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NWO Open Competition Science-XL grants for VU physicists

1 August 2022
Two research consortia led by physicists David Dulin and Jeroen Koelemeij of VU Amsterdam have been awarded a grant within the Open Competition Domain Science-XL programme. With this grant from The Dutch Research Council (NWO), of up to 3 million euros per project, the scientists can establish, strengthen or expand their lines of research.

David Dulin and his colleagues, including VU biophysicist Gijs Wuite, will investigate the key determinants in coronavirus multiplication to reveal potential new targets for antiviral drug development. At the same time, the consortium led by Jeroen Koelemeij will use quantum technology to explore both the known and unknown laws of physics with far greater precision than before. A project in which VU physicists Rick Bethlem and Wim Ubachs will collaborate is also subsidized within the Open Competition. In this project called "Using cold molecules to search for fundamental asymmetry”, which is led by the University of Groningen, the researchers will put the Standard Model of particle physics to the test and search for fundamental asymmetry.

In search of the coronavirus Achilles’ heel
Though COVID19-vaccines are available, we need to understand how the virus replicates within the cell in order to develop new antiviral drugs. New drugs will protect people against lengthy hospitalizations, long-COVID, and future new variants that make vaccinated people ill. VU biophysicists David Dulin and Gijs Wuite will investigate the coronavirus Achilles’ heel, namely how coronaviruses multiply their genetic material and how the genetic material is packed into new viral particles. They bring together an interdisciplinary team of virologists, experimental and theoretical physicists from Utrecht, Groningen and Delft to uncover the very early stages of coronavirus infection.

Quantum tools for searches for new laws of physics in atoms and molecules
The known laws of physics such as quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of relativity have proven to be very successful. At the same time, science is faced with mysterious observations that point to the existence of (yet undiscovered) higher laws of physics, including possible new particles and forces of nature. A consortium of researchers of VU and UvA will deploy quantum technology for extremely precise investigations of single atoms and molecules, for which very accurate theoretical predictions exist. In this way, both the known and the unknown laws of physics will be explored, and with far greater precision than before. In addition to project leader Koelemeij and collaborators at the University of Amsterdam, Kjeld Eikema and Max Beyer of VU Amsterdam will also work on this research.

NWO Open Competition Domain Science-XL
NWO has awarded a total of 21 projects an XL grant within the Open Competition of the NWO Domain Science (ENW). In this programme, researchers in collaboration (consortia) can submit research proposals for curiosity-driven, fundamental research. The projects will largely start this year and last an average of five years.