3 September 2019

ERC Starting Grants for Oliver Plümper and Lennart de Groot

Dr Oliver Plümper and Dr Lennart de Groot are each awarded a European Research Council Starting Grant in the 2019 proposal round. Some 13% of all proposals have been selected for funding. At Utrecht University and UMC 9 scientists in total will receive the grant.

Oliver Plümper

Oliver Plümper (Structural Geology group):  project NANOEARTH

Oliver investigates how interactions between minerals and water deep inside the Earth affect large geological processes. These interactions take place at the nanoscale but have effect on such a large scale that they give mountain ranges their stability, for example. When minerals deep in the Earth come into contact with water, a tiny transport system is created that can transport the water through enormous amounts of rock. Understanding these deep processes will benefit the improvement of, among other thing, geothermal energy, extraction of raw materials, and storage of nuclear waste and carbon.

Lennart de Groot

Lennart de Groot (Paleomagnetism group, Fort Hoofddijk): project MIMATOM

The past of Earth's magnetic field is stored in the magnetic properties of minerals in volcanic rock. This information helps us to investigate how that magnetic field will continue to protect us from harmful sun rays in the future. Lennart developed a revolutionary way to determine those magnetic properties more accurately than ever: Micro-Magnetic Tomography.

Not every earthly mineral is equally suitable to reconstruct the past of the magnetic field. Some minerals can even blur the measurement results, making the magnetic information unusable in more than 80% of all rock at this time. The new method measures the magnetic properties in one sample of each mineral separately. Only the most reliable minerals are then used to determine the behaviour of Earth's magnetic field; the minerals present with poor magnetic properties are ignored. This method not only gives much more reliable results, but also ensures that the magnetic information in previously unsuitable material is now accessible.

ERC Starting Grants are awarded to early-career researchers of any nationality with two to seven years of experience since completion of the PhD (or equivalent degree) and a scientific track record showing great promise. The research must be conducted in a public or private research organisation located in one of the EU Member States or Associated Countries. The funding (maximum €2.5 million per grant, including up to €1 million to cover extraordinary costs) is provided for up to five years. Calls for proposals are published once a year for each scheme.