Mie Andersen is an Associate Professor and AIAS-COFUND Fellow at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studied (AIAS) and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Aarhus University

Congratulations on receiving a Villum Young Investigator Grant!

Please tell us about your research and why is it important.

I have an interdisciplinary background and work at the interface between physics, chemistry, and computer science, applying quantum mechanical, statistical physics, and machine learning methods to the theoretical study of phenomena occurring at surfaces and interfaces. The main focus of my Villum project is to use machine learning methods to guide the search for materials that can catalyze the conversion of CO2 into fuels or chemicals at low temperatures. This could help us tackling climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels.

What are your plans and what are the possibilities that this grant opens for you?

The grant is highly flexible and gives me a good starting point for developing my own independent research programme. I plan to recruit several junior researchers and to build up a research group at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Aarhus University. This will allow me to realize a much more ambitious research project than what I could have achieved on my own.

Where have you studied and which positions have you held before your current one?

I studied nanoscience at Aarhus University with a main focus on physics and materials science. After obtaining my PhD degree in 2014, I received an Alexander von Humboldt postdoctoral fellowship to join the group of Prof. Karsten Reuter at the Technical University of Munich. This evolved into a group leader position, which I held until my return to Aarhus this year.

How did you choose the field of physics you are now specialized in?

At Aarhus University there is a strong surface science community. During my studies, I got particularly fascinated by scanning tunneling microscopy and the possibilities it opens for directly “seeing” what is going on at the nanoscale. I carried out both experimental and theoretical research projects within this topic and finally decided that my main interest is in the theoretical understanding of surface science phenomena.

What motivated you to study physics?

I think it was a combination of my desire to understand how things work all the way down to the scale of atoms and molecules and my liking of math and the way physical laws can be expressed in mathematical form.

Did you had a role model or mentor? If so, what inspiration did you get from them?

I have had many great university professors and research project advisors that all inspired me in different ways. In the beginning of my studies I never considered pursuing a career in academia, so I guess the inspiration to do so grew from the stimulating and supportive atmosphere they created.

What advice would you give to young people (in particular women and minorities) who would like to pursue a career in science?

Choose carefully where and with whom you want to work. And don’t be afraid to make a new choice if you find yourself in a place that doesn’t give you the stimulation and support you expected.