The Faculty of Science encourages scientists and students to find sustainable solutions to the complex social issues of this day and age. With great dedication, we practise science addressing every manner of subject. Below you find a small selection of the faculty’s many research projects, fundamental as well as applied.
Creating environments that keep your weight down
“We are looking into what people eat, where they eat, and why they choose fast food or sugary drinks, for example, rather than fruit and vegetables. We go to supermarkets, child day-care centres, and schools and we look at what happens when we intervene. For instance: do children really drink fewer sugary drinks if the school installs water fountains?” Nutrition expert Jaap Seidell is working with supermarkets, schools and local councils to find out how youngsters could be persuaded to eat healthier food.
Using evolution to produce well-adapted robots
In nature, evolution has proven that it can produce well-adapted species and intelligent beings. Eiben therefore expects that, if he combines evolutionary theory with computer and robot technology, well-functioning robots will emerge. “We ask ourselves the same questions that biologists ask”, Eiben explains. “Including: how does the interaction between body, brain and environment lead to intelligent behaviour?”
A new approach in quantum chemistry
‘Van der Waals forces’ are the natural forces that make water droplets cling to glass and peanut butter stick to your sandwich. As commonplace as these forces are, we are still unable to calculate them precisely. The theoretical chemist Paola Gori-Giorgi is foraying into quantum mechanics, with a new idea.
Wildfire management reduces the emission of greenhouse gases
Wildfires burn each year an area roughly equivalent to the size of the EU, leading to the emission of aerosols and greenhouse gases. Guido van der Werf, professor of Global Carbon Cycle Studies at VU Amsterdam, investigates the relationship between wildfires and climate change. His work provides a basis for improved wildfire management, and hence reduced emission of greenhouse gases.
Depression, addiction and ADHD are related
People who suffer from depression or schizophrenia are often also affected by other psychiatric disorders such as alcohol addiction or ADHD. Sabine Spijker, professor of Molecular Mechanisms of Cognition in Neuropsychiatric Disorders at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, studies how changes in those brain cells that are essential for memory and learning are brought about by these disorders.
Getting crops to flourish under a cloudy sky
Crop yields need to be boosted to feed a world population that will soon reach 9 billion. Roberta Croce, professor of the Biophysics of Photosynthesis and Energy, is investigating possible ways of helping plants to make more efficient use of solar energy, f.e. by helping photosynthetic systems to respond more flexibly to conditions of sunshine and shade, thus allowing plant growth rates to be increased by up to 20 per cent.
Decision-making based on growing databases
Companies and government organizations have access to growing volumes of data on which to base their decision-making. Sandjai Bhulai, professor of Business Analytics, develops models that can help these organizations to process the information contained in these growing databases to allow them to achieve their objectives, such as reducing food wastage by means of smart logistics or saving water with the aid of dynamic pricing schemes.