19 July 2019

16 starting science talents go to top foreign institution thanks to Rubicon

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16 researchers who have recently gained their PhDs will do research at foreign research institutions thanks to a Rubicon grant from NWO. The Rubicon programme is intended to give young, highly promising researchers the opportunity to gain international research experience.

The research topics include the risks of a difficult youth in relation to health problems at a later age, flexible meta-materials for energy management in micro-robots, and how faith in equality provides the basis for our modern democracy.

Top institutions

Thanks to the Rubicon grant these young researchers can do their research at top institutions such as Lund University and Harvard. The majority of the researchers will go abroad for a period of 24 months. A total of 13 Rubicon researchers are going abroad for 24 months, one is going for 22 months and two will go for 18 months. For many researchers, experience abroad is an important step in their career. The awards concern the first funding round of 2019.

Researcher from Utrecht 

Dr Devin Vartija

Dr Devin Vartija (Cultural History) will go to the French École des hautes études and sciences sociales for 24 months as part of his research Autonomy and Equality: The Origins of a Modern Belief in the Enlightenment. 

The equality of human beings has been integral to many ancient philosophies and religions from their origins, but this idea becomes politicized only in certain times and places. One such time and place was Enlightenment Europe and this project seeks to better understand the social, cultural, and intellectual setting that contributed to the advent of basic moral equality in England and France during the long eighteenth century. Support for equality depends upon a framework in which society is composed of autonomous individuals who are equal to one another and this framework developed during the Enlightenment in opposition to the hierarchical society of orders and estates.

This project will use popular eighteenth-century French and English sources including learned journals, newspapers, and essays to analyse the transformation that made belief in the basic moral equality of all human beings both thinkable and appealing, in addition to investigating how those same Enlightenment thinkers sought to make inequality workable for a modern, stratified society. 

This project will contribute to our understanding of where support for equality originates, a value central to modern democracy, by demonstrating that it was not a foregone conclusion but a result of contingent developments crystallised in Enlightenment thought.

Facts and figures

61 researchers submitted a proposal for Rubicon, 28 of them women and 33 men. The overall award rate was 26.2%. The award rate was 28.6% for women and 24.2% for men. Five laureates are going to the United States, three to the United Kingdom, two to Germany and the rest of the individual candidates are going to Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, France and Denmark. For many researchers, experience abroad is an important step in their career.


With a Rubicon grant researchers can spend up to 24 months doing research at a foreign institution. The size of the grant is dependent on the destination chosen and the duration of the stay. Each year, NWO can fund about 60 young researchers within Rubicon (for a total amount of 7 million euros allocated over three rounds).