Associate Professor Andre Laestadius has a background in mathematics and theoretical chemistry. Now he works at the Department of Computer Science and is a member in the mathematical modelling research group.
He has received funding from the "European Research Council" for the "Regularized Density-Functional Analysis" project, which he will work on in the coming years.
For talented young researchers
Talented researchers early in their career who have produced particularly good scientific work, are ready to work independently and show potential to become research leaders, can receive the "ERC Starting Grant".
There is great prestige in getting the funds, where scientific quality is the only criterion, and the eye of the needle is very narrow.
Researchers with two to seven years' experience since completing their PhD, a promising scientific track record and a very good research proposal can apply.
The scholarship is up to 1.5 million euros for a period of five years.
The applications are evaluated by international peer reviewers with "excellence" as the only criterion.
The European Research Council received a record number of applications. With nine grants, Norway received 2.3 percent of all awarded projects.
PhD and postdoctoral scholarships are included
Andre Laestadius began the project at the same time as he started his new position at OsloMet in September 2022.
The project will take 74 percent of his working time over five years. The funds go towards Andre's salary, but also to employ two PhD candidates whom he will supervise, and two postdoctoral fellows.
It will therefore be a small team, which Laestadius hopes to get in place as soon as possible.
There are also funds for workshops and travel. It is a theoretical project, so no funds are needed for equipment.
Made it possible to realize your own research idea
‘Why did you apply to ERC?’
‘I have had this research idea for a while, and 2021 was my last chance to apply for the "Starting Grant", which you can apply for a maximum of seven years after your PhD,’ says Laestadius.
‘I just tried to write as good an application as possible. You must be lucky that those who sit and read the applications think it is promising idea.’
‘I had already written an NFR (The Research Council of Norway) application for a project I was given, and thus had experience from a larger project.
Has a lot to say early in your career
It was a surprise to receive "ERC Starting Grant".
‘But when you get funding, you can implement your research ideas, and you get money to hire someone.’
‘There is a lot of work in writing applications, so you have to be strategic and trust yourself.’
‘You must argue why you want to do it, why you think it is interesting. You must have faith in yourself. And it probably does not go quite the way you first thought.’
‘How important the funds are depending on where you are in your career. For me, as a junior, it was important, I had no permanent position when I applied.’
OsloMet was a good fit academically
Andre Laestadius came to Oslo in 2015 as a postdoctoral fellow on another ERC project, which belonged to a researcher at the University of Oslo. Since then, he has worked on a project funded by The Research Council of Norway.
‘I have been looking for a permanent position that suited my professional profile, which is mathematical modelling, and then the position at OsloMet suited me very well,’ he says.
Andre is from Stockholm and has a master's degree in biotechnology from the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH.
He obtained his PhD in applied mathematics.
Mathematics in quantum chemistry
‘What is your project about?’
‘It is applied mathematics within quantum chemistry. It is a mathematical project designed to increase understanding of the most widely used method in quantum chemistry, which is called density-functional theory, or DFT.’
The aim of Andre Laestadius’ s research project is to explore a special type of regularization in density functional theory.
‘I hope, and believe, that this regularization procedure can help us to obtain more general and accurate approximate density functions,’ says Laestadius.
The core problem within density functional theory is that the central object, the density functional, is unknown. Development of approximate functions is therefore important.
Besides being unknown, the density function is also highly irregular.
This creates some fundamental problems for the theory as far as bridging it to the practical implementations.
The project seeks to gain a better understanding of the theory itself, as well as offer better approximations by regularizing the functional in a “lossless” manner.
In the photo at the top of the article, Andre Laestadius is standing in front of the white board in his office at OsloMet.
More about ERC
ERC Starting Grants (erc.europa.eu)