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Top researchers gained insight about earthworms

Researchers from a wide range of fields were given ample opportunity to discuss earthworms, parasites and evolution when the AIAS held its first Fellows’ Seminar. The aim of the seminars is to bridge the gaps dividing research disciplines.

Most people have at some point in their lives tried to touch an earthworm. But very few people know that these slimy creatures host a wide range of microbial organisms which can provide us with important knowledge about evolution.

That is what Marie Lund specialises in. She is a Dale T. Mortensen Fellow at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies (AIAS), and on Monday 9 September, she presented her research on microbiology at the first AIAS Fellows' Seminar.

Facing her were 35 committed and inquisitive researchers - some from her own field, others from related fields, and some from fields of research which have very little to do with her field of expertise. One of the researchers in the last group was art historian Lotte Phillipsen, who is a Jens Christian Skou Junior Fellow at AIAS. She found the presentation very interesting:

"I’m from the humanities and not used to hearing about research into microbiology, but Maria managed to present her work in a way I could understand. As a researcher you work within the traditions of your discipline, and it’s healthy to gain insight into how researchers from other fields approach their work. You can find inspiration for new ways of thinking, new ways of posing questions."

Sparks fly between the disciplines
Lotte Phillipsen also introduced Marie Braad Lund’s presentation – as it is part of the concept of the AIAS Fellows’ Seminars that every speaker invites a researcher from another discipline to introduce their presentation. The idea is to start bridging gaps from the very beginning, as this is at the core of the AIAS Fellows’ Seminars concept. According to Morten Kyndrup, Director of AIAS, it’s all about triggering exchange between the disciplines.

"Researchers at the highest level are rarely confronted with leading researchers from other disciplines, but at AIAS they are. The Fellows’ Seminar is one way this is achieved. When you bring together researchers who don’t usually come into contact, sparks fly between the disciplines, and researchers inspire each other and may bring home ideas from other areas of research which can lead to interesting breakthroughs in their own research,” he says.

The Fellows’ Seminars series is one of several activities designed to bring AIAS researchers from various disciplines together and give them the opportunity to inspire each other. Morten Kyndrup emphasises that the individual researchers at the institute will continue doing their own research.

“We’re aiming to be a multidisciplinary rather than an interdisciplinary centre.”
The next AIAS Fellows’ Seminar will be held on Monday 16 September from 14.15 to 16.15. The speaker at the seminar is Jens Christian Skou Senior Fellow Rane Willerslev, who will make a presentation entitled: Why Human Sacrifice? An Exercise in Radical Cultural Comparison. Read more about the seminar here