Carlsberg Foundation Research Prizes 2021

The Carlsberg Foundation's Research Awards 2021. From left Chairman of the Board of the Carlsberg Foundation Flemming Besenbacher, Minister of Education and Research Jesper Petersen, HRH Crown Princess Mary, recipient Eske Willerslev and President of the Royal Academy Marie Louise Nosch. Foto Martin Juul

The Carlsberg Foundation’s Research Prizes 2021 have been awarded to Professor of autobiographical memory Dorthe Berntsen and Professor of ancient DNA Eske Willerslev.

Professor at Aarhus University Dorthe Berntsen receives the prize for her exceptional research in the human ability to recall experiences in our personal past and to imagine possible events in our personal future. Professor at University of Copenhagen and University of Cambridge Eske Willerslev receives the prize for his many years of groundbreaking research in ancient plants, animals, microorganisms and humans, including their evolution and interaction in time and place.

The prizes have been awarded on the recommendation of a Prize Committee consisting of Danish and international scientists appointed by the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters and the Carlsberg Foundation.

The Prize Committee’s reasons for awarding the Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize to Dorthe Berntsen

Dorthe Berntsen is being awarded the Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize 2021 for having transformed psychological research in Denmark.

The work of Dorthe Berntsen and her colleagues with PTSD and traumatic memory has revealed how traumatic memories serve as a reference point for organising information related to the self, and hence why they are so important for our identity and mental health.

Dorthe Berntsen has illuminated the subject of autobiographical memory from an unusually broad and integrated perspective, combining neuropsychology, clinical psychology, developmental psychology, ageing, animal behaviour and neuroscience.

This has made her a role model for implementing a truly interdisciplinary research endeavour.

Read the Prize Committee’s full citation

Read a profile of Dorthe Berntsen and watch a film about her reasearch

The Prize Committee’s reasons for awarding the Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize to Eske Willerslev

Eske Willerslev is being awarded the Carlsberg Foundation Research prize 2021 for transforming not only his own research field – ancient genetics and evolutionary biology – but science as a whole.

Twenty years ago, he demonstrated how it was possible to extract ancient DNA from fossils and sediment samples – and in so doing was able to create, and subsequently expand, the field of environmental DNA. This opened up a brand-new track within evolutionary ecology – from microbacteria to plants and mammals – from modern and ancient sediments, freshwater and marine environments.

In his research group, Eske Willerslev has successfully fused archaeology, ecology, medicine, genetics and biology.

Based on this transdisciplinary approach and the wealth of data generated, Eske Willerslev and his research group have in recent years been able to rewrite human history by tracing global migrations.

Read the Prize Committee’s full citation

Read a profile of Eske Willerslev and watch a film about his research

About the Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize

The Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize was instituted in 2011 to mark the bicentenary of the birth of founder J. C. Jacobsen. The objective of the Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize is to support two active researchers, in Denmark or abroad, who have made vital contributions to basic research and enjoy great scientific recognition. The prizes are meant to encourage further research and can be spent, as required, on research stays abroad, field work, equipment or salary for scientific assistance.

The prizes are awarded on the recommendation of in international Prize Committee appointed by the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters and the Carlsberg Foundation. Each prize amounts to DKK 1 million. From this, DKK 250.000 is a personal gift and DKK 750.000 is for research.