Ten Utrecht-based researchers receive Vidi grant
Laureates each receive 800,000 euros to set up research projects
This year, ten Utrecht-based researchers each receive an NWO Vidi scholarship of 800,000 euros. The laureates are going to use this money to develop their own, renewing research projects. The Vidi's are meant for excellent researchers who have obtained their doctorates and have subsequently successfully been conducting research for a number of years.
With the grant the Vidi laureates will do research on a variety of subjects including vaccination policies for respiratory viruses such as COVID-19, trust (or the lack of) in the police, and how crops protect their roots from damage. Four of the laureautes are UMC Utrecht researchers, three belong to the Faculty of Science, two belong to Geosciences and one to Social Sciences.
Dr. Amy Nivette, Social Sciences: Can improving public attitudes towards the police prevent crime?
With this Vidi grant, I will develop a method of measuring everyday encounters with police, revealing to what extent these experiences influence criminal behaviours.
Can a single contact with the police change how people perceive them? Can a tweet damage trust in police? And will this influence someone’s criminal behaviour? This project introduces a novel method of measuring everyday encounters with police, revealing to what extent these experiences influence individual perceptions and criminal behaviours.
Dr. Kaisa Kajala, Faculty of Science: How do roots protect themselves?
By understanding how plants protect themselves, we can grow crops that are more resistant to adverse conditions.
Many crops, such as tomato, have a root cell layer that strengthens the roots and protects against drought and flooding. Kaisa Kajala from the faculty of Science, will use molecular tools to study how the strengthening of this layer is controlled on genetic level. This knowledge can be used for breeding more tolerant crops.
Dr. Lennart Meier, Faculty of Science: Understanding symmetries of spaces via modular forms.
With this Vidi grant, I intend to study configuration spaces by associating rich algebraic objects, like modular forms, with them.
Algebraic topology is about the quantitative understanding of the qualitative features of space. Such a space can be high-dimensional, like the configuration space of a hundred particles. "With this Vidi grant, I will study configuration spaces by associating rich algebraic objects, like modular forms, with them."
Dr. Martin Haase, Faculty of Science: Bijel templated membranes for molecular separations.
This Vidi project investigates how filters can turn salty seawater into freshwater. This will allow more people to have better access to freshwater.
Worldwide billions of people are facing severe water scarcity. However, plenty of water is available in the world’s oceans. This Vidi project investigates how filters can turn salty seawater into freshwater. This technology is established since the 1970s, but until today such filters are fundamentally limited in their water throughput. “In this project we will design a sponge like material with up to 1000x larger filter area compared to state-of-the-art filters. This novel material may dramatically increase the freshwater production from saltwater. We will will perform laboratory experiments and computer simulations to develop next generation filters with potentials to significantly reduce cost of large scale freshwater production.”
Dr. Jannie Wijnen, Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht: Fast and silent metabolic MRI for children.
With my Vidi grant, I will do something that was deemed impossible: create a silent MRI-scan.
In this research, Jannie Wijnen will further develop her concept for a silent MRI that makes the metabolic processes in the brain visible. With this future MRI technique, Wijnen wants to make the metabolic processes in the head of children with metabolic disorders or a brain tumour more visible. "This now takes a relatively long time. Because patients are restless or frightened by the sound, they often move too much for a good image. Making the scan faster and noiseless not only makes it more comfortable for a patient, but also provides better images".
Dr. Pieter Vader. UMC Utrecht: Endogenous RNA carriers.
With my Vidi grant, I will study RNA carriers, in order to strengthen and enhance RNA medication.
RNA is part of our genetic code and may be used as medicine for all kinds of diseases. However, RNA medication is fragile and must therefore be protected during transport in our body and delivered into diseased cells. The researchers will study if the trick for this can be copied from naturally occurring RNA carriers.
Dr. Patricia Bruijning-Verhagen, UMC Utrecht: Interactions between respiratory viruses and implications for vaccination policies.
Prevention of one virus by vaccination may influence occurrence of other virus infections. With my Vidi grant, I will look specifically how this works with respiratory viruses like COVID-19, and how this may affect future vaccine policy decisions.
Prevention of viral acute respiratory infection is a public health priority. Through virus interactions, prevention of one virus by vaccination may influence occurrence of other virus infections. This project quantifies such interactions between respiratory viruses using epidemiological and mathematical methods. This evidence will impact how we make future vaccine policy decisions.
Dr. Michael van Es, UMC Utrecht: Reanalysis of clinical trials in ALS trials.
To date, there is no effective treatment for ALS. With this Vidi grant, I aim to incorporate new insights in ALS into old trials by linking existing data sets together.
To date, there is no effective treatment for ALS. "In this project, we aim to incorporate new insights in ALS into old trials by linking existing data sets together. By doing so, we will for instance be able to look at the effect of drugs in different genetic subgroups of patients, as it has been shown that they may respond differently to treatment. Through this approach we may be able to find to patients that did benefit from previous drugs and we will improve future ALS trials."
Dr. Oliver Plümper, Geosciences: Patterns of the deep water and carbon cycle
I will investigate volatile release mechanisms in subduction zones, because these drive volcanic eruptions, trigger earthquakes and recycle CO2 from the deep‐earth to the surface.
We know and think a lot about carbon and its atmospheric cycle, but part of this cycle is hidden in so-called subduction zones. How much carbon is lost to the deep Earth or escapes back into the atmosphere over millennia is hotly debated. This is because we know very little about when carbon is released and whether subduction zones scrub carbon. Within his Vidi project 'Release', Oliver Plümper will couple geological observations, experiments and numerical models to understand these processes. “I am thrilled to have received this grant to answer one of the greatest unknowns in solid Earth Sciences,” Plümper comments.
Dr. Michelle van Vliet, Geosciences: What are the drivers of water scarcity during droughts and heatwaves?
I will analyse the drivers of water scarcity during droughts and heatwaves, in order to help water managers make better decisions to on clean water resources.
Worldwide, billions of people are affected by water scarcity and that number is many times higher during droughts and heat waves. In this Vidi project, Michelle van Vliet and her team analyse the causes of water scarcity during current and future droughts and heat waves. "Complex interactions occur during drought and heat waves, but little is known about them yet," Van Vliet explains. "Water scarcity is not only caused by a decrease in water availability, but also by a deterioration in water quality and an increase in water use by agriculture, energy and households, for example. In this study the complex interaction between water quality, water use and water availability is studied using a new model system to be developed.