastic differential equations? Where are they used?

Dr Chiara Amorino is a PostDoc researcher in the Probability and Statistics group at the University of Luxembourg. The mathematician specialises in stochastic differential equations with jumps.

Stochastic differential equations to model various phenomena

Chiara Amorino mainly focuses on stochastic differential equations with jumps. In simple terms, it is a differential equation with a solution which is influenced by boundary and initial conditions, but not predetermined by them. In other words, whenever the equation is solved under identical initial and boundary conditions, the solution takes on different numerical values although, of course, a definite pattern emerges as the solution process is repeatedly performed.

Stochastic differential equations find applications in many disciplines including economics and finance, physics, population dynamics, biology and medicine. The Italian researcher uses this powerful tool to model multiple stochastic phenomena in physics, biology and medical, social and economic science.

“In finance, stochastic differential equations with jumps have been introduced to model the dynamic of the exchange rates, of the asset prices and of the volatility. Utilisation of jump-processes can also be found in neuroscience. Therefore, stochastic differential equations with jumps attract the attention of many statisticians.”

Dr Chiara Amorino

Chiara Amorino is also involved in projects dealing with Stein’s method, Malliavin calculus and Hawkes processes.

Finding a true vocation in research

A graduate of the Università degli studi di Milano in mathematics, Chiara developed an interest in probability and statistics when she was a master’s student. In October 2017, she conducted a PhD in “Université d’Evry Val d’Essonne” under the supervision of prof. Arnaud Gloter before defending her thesis three years later.

“Research is for me a true vocation […] The best part about research is that it takes more time than you expected but in the end you always win. ”

Chiara Amorino

To the mathematician, research is similar to a board game. “At the beginning you need to read the rules and to focus a bit to understand how to play. You really need to take this part to play and have fun. At the beginning of every project you need to review the literature, to understand what it is possible to prove and what has already been proven. After that, you can start playing by making hypotheses and writing your results.”

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

While attending a conference, Chiara Amorino met Professor Mark Podolskij, who was then living in Denmark. “I wrote to him to see if there was the possibility to apply for a post-doc in his group. He answered to me that there was such a possibility in Luxembourg, as he was changing his affiliation.” That is how Chiara moved to Luxembourg.

“I strongly recommend Luxembourg as a research destination. Research infrastructures are very good, they show the strong commitment of the country in investing in research.”

Chiara Amorino

According to the Italian scientist, the Luxembourg research environment supports interdisciplinarity and collaboration: “it is possible to meet researchers from different disciplines, discuss with them and somehow start collaborating. Moreover, it offers the opportunity to travel and attend conferences abroad, having in this way the possibility to promote our work and, in the meantime, get in touch with other researchers.”

Collaborating with ERC grantee Prof. Mark Podolskij

Chiara Amorino’s research project is part of the ERC grant “Statistical Methods for High Dimensional Diffusions (STAMFORD)”, awarded to Prof. Mark Podolskij.

The STAMFORD project aims at providing a concise statistical theory for estimation of high dimensional diffusions. The methodological part of the project will require the development of novel advanced techniques in mathematical statistics and probability theory. In particular, new results will be needed in parametric and non-parametric statistics, and high dimensional probability, that are reaching far beyond what is state-of-the-art today. Hence, a successful outcome of STAMFORD will not only have a tremendous impact on statistical inference for continuous-time models in natural and applied sciences, but will also strongly influence the field of high dimensional statistics and probability.

About living in Luxembourg

Relocating to Luxembourg was an easy move to Chiara Amorino as the University of Luxembourg supported her in dealing with the administrative process.

In addition, the international dimension of the country contributed to the successful integration of the scientist. “Luxembourg is a very attractive country and so people from all around the world move here.”

“Luxembourg is really beautiful, full of green and of castles, and safe. When you go out for a walk, you perceive immediately the well-being of this country.”

Chiara Amorino

Find out more about Chiara Amorino and her projects.

Meet our young researchers

In conversation with our young researchers: Adelene Lai

PhD candidate Adelene Lai at Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) is an environmental cheminformatician who develops workflows, algorithms, and software to help identify environmental chemicals. 16% of annual […]

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Scientific evidence is not an opinion

Science please!

Traditionally, scientific evidence serves as a foundation for novel hypotheses, innovations, and, conveniently, for making informed political decisions. While this process is usually limited to a few, the Covid-19 pandemic has suddenly thrown us all into it.

More than ever, explaining what scientific processes entail and what scientific evidence is to the public at large has become critical.

