27 Researchers from Utrecht receive a Veni-grant

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 Crump-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.

Veni-Laureate Said Rodriguez explains his research on Photonic transport through complex systems
  • Visualizing repair of DNA-damage in single cells
    Dr. ir. Koos Rooijers - Hubrecht Institute
    The packaging of the DNA is thought to form a barrier for DNA-repair molecules. However, exactly how repair mechanisms are influenced by the packaging of DNA remains elusive. This project aims to systematically identify DNA repair in single cells, to provide basic knowledge for example for better cancer treatments.

  • Towards a mathematical conjecture of the Landau-Ginzburg/conformal field theory correspondence
    Dr. Ana Ros Camacho - Utrecht University, Mathematics
    This project studies the algebraic structures underlying a result from theoretical physics called the Landau–Ginzburg/conformal field theory correspondence, and seeks a proper mathematical statement of this result

  • Black hole horizons and the quark-gluon plasma
    Dr. Wilke van der Schee - Utrecht University, Physics
    Collisions of lead nuclei at the LHC accelerator result in the formation of quark-gluon plasma. Because of the strong force between these particles, this plasma has surprisingly strong similarities with the horizon of a black hole. This research models the plasma dynamics by forming a corresponding black hole.

  • Unravelling a fatty immunological mystery - The role of lipid antigens in health and disease
    Dr. Henk Schipper - UMC Utrecht, Laboratory for Translational Immunology
    Invariant Natural Killer T cells comprise a unique immune cell subset for their inflammatory response to lipid antigens. This research project aims at unravelling the mysterious identity of their lipid antigens, and scrutinize their role in health and disease.

  • Restoring sensory unity
    Dr. Nathan van der Stoep - Utrecht University, Experimental Psychology
    Our brains combine what we see and hear, enhancing spatial perception. Hearing loss causes hearing and vision to be in conflict. In this project, the researchers will investigate whether the brain’s plasticity can be used to restore sensory unity, improve spatial perception, and rehabilitate people with hearing loss.

  • Bye-bye gender injustice
    Dr. Alexandra Timmer - Utrecht University, Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) 
    Europe persistently suffers from gender injustice. The main legal mechanism seeking to achieve gender justice – human rights law and particularly equality law – falls short. This project analyzes why, using an original combination of historical and legal analysis, and advances proposals for change.

  • Adults with symptoms of acute rhinosinusitis and sore throat: who will benefit from antibiotics?
    Dr. Roderick Venekamp - UMC Utrecht, Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care
    Antibiotic overprescribing is most prominent in adults presenting to primary care with symptoms of acute rhinosinusitis and sore throat. My research aims to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in these conditions by identifying subgroups of patients that are most likely to benefit from antibiotics using novel IPD meta-analytic methods.

  • Anticipating drought by memorizing the past – understanding human-hydrology interactions in reservoir management
    Dr. ir. Niko Wanders - Utrecht University 
    Droughts have a significant impact on human water management, severely influencing water security. I will develop a model that tries to understand how humans operate water reservoirs under severe drought. I will look for reservoir management strategies to ensure sustainable water use and improve water security in the future.