André Laestadius was recently announced as one of nine early-career researchers in Norway to win the prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants.

Laestadius’ background is from mathematics and theoretical chemistry, and the grant will finance the launch of his project within the field of quantum chemistry.

We spoke with the scholar about his new project and his time at CAS as a Young CAS Fellow and fellow.

Congratulations on being awarded the European Research Council Starting Grant! The grant will give you the opportunity to launch your project REGAL – Regularized density-functional analysis. Can you tell us about your plans for the project?

The project is planned to begin in the second half of this year. In addition to recruiting two Ph.D. students and two postdocs to set up a team to address the research questions of REGAL, the project will also include a workshop. I hope the project will create an opportunity to deepen our understanding of one of the most central computational tools in quantum chemistry. I look forward to a lot of collaborations, both local and international.

Your project is within the fields of quantum chemistry and, more precisely, density-functional theory. Can you tell us more about what you will investigate in the project?

The aim of the project is to explore a certain type of regularisation in density-functional theory. I hope, and believe, that this regularisation procedure can help us obtain more general and accurate approximate density functionals. To give a rough sketch, the core problem within this theory is that the central object, the density functional, is unknown. Development of approximate functionals is therefore important. Besides being unknown, the density functional is also highly irregular. The project REGAL seeks to gain a better understanding of the theory itself as well as offer better approximations by regularising the functional in a “lossless” manner.

You were one of the first scholars who took part in CAS’ programme for early-career researchers and organised a YoungCAS workshop on formal density-functional theory, Do Electron Current Densities Determine All There Is to Know?, back in 2018. In what way did this opportunity affect your research career?

The YoungCAS workshop was a great opportunity for me to establish new and strengthen existing collaborations. As a more junior scientist, I think this is a very important part of building your research career. Hosting a workshop is also a useful experience in itself. I also want to add that the YoungCAS workshop was very fun and rewarding. In my view, it is a researcher's dream to be sealed off at a resort for a week with your only concern being research.

This academic year, you are also a member of the CAS project Attosecond Quantum Dynamics Beyond the Born-Oppenheimer Approximation and a participant in your colleague Erik Tellgren’s Young CAS Fellow project Global Optimisation in Electronic Energy Landscapes: Finding a Needle in a Haystack. What are your best memories from CAS so far, both as a Young CAS Fellow and now as a fellow?

The environment. It is a fantastic atmosphere to do science in. Collaborators from all over the world and social events make the stay at CAS memorable.

What advice would you give to future Young CAS Fellows?

My advice to all younger researcher would be not to miss the chance to apply. It is a really good opportunity in so many ways. As a Swede, I would like to quote what has to have been a Norwegian study that showed that 100% of researchers that never applied also never got selected.


  • This interview was first published in our monthly newsletter. Sign up here.