Laureates each receive 1.5 million euros

Six ERC Starting Grants for Utrecht researchers

This year, six researchers at Utrecht University will receive an ERC (European Research Council) Starting Grant  of 1.5 million euros. Promising researchers are awarded this five-year European grant if they have proven their potential to become independent research leaders. 

A total of 42 grants were awarded to researchers located in the Netherlands, of which Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht received six. Half of the grants were awarded to researchers affiliated to the faculty of Geosciences. The faculty of science received two ERC starting grants, UMC Utrecht one. A list of the laureates and what they intend to do with can be found below. 

The laureates

Ginny Farias Galdames, Faculty of Science, Uncovering the machinery for the sorting of newly synthesized proteins into the axon

With this ERC starting grant, I will use innovative imaging tools to gain mechanistic insights into how proteins are sorted to their correct compartment.

In our brain cells, a polarized distribution and correct sorting of proteins into their different neuronal compartments is crucial for proper neuronal development and function. Protein missorting is a hallmark of several neurodegenerative diseases. Here, the researchers will use innovative imaging tools to gain mechanistic insights into how proteins are sorted to their correct compartment. 

Gijs Heuts, Science, Chromatic homotopy theory of spaces

We want to introduce new algebraic tools to examine and understand mathematical 'spaces' - and open up new avenues of research.

Homotopy theory is the mathematical study of ‘spaces’ — geometric shapes of possibly high dimension — and the ways in which they can be twisted and deformed. This research concerns a way of breaking such a space into pieces of a specific ‘frequency’, much like a prism breaks a ray of white light into its constituent colors. We introduce new algebraic tools to examine and understand those pieces. Moreover, we investigate how they should be reassembled to retrieve the original space. Our new approach aims to crack problems previously out of reach and open up new avenues of research.

Rakhyun E. Kim, Faculty of Geosciences, Problem-Shifting between International Environmental Treaty Regimes: Causes, Consequences, and Solutions

This project will offer innovative governance solutions that help ensure our global environmental efforts add up to a net positive impact

Global efforts to solve environmental problems also create new environmental problems. With over 800 environmental treaties in force, the scale and complexity of ‘environmental problem-shifting’ is severe and expected to increase. This project explains why problem-shifting occurs between treaties, and examines systemic effects through a novel methodology. Building on these findings, it offers innovative governance solutions that help ensure our global environmental efforts add up to a net positive impact

James Patterson, Faculty of Geosciences, Climate Backlash: Contentious Reactions to Policy Action

Why do societies sometimes accept costly public good action, but at other times push back suddenly and reject it?

Growing calls for ambitious climate change action challenge governance because such action can trigger backlash. Why do societies sometimes accept costly public good action, but at other times push back suddenly and reject it? This project will study contentious reactions to climate policy through examining both large-N and in-depth cases of advanced industrial countries. This will open up new approaches to the interdisciplinary study of policy-society dynamics in addressing contentious collective problems.

Yanliu Lin, Facultu of Geosciences, Collaborative Planning in China: Authoritarian Institutions, New Media, Power Relations, and Public Spheres

With this ERC project, I will examine collaborative planning practices in China and identify the challenges

Collaborative planning has recently emerged in China to address conflicts of interest in urban renewal and environmental management. The internet is an influential platform that provides opportunities for interactions between citizens and governments. With this ERC project, Lin will examine collaborative planning practices in China and identify the challenges to the assumptions of collaborative planning theory about institutions, power relations, and public spheres, which will lead to a reconceptualisation of this theory to fit authoritarian contexts.

Riccardo Levato, UMC Utrecht, Volumetric light-driven bioprinting capturing complex physiological shape, size and function in artificial tissues and organoids

I will use my ERC Starting Grant to develop a 3D printer that can reproduce parts of the human body, including living cells, within minutes

A classic 3D printer is like a pastry chef preparing a cake, layer after layer. After hours of stacking layers, the object is finished: it can be anything, a chess piece to an entire house. Scientists have been trying for years to give this classic layering method a medical application by printing prostheses or even entire organs. But although 3D printers can now handle body-friendly, flexible materials containing living cells, the layering principle - just like preparing a whipped cream cake - remains a time-consuming process. Riccardo Levato will use his ERC Starting Grant to develop a 3D printer that can reproduce parts of the human body, including living cells, within minutes. This makes it possible to make individual models of parts of a patient. This could be used to, for example, test medicines outside the body and not on the (diseased) patient.

More information
European Research Council