Why does scientific evidence make it difficult for researchers, decision-makers, the media and the public at large to manage? What challenges does a pandemic pose for science? How can we all contribute to making scientific evidence widely shared?

Even when research is compelling, personal opinion may trump scientific thinking. Case in point: speculation about the origin of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has persisted since the beginning of the pandemic, spawning misinformation and conspiracy theories. This type of debate may occur when we choose to believe a personal opinion over scientific evidence or statistics.

Understanding scientific evidence

Anyone can have an opinion, formulate it as a statement and try to back it up. Scientists also make assertions, called hypotheses. But in science, every claim must be supported by what is called evidence. In other words, such evidence must be confirmed by recognised, ongoing scientific methods and critically reviewed to confirm, refine or reject it.

Scientific evidence is an ongoing process. Seeking truth, i.e. guaranteed knowledge, is emerging slowly. Along the way, it is not unusual to find out that on some points the hypotheses were wrong and need to be revised. In fact, scientific evidence is usually the result of a large number of studies, conducted by different scientists. And the truth is then a consensus that prevails at a given date among the majority of scientists.

Scientific evidence is a continuum

Scientific evidence is often a consensus of the majority of scientists at a given time. It is therefore not unusual for scientists to change their minds or positions. Indeed, evidence is constantly being supplemented by new findings, refined and sometimes turned down.

What is a common process for scientists can be very confusing for decision makers and the public.

Why is a pandemic such a challenge for scientists?

Finding answers is part of research and researchers are constantly seeking new evidence, knowledge, the truth. They do not only communicate and discuss possible uncertainties or the strengths and weaknesses of their studies among themselves, but in the current crisis they had to share them with the public.

In the situation of a pandemic, we are faced with a dilemma: science needs time, but political decisions cannot wait.

Science is not simple

Science is a process of learning and discovery. Finding out that what we thought was right is then wrong is part of research.

Scientific evidence is often tainted with uncertainty. In public debates that are based on scientific evidence, this poses challenges. Scientists might not always say whether something is completely right or wrong.

The responsibility of politicians, journalists and individuals is to take into account the complete range of information available and to make decisions based on probabilities.

Science cannot provide absolute truths. But its mission is to bring us ever closer.

Scientists may find it important to communicate more clearly about what is known and what is not known and to define what uncertainties go along with evidence.

Translated extracts from “Que sait la science? L’évidence scientifique en temps de pandémie” published on

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In conversation with our young researchers: Daniele Proverbio

Mathematical modelling.

The possibility of having solid and general mathematical results opens many potential future applications.

One of the prospects is to predict the time evolution and its driving mechanisms of any x. As such, x can describe anything we want to apply the theory to. The detection of dangerous epidemic trends is, for instance, one immediate application of great societal impact.

Why do certain systems suddenly start functioning in unpredictable and drastically different ways?

Daniele Proverbio is a doctoral researcher at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) at the University of Luxembourg. His main research lies at the intersection of physics, systems biology and computational sciences.

Mathematical methods as a go-between

Daniele Proverbio is a physicist whose project primarily concerns the classification of driving mechanisms for abrupt regime shifts in dynamical systems.

The Italian citizen seeks to understand how certain system suddenly start functioning in unpredictable and drastically different ways, undergoing the so called “critical transitions”. Epileptic seizures, i.e. when a healthy brain suddenly becomes restless, is one applied problem he is investigating. Another is epidemic evolution, whose mathematics is very similar to that of the other systems, which allows an immediate application of many theoretical results.

“I am addressing the question: is it possible to raise an early alert for such changes? This endeavour requires developing mathematical models and computer simulations, knowing the biology of what is modelled, and combining them consistently.”

Daniele Proverbio

Daniele Proverbio is also involved in other projects that span from understanding the synchronisation of certain multi-unit systems, through the application of deep learning techniques for medical imaging, to collaborative modelling of the effects of brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease patients.

“I believe that the collaboration of mathematical models and laboratory experiments might help unravelling the main mechanisms for the onset of certain diseases, thus assisting practitioners and patients.”

Daniele Proverbio

The common thread linking the researcher’s projects is finding accurate descriptions of certain systems with mathematical methods, extrapolating useful information, and using it to best describe and predict the temporal evolution of that system.

Research to understand natural phenomena

Daniele Proverbio’s first research experience occurred while writing his undergraduate thesis on cosmic rays at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

In addition of earning a Master’s degree in Physics of Complex Systems at the University of Turin, he graduated at the Scuola di Studi Superiori di Torino “Ferdinando Rossi”, an institution of excellence focusing on multidisciplinary subjects.

