Veni grant for twenty-two Utrecht based researchers

Young researchers receive grant to further develop ideas

Twenty-two promising, young Utrecht researchers have been awarded a Veni grant of up to 280,000 euros by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). This will enable them to further develop their own research ideas over a period of three years. Nine Venis go to the Faculty of Science, seven to Geosciences, one to Veterinary Medicine, two to the UMC Utrecht, two to the Hubrecht Institute and one to the Princess Máxima Center.

The Veni grants for the Social Sciences and Humanities domain will be announced by NWO at a later date.

Meet the Utrecht based laureates

Faculty of Science

Stratified Weil spaces

Remy van Dobben de Bruyn

The complexity of a geometric object is captured by numerical invariants such as the number of holes. Arithmetic geometers study a spectrum of invariants (one for each prime number), and a long-standing open problem is whether these all agree. This project develops new techniques for answering this question.

Eat it right!

Juliette Fedry

The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a vital cell compartment. Upon stress, parts are degraded by ‘self-eating’ ER-phagy mechanisms, of which we still lack a detailed understanding. This project uses microscopy and mass spectrometry techniques to study ER-phagy. The results can provide molecular basis for anticancer drug design.

Shapes inside shapes in mathematics, physics, and biology

Renée Hoekzema

Evolution of shapes inside shapes is attributed different meaning in different contexts. From embedding spaces in mathematics, particles in a system in physics, to co-evolution of microbiome and host in biology, this reseach studies topology of nestedness and its applications, made possible by the unique multi-disciplinary profile of the researcher.

Novel catalyst design to speed up chemical conversions

Jessi van der Hoeven

Catalysts accelerate chemical reactions for clean and energy efficient manufacturing of materials like polymers and fuels. How well they work depends on the exact structure of the metal nanoparticles of which they are comprised. This research aims to develop an innovative design of the metal nanoparticles to boost their catalytic performance.

Asymmetry matters when comparing shapes

Tim Ophelders

Shapes from point clouds arise in many application areas, such as chemistry, meshing or autonomous vehicles. Analysing such shapes requires efficient comparison methods which consider both geometry and topology. Ophelders will show that such comparisons are easier for asymmetric shapes, and he will develop efficient algorithms which exploit asymmetry.

Time-frequency structured measurements in phase retrieval: stability and reconstruction

Palina Salanevich

Phase retrieval is the problem of signal reconstruction from the absolute values of its linear measurements. It arises naturally in many “real-world” applications, including ptychography, speech recognition and music analysis. Salanevich will develop measurement designs and reconstruction methods that are stable to noise in the measurements and model parameters.

New catalysts for CO2-based circular polymers

Arnaud Thevenon

Plastics pollution is one of the most serious threats to ecosystems for the next centuries. This project aims to create recyclable/biodegradable polymers with controlled end of life management. The researcher will develop new catalysts to use waste CO2 as a monomer feedstock to obtain a new generation of circular polymers.

Using plant-based materials to mimic insects for sustainable, reflective coatings

Lisa Tran

Jeweled beetle exoskeletons are characterized by nanometer-sized patterns that interact with light to produce robust, reflective colors. This research exploits similar patterning of plant-derived cellulose crystals to mimic jeweled beetles in the laboratory. I will investigate and manufacture bio-inspired, structurally-colored films and capsules with sustainable applications in paints and sensors.

Signs of the asymmetry between matter and antimatter

Jorinde van de Vis

The matter-antimatter asymmetry was possibly generated in a phase transition in the early universe. The goal of this project is finding models that explain the asymmetry, and predicting how particle physics and gravitational wave experiments can test them. The phase transition temperature will be accurately determined with a new technique.

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine

Structure and function of the enterovirus 2C protein, a promising target for antiviral drugs

Daniel Hurdiss

Enteroviruses infect millions of people yearly and can cause severe and occasionally life-threatening diseases. The project of Daniel Hurdiss will determine the three-dimensional structure and function of the enterovirus protein 2C, which is responsible for viral replication. A detailed understanding of this protein will allow development of urgently needed antiviral therapies.

Faculty of Geosciences

The imprint of deep-time paleoenvironmental change on biodiversity

Lydian Boschman

New Caledonia, an island in the Pacific Ocean, is a biodiversity hotspot with a unique species composition. It is unclear why. To better understand how biodiversity develops through geological time, Lydian Boschman will study the origin of New Caledonian life, and how it adapted to changes in geography, soil, and climate.

