September 20, 2023

Yara’s Birkeland Prize 2023 goes to Dr. Robert Wissing

Dr. Robert Bleckert Nils Håkan Wissing and his thesis on magnetic fields of galaxies and accretion disks around black holes wins the Yara Birkeland Award.
Man looking at galaxy at night
Photo by Ken Cheung
Ken Cheung
Photo by Ken Cheung

Dr. Wissing’s thesis “Simulating Galactic Dynamo Processes with Smoothed Particle Magnetohydronamics” earned him the 100.000 NOK award.  

 “I am honored to receive the Birkeland award and recognition for my thesis that explores magnetic fields in the universe. It indicates that galaxies have been found to host surprisingly strong magnetic fields compared to their predicted strength in the early universe, meaning there must have been significant amplification of the magnetic field during the evolution of these galaxies. Now I can focus more on the joy of further research into this topic”, says Dr. Wissing.  

Dr. Wissing (34) comes from Mjölby in Sweden. In his early years, he formed an interest in physics from watching science documentaries with his family. Today, he is part of the extragalactic group at the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics in Oslo. On September 19th, he received the Birkeland Award from Per Knudsen, VP Technology at Yara.  

“Dr. Wissing’s research represents basic science at its best and is truly in the spirit of Kristian Birkeland. Both have studied how magnetic fields trigger spectacular cosmic phenomena, and it is my pleasure to support his great work with the Yara Birkeland Award”, says Knudsen.  

Birkeland, one of Yara’s co-founders, discovered how northern lights occur when charged particles from the sun are curved along the Earth's magnetic fields, while Wissing has calculated how magnetic fields in galaxies develop and evolve through cosmic time.  

The Yara Birkeland award has been handed out to doctoral candidates since 2009 at the Birkeland Lecture. The Birkeland Lecture is an annual collaboration between Yara International, University of Oslo, The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and the Norwegian Space Centre, first established in 1987.  An excerpt from the committee conclusion states:  

“Studies of the dynamics of galaxies have been brought into focus in recent years due to the explosive development in observing the young universe, such as through the James Webb telescope. Some of the main challenges lie in describing the dynamics of galaxies and black holes. Wissing’s thesis represents a valuable contribution to understanding these dynamics”. 

Read more about Dr. Wissing’s thesis "Simulating Galactic Dynamo Processes with Smoothed Particle Magnetohydrodynamics."  


Marius Wærhaug Madsen 
Communication Manager 
M: +47 977 23 199  

Robert Bleckert Nils Håkan Wissing 
Mob. nr: +47 94285790 

Yara’s Birkeland Prize in Physics and Chemistry 

In 1905, Kristian Birkeland’s research formed a basis for the foundation of the world’s first company to manufacture fertilizer on an industrial scale, Norsk Hydro. Birkeland was a visionary scientist with the ability and commitment to carry out large scale projects in the laboratory and the field, to follow up with theoretical studies, and to see the application of his results. Today, Yara carries this heritage forward and takes great pride in being part of the effort to improve food security. A company’s continued success depends upon its ability to innovate. To honor the innovative spirit of its cofounder, Yara established the Birkeland Prize in Physics and Chemistry in 2009. Yara’s Birkeland Prize will be awarded to a Ph. D. candidate from a Norwegian university who has carried out a scientific study that is in accordance with the innovative mind of Kristian Birkeland. The prize has an emphasis on the environment and technology and encourages research across traditional borders. The prize will alternate between physics and chemistry, with chemistry in even-numbered years and physics in odd-numbered years. The award ceremony will take place in connection with the Birkeland lecture.