“My main interest is to understand natural phenomena, and to help others to understand them as well. I believe that research is the best suited job for this, as well as for enjoying the freedom of pursuing intellectual challenges.”

Daniele Proverbio

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

In 2018, Daniele Proverbio joined the Systems Control group of the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) at the University of Luxembourg to conduct a PhD. “The LCSB is a peculiar environment, which hosts theoretical groups amidst experimentalists. This enables true interdisciplinarity: a physicist like me can ask a biologist the necessary information to develop a valid model, as well as to get the data to test it.”

“Research-wise, I love Luxembourg for its short bureaucratic ladders: even as a young researcher, I could directly get in touch with directors and nation-wide associations, which are often difficult to get in touch with in larger countries. This enables further responsibilities and learning opportunities that would have been impossible otherwise.”

Daniele Proverbio

To him, the University of Luxembourg is extremely active in escalating its research potential. “Researchers can benefit from competitive funding, state-of-the-art facilities and assistance for outreach and networking. All this while being small enough not to be dispersed and retaining a human dimension.”

A Research Luxembourg COVID-19 Taskforce member

Daniele Proverbio has actively participated in Research Luxembourg COVID-19 Taskforce.

In particular, he is involved in the Statistical pandemic projections work group, led by Prof. Rudi Balling and Dr Alexander Skupin. The overarching aim is to provide short- and medium-term projections that can be used to support the healthcare system, identify priorities and facilitate decision-making.

He also contributed to developing an extensive glossary of terms related to the coronavirus pandemic. The glossary encompasses words used to describe the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, such as reproduction number and contact tracing, but also generic health-related terms (antibody, PCR test, etc.) and topics linked to mathematics, modelling and research in general (clinical trials, test statistic, etc.).

The full glossary is available on in EnglishGerman and French.

“Effective communication in science relies on the understanding of specific terminology. This is why this handy glossary was created and why it covers a wide diversity of scientific fields, just like research at the LCSB and in Luxembourg.”

Daniele Proverbio

About living in Luxembourg

To Daniele Proverbio, “Luxembourg feels like a rich province: it is safe and calm, it offers most of the facilities a person needs for professional and leisure time, and it promotes peace of mind.”

“Luxembourg has great sport and biking facilities. It is a safe country and is very caring for its citizens. In addition, its multicultural environment is amazing to gain a fresh breath of the world.”

Daniele Proverbio

More about Daniele Proverbio

Meet our young researchers

In conversation with our young researchers: Pauline Mencke

Neurodegenerative diseases and cancer affect millions of people worldwide. Translational neuroscientist Pauline Mencke has chosen Luxembourg to study a gene that is involved both in Parkinson’s disease and the […]

Inside Research Luxembourg Latest news Sustainable & Responsible Development

In conversation with our young researchers: Dr. Adrian Nieto Castro

Causal evidence to fight inequalities.

Empirical research shows the significant negative effects inequality has on society at large. Providing answers to such questions would participate in closing the existing societal inequalities and increase well-being through policy-making.

How can causal evidence help close existing societal inequalities and address current socio-demographic problems?

Dr. Adrian Nieto Castro is a postdoc researcher in the Labour Market Department of the Luxembourg Institute of Socio Economic Research (LISER). His studies aim at providing answers to empirical questions such as gender or educational inequality and socio-demographic issues.

An interdisciplinary researcher

Adrian Nieto Castro is an interdisciplinary researcher, with interests in labour economics, family economics, gender equality and climate change.

In his research studies, the Spanish citizen seeks to find causal evidence to close existing societal inequalities (e.g. gender inequality or educational inequality) and increase well-being through policy-making. In a recently-published paper, the researcher explores native-immigrant differences in the effect of children on the gender pay gap. The findings may help policy makers in designing public policies aiming at reducing gender inequality in the labour market.

Additionally, Adrian Nieto Castro also investigates how to address current socio-demographic issues such as low fertility rates or mental health issues in developed countries. In a recent paper, he explored the link between the labour market and fertility, and showed that certain types of labour contracts may help towards increasing fertility and avoiding ageing populations.

“At LISER, researchers work on the analysis of societal changes while working on multidisciplinary research that covers topics such as labour market policies evaluation, the link between digital transformation and the labour market, the implications of ageing workforces or equality of opportunity and social mobility, among others. The interdisciplinary vision of the institute, together with the fact that LISER counts with a large, excellent and highly motivated research team, has allowed me to work on multidisciplinary and promising research projects.”

