Six ERC Starting Grants for talented researchers at Utrecht University

11 percent of filed proposals granted

Neurobiologist Harold MacGillavry, biologist Robin Ohm, psychologist and sociologist Borja Martinovic, city geographer Marco Helbich, education scientist Sanne Akkerman and oceanographer Erik van Sebille each receive an ERC Starting Grant of 1.5 million euros. Only 11 per cent of the in total 2,935 filed research proposals were granted. ERC Starting Grants are granted for ground-breaking research proposals and offer the researchers the chance to found their own teams.

Robin Ohm

In the next five years, biologist Robin Ohm wants to develop a genetic model for mushroom-forming fungi. There are not many research projects about this worldwide, even though mushroom-forming fungi can be applied in interesting and important ways. They can turn waste into food and serve as food, produce metabolites, agents in antibiotics, and be essential for the health of some plants by living on those plants' roots in symbiosis. Read more >>

Psychologist and sociologist Borja Martinovic is going to pioneer in the field of research into ‘collective psychological ownership’, the shared feeling people have about something belonging to 'their' country, ‘their’ people and so forth. Research on twelve thousand people across nine different countries should give more insight into this phenomenon and its historic basis. These insights could possibly contribute to influencing ideas on ‘collective ownership’, to make them more lenient and groups more tolerant towards each other. Read more >> (in Dutch)

Marco Helbich

City geographer Marco Helbich wants to use his ERC Starting Grant to close the knowledge gap regarding the influence of mobility and living environments on our mental health. Only the correlation between living environments, depression and suicide has been explored until now, even though people tend to spend more time in other environments. Helbich will also investigate the effects of changing living environments. Read more >>

Research scientist Sanne Akkerman is going to research the interests of young people and how these interests influence their choices in degree programmes as well as the starts of their careers. Akkerman was a Senior Lecturer at Utrecht University until 1 September. She will carry out her research at Leiden University, where she was appointed Professor of Higher Education as of that date.

Harold MacGillavry

With his ERC Starting Grant neurobiologist Harold MacGillavry wants to zoom in real time on single molecules of a living nerve that receive stimuli. These receptors are constantly in movement and this movement is important for the transmission of stimuli. Defects in the movement may play a role in autism or dementia. Continuing his research to patients is a major step. But, MacGillavry says: “Once we understand the dynamics of the receptors, that can help pharmaceutical companies to develop new medications. I hope that my research will eventually result in better treatments." Read more >>

Erik van Sebille

When he was awarded the grant, oceanographer Erik van Sebille was working at Imperial College London, but on 1 April 2017, he will join Utrecht University with his ERC Starting Grant, which he will use to study the distribution of plastic in the ocean. “We know that more than 99% of all of the plastic that has been dumped in the ocean is no longer floating on the surface. So where is it then?” Read more >>