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Establishing neuroscience at UiA

Research couple Hanne and Tor Stensola from Kristiansand return home to establish neuroscience as a new academic field at UiA. The initiative has received 26.5 MNOK in funding from regional partners and will strengthen UiA's expertise in psychology.

Brain with network of nodes

Hanne and Tor Stensola arrive at UiA from postdoctoral positions at the Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Portugal. They have previously been doctoral fellows under the supervision of Nobel Prize winners May-Britt and Edvard Moser at NTNU, and have, among others, publications in the highly acclaimed journal Nature. 

"We are looking forward to welcoming Hanne and Tor to UiA. They can now settle down in their hometown and begin the work in creating a new academic field at the university”, says rector Sunniva Whittaker.

Hanne and Tor Stensola

The researcher couple Hanne and Tor Stensola is joining UiA after being postdocs at a research centre in Lisbon, Portugal.

Important for UiA's plans within psychology studies

Sunniva Whittaker, foto

Sunniva Whittaker

Neuroscience is a scientific field that studies the neural system. The field is interdisciplinary, involving fields such as medicine, mathematics, chemistry, engineering, informatics, genetics, physics and psychology.

"Their expertise will, among other things, contribute to our ongoing efforts to establish a professional study programme 

in psychology for the university and the region," says Whittaker.

The University Board has offered them positions as associate professors at the Faculty of Health and Sports Sciences. The couple landed on Thursday at Kjevik with their children, and they are now in quarantine due to the current pandemic.

"We are looking forward to becoming part of UiA, working on a completely new professional field at the university, and collaborating with our new colleagues”, Hanne and Tor Stensola say.

They will begin working at UiA in August.

Hanne Stensola programming

Part of the Stensola's work consists of programming laboratory equipment. Here, Hanne Stensola is working at the research center in Portugal.

Supported by the region

The Stensola family

The Stensola family, Hanne, Tor and their three daughters, arrived Kristiansand on 1 July. Due to the pandemic, a few days in quarantine awaits them.

Due to the competitive situation with other institutions, the efforts in recruiting the Stensola couple have taken place quietly.

Thorough studies have been made on how a neuroscientific environment will fit into UiA's portfolio and strategy. Southern Norway’s competence fund financed such a feasibility study in 2020. [MS1] Several of UiA's existing academic fields are supported by relevant partners, in health and other fields such as artificial intelligence and smart sensors.

The costs of the establishing the new academic field, including building the lab facilities needed for research, have been thoroughly reviewed. UiA's leadership has invited partners in Southern Norway to collaborate in the funding of NOK 26.5 million over the first three years:

  • Rasmussengruppen - NOK 7.5 million
  • Sparebanken Sør - NOK 7.5 million
  • The Skeie family by Bjarne, Aud, Stina and Lena Skeie - NOK 4 million
  • University of Agder - NOK 7.5 million
  • A total of NOK 26.5 million

"Rasmussengruppen is pleased that the Stensola couple, with their significant and impressive scientific background, wants to establish a new research field at UiA and in Kristiansand. The University has big positive impact in our region, and neuroscientific research could have great implications on society. That’s why we are enthusiastic about contributing to help UiA make the most out of this opportunity, and we look forward to following further development”, says CEO of Rasmussengruppen, Dag Rasmussen.

"We are focused on sustainable growth and development, and want to support UiA in the establishment of new and important studies. We believe that neuroscience will put the university on the map, nationally and internationally, and we are proud to contribute to UiA's research capacity and competence", says director of group staff at Sparebanken Sør, Rolf H. Søraker.

"The Skeie family is proud to contribute to the establishment of an innovative research field in Southern Norway and hopes that this will have positive ripple effect on other disciplines and fields at the university. The Skeie group has had the pleasure of collaborating with UiA before, through ownership in Teknova and support for the establishment of SFI Offshore Mechatronics, among others”, says Lena Skeie.

"We are thankful to our partners for seeing the potential in this. Without them, this initiative would not be possible. We believe there are possibilities for external financing within this investment, so in the long run, neuroscience at UiA will be self-sufficient”, says rector Whittaker.

The University Board approved the initiative at the board meeting on 16 June. The money from UiA is taken from the board's fund, which is meant for this kind of investment, as well as unused donations related to basic research.

Preparing for growth

Anders Johan Wickstrøm Andersen er dekan på Fakultet for helse og idrett.

Anders Johan Wickstrøm Andersen is dean of the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences.

There are several things that will come into place as part of the investment. Lab facilities will be built at Campus Kristiansand in a temporary pavilion building. The research that will take place at UiA involves the use of mice. Good facilities for the animals and follow-up by a veterinarian will be provided.

A lab engineer is now being recruited, and it is expected that the field will eventually grow through external project funding.

Neuroscience is temporarily placed directly under the Faculty of Health and Sports Science, but the goal is to place it in a future department of psychology at the faculty.

“Hanne and Tor will be important contributors in the development of the professional study in psychology and contribute with essential research and empirical insights in neuroscience. It has a value in itself, but is also of great importance for clinical neuropsychology”, says the dean of the Faculty of Health and Sports

“We are proud and happy to have them linked to the faculty and we see opportunities for collaboration within several subject areas at the faculty and other research fields at UiA”, says Andersen. 

The contact person for the press is Communications Director Øivind Moen Eskedal.