Dr. Adrian Nieto Castro

To run his projects, the interdisciplinary researcher uses causal inference analyses and large administrative as well as longitudinal survey datasets to provide answers to empirical questions. He also makes use of new programming techniques to collect unique sources of information, hence answering novel research questions.

Empirical research as a motto

During his undergraduate studies, Adrian Nieto Castro gained interest in Economics as a tool to tackle socio-economic problems and increase society’s well-being.

Such an interest led him to continue his studies at the London School of Economics, where he completed a master in Economics. Thanks to this opportunity, the researcher gained a solid background in economics and in quantitative methods on top of meeting promising scholars.

Then, the economist entered the academic world by doing a PhD in Economics at the University of Nottingham.

“While doing my PhD, I became an empirical researcher with the main purpose of providing causal evidence to address socioeconomic research questions and improve policy-making. I was also a visiting researcher at the Bank of Spain for half year, where I gained experience in working with policy-makers.”

Dr. Adrian Nieto Castro

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

In September 2019, Adrian Nieto Castro joined the Labour Market Department of LISER. “Being part of LISER has been an excellent professional opportunity, as it has allowed me to work with internationally recognised researchers in promising research projects, thus growing as a professional and as a person.”

To him LISER counts with an interdisciplinary research team, where both recognised senior and promising junior researchers are willing to collaborate. This environment helped him to “quickly build a great research network as well as working on multiple promising research projects.”

“Within LISER, there are internationally recognised researchers working on projects with a lot of potential both for the academic and policy-making worlds.”

“Luxembourg offers a great setting for research in social sciences, given that researchers can interact with policy-makers working in important European institutions within the country, providing researchers with an opportunity to discuss ways on how to implement their research into the policy-making world.”

“Luxembourg has recently invested large amounts of resources into research infrastructure, which has allowed it to position itself as a leading country in the research world.”

Dr. Adrian Nieto Castro

An FNR CORE team member

Adrian Nieto Castro collaborated as a co-investigator in the Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR) funded research project “The Effect of Schengen, the Euro and Local Labour Markets: A Causal Analysis on Cross-Border Workers in Europe (CrossEUwork)”, where Andrea Albanese is the Principal Investigator.

The research project seeks to fill the gap of scarce empirical literature on cross-border employment at the individual level by using some unique data sources. To do so, the analysis focuses on the causal link between labour market factors and the choice of becoming a cross-border worker. Natural experiments implemented in Europe are the source of identification and multiple methods and datasets are used.

About living in Luxembourg

International to the core, Adrian Nieto Castro lived in the UK, Spain and the Netherlands before moving in to Luxembourg.

“What I enjoy more about living in Luxembourg is its wide offer of cultural activities. For example, one can find important museums within Luxembourg such as the National Museum of History and Art or music events on a frequently basics within the Philharmonie or Rockhal. Luxembourg also offers an international cultural atmosphere as an important part of its population comes from many different countries.”

Dr. Adrian Nieto Castro

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Meet our young researchers

Inside Research Luxembourg Latest news Personalised Healthcare Sustainable & Responsible Development

In conversation with our young researchers: Dr. Camille Perchoux

Epidemiology and geography.

Where we live and where we go as the result of our daily activities affect our health.

How much do urban environments have an impact on our active and healthy behaviours, chronic diseases and healthy ageing?

Dr. Camille Perchoux is a young research associate in the Luxembourg Institute of Socio Economic Research (LISER). She focuses on urban health.

A health geographer

Camille Perchoux describes herself as a health geographer. Indeed, her research expertise expends on her multi-disciplinary background in epidemiology and geography. Building on these two research fields, her research focus is on the social and spatial determinants of health behaviours and population health.

In her research, she investigates the impact of urban environments on active and healthy behaviours, chronic diseases and healthy ageing. Indeed, physical environmental characteristics, and social aspects of neighbourhood constitute urban structures of opportunities that enhance or constrain individual’s health related behaviours such as leisure physical activity, active transport, or adopting a healthy diet in daily life, which are key determinants of mental and physical health.

In order to more comprehensively assess people place interaction, and understand people decision making process in adopting (or not) health behaviours, Camille Perchoux and her colleagues in LISER are increasingly relying on GPS trackers to understand where people go, accelerometers to estimate their amount of energy expenditure and related transportation modes, and additional mobile sensors to accurately measure either personalised exposure to environmental factors or health related markers.

