The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded a Veni grant worth up to 250,000 euros to 27 researchers from Utrecht who have recently obtained their doctorate. The Veni grant provides highly promising young scientists with the opportunity to further elaborate their own ideas during a period of three years. The submissions were assessed by means of peer review by external experts from the disciplines concerned.
De laureates from Utrecht:
The playful brain
Dr. Marijke Achterberg - Utrecht University, Vetinary Medicine
Playing with peers is important for proper brain development. Moreover, social play is impaired in childhood and adolescent psychiatric disorders, such as autism. Using detailed behavioral analysis in young rats and innovative techniques such as
chemogenetics, the researcher aims to unravel the brain mechanisms that contribute to social play behavior.
How R-spondin proteins generate breast cancer
Dr. Elvira Bakker - UMC Utrecht, Pathology
Breast cancer affects many women and treatment is insufficient. This is partly due to the lack of knowledge on the exact causal factors and processes during breast tumor development. The researchers have concrete indications that so-called R-spondin proteins generate breast tumors and will investigate how these proteins do this.
Defying anti-party politics. The party-state in the age of mass democracy: France, Germany, and Italy, 1918-2000
Dr. Pepijn Corduwener - Utrecht University, History and International Relations
New social movements, the rise of populism, and declining membership numbers jeopardize the position of political parties in European democracies. Yet this is far from new: this project shows how parties have defied anti-party politics throughout the twentieth century by rendering modern democracies ‘party-states’.
Pan-European Diplomacy in the Cold War (1972-90)
Dr. Laurien Crum-Gabreëls - Utrecht University, History of International Relations
This project explores how the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (1972-90) contributed to a peaceful conduct of the Cold War and its conclusion through Pan-European, multilateral diplomacy. Since such an all-embracing dialogue is currently lacking, this can also teach us how to meet present challenges on European security.
Reading Zoos in the Age of the Anthropocene
Dr. Kári Driscoll - Utrecht Univertsity, Comparative Literature
Zoos have always told a particular story about humanity’s relationship to nature. Now, with climate change and mass extinctions looming, that story is changing. This project explores how the stories told at zoos and in literature and film about zoos reflect and shape a new environmental consciousness.
Where did this beastly weather come from?
Dr. Ruud van der Ent - Utrecht University, Physical Geography
Have you ever wondered where all the rainwater that downpours in your backyard is coming from? The climate expert will investigate whether it comes from land or ocean, close by or far away. The research will show whether climate models can accurately predict this, and gives hints to improve them.
Polyploidy: extra DNA by not dividing
Dr. Matilde Galli - Hubrecht Institute
Polyploid cells, which contain a multitude of chromosome pairs, are important in many animals for organ and body growth. In this project, researchers will study how cells are programmed to become polyploid in a living organism, by identifying the molecules that
drive cells to change their cell division program
The Author as Policy Officer
Dr. Laurens Ham - Utrecht University, Dutch Language and Culture
Who thought policy was only produced by officials, writing boring reports? This projects shows a different picture. Dutch writers have constantly been involved in literary policies since the 1960s: by protesting against budget cuts, by becoming policy officers and writing novels about what it is like to be an author.
A radical way of communicating
Dr. Sasha De Henau - UMC Utrecht, Molecular Cancer Research
Oxidants and free radicals are best known for their harmful effect on our health. However, international research has shown that our cells generate low levels of these compounds as means of communication. Researchers want to understand how cells use these compounds without causing cellular damage.
Exploring equivariant homotopy theory
Dr. Magdalena Kedziorek - Utrecht University, Mathematics
Mathematicians have always been intrigued by shapes and geometric objects. Understanding geometric objects with additional structure given by symmetries became one of the long-term themes of algebraic topology. The proposed research project uses modern methods to work towards understanding spaces with symmetries.
Towards Equal Educational Opportunities: The Complex Interaction between Genes, Families, and Schools
Dr. Antonie Knigge - Utrecht University, Sociology
Politicians and scientists have proposed several educational reforms to create more equal educational opportunities for Dutch children from different social backgrounds. To assess the potential effectiveness of such policies, this project uses twin methods to study the interplay between genetic, family, and school influences on educational attainment.
Shooting the messenger
Dr. Jonas Kuiper - UMC Utrecht, Ophthalmology
Disturbed communication within the immune system is central to the development of severe and incurable autoimmune diseases. The researchers will investigate how a key enzyme (ERAP2) disrupts the communication via proteins within the immune system and aim to provide rationale for pharmacological inhibition of this enzyme to cure autoimmune diseases.
Ibn ʿArabī’s Reshaping of the Muslim Imagination
Dr. Eric van Lit - Utrecht University
Imagination had a central place in the thought of the Sufi Ibn Arabi (d. 1240). It is suggested that his notion of the imagination permeated Muslim culture at large. This project investigates the nature of this impact as well as its consequences that remain valid today.
Towards a human-friendly worldview
Dr. Jesse Mulder - Utrecht University, Philosophy and Religious Studies
The mainstream interpretation of the scientific worldview is biased towards the mechanistic form of understanding that enabled remarkable successes in physics. However, that leaves no place for our self-understanding as rational beings, nor for our diverse scientific practices. This project thus develops an alternative, pluralistic interpretation.
Divine Denkraum: Early Modern Protestant Princes and Theologians Exchanging Thoughts through Things
Dr. Eelco Nagelsmit - Utrecht University, Art History
Protestant princes and theologians in early modern Europe exchanged thoughts through things. This project investigates how image-objects provided thought-space for reflection on and contemplation of the divine, by examining three protestant courts in Germany and England, and thus brings together religious history, art history and anthropology.
Enhancing heart regeneration.
Dr. Phong Nguyen - Hubrecht Institute
Injury to the heart (e.g. by a heart attack) will cause irreversible damage. Researchers will use zebrafish, who can fully recover from heart injury, to discover new factors and understand why heart attack patients cannot properly repair their hearts.
DNA to disease - Unfolding the human genome to identify disease-causing variation
Dr. Sara Pulit - UMC Utrecht, Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, Neurology
Although genetic studies have uncovered thousands of variants associated to common disease in humans, translating these findings to disease-relevant biological mechanism remains a fundamental challenge. I propose an integrated framework that uses the three-dimensional folding of the genome integrated with other genomic data to identify disease-causing genes.
Characterizing catalysis on the molecular scale
Dr. Freddy Rabouw - Utrecht University, Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science
Catalysts make chemical reactions faster and more efficient. A typical catalyst contains billions of active nanoparticles that together determine its properties. The researcher will study chemical reactions on the scale of individual catalytic nanoparticles. This will yield a better understanding of catalysis and contribute to the development of new catalysts.
Photonic transport through complex nonlinear systems: using noise to transmit a signal
Dr. Said Rodriguez - Utrecht University, Nanomaterial Science
The transfer of energy and information across complex technological systems is typically degraded by noise. This research will investigate the opposite case where noise enhances the transport of light across complex systems, and provides functionality that is not easily obtained in noiseless systems, such as unidirectional flow.