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ERC Starting Grants for VU Amsterdam

5 September 2023
Physicist Maximilian Beyer, theoretical computer scientist Klaus Freiherr von Gleissenthal and Amélie Freal of VU Amsterdam and Amsterdam UMC received a Starting Grant of at least 1.5 million euros from the European Research Council (ERC).

Helium dimer Ultracold Molecules - a platform for fundamental physics and ultracold chemistry
Physicist Maximilian Beyer will with the Starting Grant conduct research laser cooling of molecular helium. His research is focused on precision measurements of the simplest molecules in our universe - molecular hydrogen (H₂) and its ion (H₂⁺) – to test quantum electrodynamics.
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SecuStack: Securing the Leaky Hardware/Software Boundary
Theoretical computer scientist Klaus Freiherr von Gleissenthal will with the Starting Grant conduct research side-channel leaks which give attackers the opportunity to steal sensitive data. He aims to enhance the security of our digital data.
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Research into how neurons balance their activity
Researcher in human genetics Amélie Fréal of Amsterdam UMC will further expand her research group within the Department of Human Genetics. She wants to study how neurons can maintain the right balance of activity in neuronal networks. This process is of great importance for the healthy functioning of the nervous system, as disturbed homeostasis is often at the root of various neurological disorders.

The research team's particular interest lies in the Axon Initial Segment (AIS), an essential component of neurons. The AIS regulates the generation of action potentials and influences how neurons communicate with each other. Although the AIS has long been considered a static and passive structure, recent research, both from Freal's lab and other research groups, has shown that changes in network activity lead to plasticity of the AIS. This plasticity, in turn, has long-lasting effects on the excitability of neurons.

Using advanced techniques such as super-resolution and live imaging of AIS ion channels and structural proteins, together with proteomics and electrophysiology, the mechanisms behind AIS plasticity are being investigated. The aim is to understand how this process contributes to the regulation of homeostasis within neuronal networks.

ERC Starting Grants
The ERC awards the Starting Grants to fund emerging academic talent for five years to pursue  pioneering projects. A total of 400 outstanding young scientists across Europe have been awarded an ERC Starting Grant. For more information, see the ERC's press release.