Critical climate transitions

Margot Cramwinckel

Gradual global warming might critically accelerate when carbon is released from soil and seafloor reservoirs. However, the threshold level of warming for these tipping points remains unknown. Margot Cramwinckel's research utilises climate tipping points from the geological past to predict future climate change scenarios, crucial for achieving the Paris Agreement goals.

Go or grow? Moving mountain slopes meet migrating mountain plants

Jana Eichel

Climate change forces plants to migrate upslope and mountain slopes to move downslope. Will migrating plants stabilize moving slopes, or will slope movement limit plant migration? This research will unravel feedbacks between slope movements and migrating plants to protect mountain communities, infrastructure and ecosystems from natural hazards and biodiversity loss.

Impact of sea-level rise on anoxic basins: Paratethys vs. Black Sea

Dan Palcu

An ancient anoxic and almost lifeless European sea spilt out huge amounts of sulphide waters and released methane from sediments to the atmosphere after being destabilised by a rising ocean. Can such cataclysms repeat in the modern Black Sea region if “gateways” open due to sea-level rise and/or man-made canals?

Embrace diversity: does variation within plant species increase coastal resilience?

Valerie Reijers

Dunes are created by an interplay of sand transport and plant growth. Differences between plants can have important consequences for dune formation. Valerie Reijers will investigate how plant properties are influenced by local environmental conditions and how diversity in plant properties makes our dunes more resilient to climate change.

Metabolic activity of individual benthic fauna in deep-sea habitats (INBREATH)

Tanja Stratmann

The research of Tanja Stratmann investigates the potential of heavy water as a new tool in aquatic ecology for tracing metabolic activity of benthic fauna to the level of individuals. Heavy water is incorporated into animal tissues irrespective of particular life processes and may therefore be used to assess recovery after a disturbance.

Aragonite at the Seafloor: a secret PlayEr in the ReGulation of Earth’s climate? (ASPERGE)

Olivier Sulpis

Aragonite is a mineral abundant in the oceans, found in the shells of little planktonic creatures. At the seafloor, aragonite grains’ dissolution act as antacid tablets, protecting the oceans against acidification caused by human carbon dioxide emissions. Olivier Sulpis explores the importance of this mechanism via laboratory experiments and model simulations.

UMC Utrecht

Lesion patterns: the smoking gun for pinpointing the cause of vascular brain injury

Matthijs Biesbroek

Vascular injury to the brain white matter is very common and can have multiple causes. In many cases, targeted treatment is hampered by our inability to identify the cause. Matthijs Biesbroek's concept is that the cause in individual patients can be pinpointed using vascular lesion location.

Finding the force to fight brain tumors

Emma van Bodegraven

Brain tumor cells easily infiltrate surrounding healthy brain tissue. This is how they escape treatment. Physical forces generated by cells in surrounding brain tissue impact their infiltration and thereby tumor malignancy. Emma van Bodegraven's research investigates the mechanisms generating these physical forces, which can lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets.

Hubrecht Institute

When fatty livers become personal

Delilah Hendriks

Multiple genetic risk factors have been recently linked to fatty liver disease. However, how these contribute to the development and treatment of the disease is not well understood. In this project, Delilah Hendriks will engineer personalized minilivers to carry these genetic risk factors to better understand their biological role in fatty liver disease.

“Macro”-managing genes

Imke Mandemaker

All cells in your body contain the same DNA but can specialize into different cell types by turning genes on or off. This is carefully organized by epigenetic processes to prevent disease. The research project of Imke Mandemaker will show how a newly identified player controls gene activity by placing the biggest epigenetic mark.

Princess Máxima Center

Release the beast: Boosting CAR‐T cell immunotherapy for neuroblastoma

Judith Wienke

Almost half of patients with the childhood cancer neuroblastoma do not survive. A novel immunotherapy with CAR‐T cells is considered highly promising, yet shows limited clinical efficacy because neuroblastoma cells inhibit CAR‐T cells. In this study, Judith Wienke will make CAR‐T cells insensitive to inhibition, as innovative, improved treatment for neuroblastoma.

More information
Veni grants 2021