Two academics from the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences who recently obtained their doctorates have now been awarded a Veni grant by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). These young researchers will each receive a maximum amount of €250,000, which they will be able to use to conduct research of their choice for a period of three years. The two fortunate recipients are Sanne Moorman and Jasper de Groot.
Moorman is researching how songbirds learn to sing, and what this can teach us about human speech development. According to the Utrecht-based researcher, children and songbirds learn to vocalise (in speech and song, respectively) by imitating sounds made by other members of their species. 'They develop their own vocalisations through repetition and practise.' Moorman studies how the brain is able to activate the auditory memory to guide the process of practising vocalisations.
Grant recipient Jasper de Groot's research focuses on body odour. De Groot: 'Through our body odour, each of us is subconsciously "communicating" social information from sender to receiver. We hope to use a new approach to discover if people share the "animal" ability to communicate fear to one another via pheromones – from sender (molecules) to receiver (behaviour) – in order to ultimately be able to neutralise any unintended communication.'
NWO has awarded a total of 154 Veni grants to Dutch researchers. Twenty-two of them are affiliated with Utrecht University in one form or another. All of these researchers were awarded grants because of the talent they have for innovative academic research, and each of them has been free to choose their own research subjects. Although the Veni researchers are just at the beginning of their careers, they have already demonstrated their great talent for academic research. All Veni researchers are required to have obtained their doctorates in the last three years.
Innovational research incentives scheme
The Veni grant is part of NWO's Innovational research incentives scheme, consisting of Veni, Vidi and Vici grants. Through these grants, the NWO offers scientists in various stages of their careers the opportunity to conduct groundbreaking research.