“This multidisciplinary research thematic is at the crossroads of public health policy, transport policy and land use as well as urban planning.”

Dr. Camille Perchoux

The promotion of strategies for adopting and maintaining healthy and active lifestyles is a public health priority to curb the cardiometabolic diseases, among others, and related severe impact on well-being.

In this regard, her research tends to identify socio-demographic and environmental levers that can provide element of decision-making to support the implementation of intervention at the individual level and their environment. 

Research as a natural career path

While Camille Perchoux was a master student in geography, at Provence university, she had the chance to study the geography of malaria during two successive internships in Brazzaville, Congo, and in Dakar, Senegal.

“[During my master] I had the opportunity to do some field work, develop a survey, sample and survey the participants, work with researchers from public health and geography, and disseminate the results to the local stakeholders. After such an enriching experience of the different tasks that make up the daily work of a researcher, research was the only work I could picture myself doing at the end of my master degree.”

Dr. Camille Perchoux

After completing her Master’s degree, she joined a multidisciplinary research team to conduct a dual PhD thesis in public health – epidemiology at Sorbonne university – Pierre et Marie Curie Paris 6 (France), and at Montreal university (Canada). During her PhD, she examined the residential and non-residential neighbourhood environments that individuals experience as the results of their daily activities and may influence their health behaviours, with a case study on recreational walking.

Indeed, while more traditional approaches focused exclusively on the effect on residential neighbourhood characteristics on health, a significant innovation of this work was to highlight and quantify how individuals’ daily mobilities and daily activities outside their residential neighbourhood may also contribute to shape their health.

Then she joined the Centre de Recherche en Nutrition Humaine Rhône-Aples (CRNH-RA) in 2015 where she continued developing a strong taste for multidisciplinary work, being part of the ACTI-Cités consortium that embraces a team of epidemiologists, nutritionists and geographers to examine the socio-ecological determinants of active transportation in France. She also joined the DEDIPAC knowledge hub, a multidisciplinary consortium of 68 research centres from 13 countries across Europe, reflecting on the determinants of diet, physical activity and sedentary behaviours.

Camille Perchoux joined LISER in 2016 as a postdoc researcher before being prompted permanent researcher two years later.

Why Luxembourg as a research destination?

Camille Perchoux moved to Luxembourg as LISER was conducting a very innovative study on place effects on health based on map-based questionnaires, sensors and GPS trackers. It was “the perfect opportunity for me to grow as an independent researcher in the fields of neighbourhood and health.”

“Luxembourg applies the highest international standards of research, while the rather small size of the country facilitates the discussion and collaboration between researchers from different disciplines but also between researchers, political actors and stakeholders. Such dialogue between key actors in research and policy, and citizen is key in addressing complex societal challenges such as designing healthy and liveable cities while producing research with a high societal impact.”

Dr. Camille Perchoux

An FNR CORE 2020 grantee

Dr. Camille Perchoux is the principal investigator of the FNR CORE 2020 MET’HOOD project on the “Time-varying residential neighbourhood effects on cardiometabolic health”. Cardio-metabolic diseases are one of the leading causes of premature death worldwide.

“The MET’HOOD project is a joint collaboration between LISER and Luxembourg Institute of Health. It embraces a multidisciplinary team of urban geographers, epidemiologists, nutritionists, and sports scientists, with the support of local stakeholders in public health and urban planning “

Dr. Camille Perchoux

MET’HOOD explores the relationships between the socio-economic and physical environmental characteristics of residential neighbourhoods, behavioural cardiometabolic risk factors such as diet and physical activity, and the metabolic syndrome, over a nine-year period in Luxembourg.

Based on a country-wide, population based longitudinal study, this project will provide solid evidence on how urban density, transport infrastructures, foodscape characteristics and neighbourhood active-friendly characteristics have changed over the last decade in Luxembourg, and how such changes may have resulted in changes in the cardiometabolic health of the population.

About living in Luxembourg

After moving every six months during her PhD in between France and Canada, and then discovering the city of Lyon during her post-doctoral fellowship, Camille Perchoux was eager to discover a new country and a new culture.

“I believe that Luxembourg provides a great opportunity to benefit from natural spaces, in particular nature is accessible by bike and foot, while concentrating the assess of a capital city in terms of diversity to engage in social and leisure activities. Also, being exposed daily to such a great cultural and linguistic diversity provides me a strong sense of belonging to a European community.”

Dr. Camille Perchoux

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