Energetic and innovative researcher inspired by her surroundings | Danish Diabetes and Endocrine Academy
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Energetic and innovative researcher inspired by her surroundings

Energetic and innovative researcher inspired by her surroundings -

Lykke Sylow, who has just received the DDA Young Investigator Award 2020, works a lot. Because she wants to be thorough, and because it is extremely exciting to put together the individual results of her research and see a whole picture emerge.

‘Briefly, Lykke Sylow is an extremely bright, hard-working and innovative young scientist’, reads the first line of the nomination for Lykke Sylow, Associate Professor in Molecular Biology at the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen.

The nomination is for the DDA Young Investigator Award 2020, and at the virtual version of the Networking Meeting for DDA-Funded Researchers 2020 on Monday 7 December, everyone got to watch on video as the 38-year-old researcher received the award. Just a few days earlier, she had received a surprising visit from the DDA’s Managing Director, Tore Christiansen, who presented her with flowers and a cheque for DKK 25,000 – money that Lykke Sylow soon had earmarked.

‘I want to take my group to an international congress. I’m surrounded by good people, and we want to get out and talk about what we’re working on. Research is a team game. No one can do it alone, and everyone has something to contribute’, says Lykke Sylow, who, with her group, is about to start on a project focusing on the importance of the mitochondria for muscle function and attempting to find signals able to strengthen muscle function in weak patients.

Experience and thoughts became a research project

Many years ago, Erik Richter told her that she should take inspiration from her surroundings, and her next project is a good example of that. Lykke Sylow played beach volleyball at élite level, and during a spell of injury she felt the lack of exercise physically and mentally. About five years ago, she linked this experience to some thoughts about illness and exercise. What could exercise do for a weak patient? Might it be possible to reproduce the effect of exercise on the muscle molecules in patients too weak to be active? The idea turned into research, and the results were beyond all expectation. The studies were published two years ago.

‘We found some exciting molecules and generated some exciting data. Now, we will look at what happens when we regulate the molecules. We have a hypothesis, so I’m looking forward to being able to test it on weak patients. It’s been five years, but it doesn’t feel like a long time. Little things have been happening all along. We have got results we didn’t expect, and we’ve had surprises along the way. It’s been extremely exciting’, says Lykke Sylow.

It’s called research, after all

As the leader of her own research group, Lykke Sylow is moving her work out of the laboratory – a place where she has spent many hours. In future, Lykke Sylow will be using her abilities more to see the big picture, to encourage collaboration, to supervise and to talk about the group’s work. She welcomes the change, and she is also sure to be sneaking into the lab to observe the process close up.

We find out we’re wrong about something every day. It’s called research, after all. It’s so exciting that we don’t really know what we’re doing. We discover a lot of things; we find some points, find connections, so as to arrive at a whole’, says Lykke Sylow, describing the motivation for her work.

She realises that she works a lot. Because she wants to be thorough. People have to be able to trust the results she delivers. There is a lot of versatility in her job. As well as the remaining bit of laboratory time, she is also a supervisor and a manager, and she really enjoys writing, too. She has been very prolific and can already look back on a long and excellent list of published articles.

It’s hard for me to say what the best thing about my job is. All of it. I enjoy supervising, I enjoy getting out and about and talking about results. I enjoy teaching. I put a lot of effort into communicating. Because I enjoy it. I really like writing – both writing articles and communicating to laypeople. I get help with that from my husband, who reads my texts. It’s instructive to get feedback. I have to be able to communicate my research and its relevance to people who aren’t familiar with the subject’, notes Lykke Sylow.

Watch when Lykke Sylow got a surprise visit, flowers and the award.



Lykke Sylow, Associate Professor in Molecular Biology, Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen; b. 1982

She has a PhD (2014) and a postdoctoral qualification (2017) in molecular physiology from the University of Copenhagen, where she became an Associate Professor in February 2020.

Lykke Sylow was nominated by Professor Erik A. Richter, Head of Section at the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen.


By Pernille Fløjstrup Andersen, Communications Officer, DDA