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Veni grant for promising VU researchers

29 June 2023
The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded 188 promising researchers from the full breadth of science, fifteen of whom are from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, with a Veni funding. This will allow the laureates to further develop their own research ideas over the next three years.

The laureates are, in alphabetical order:

Communication scientist Ming Boyer receives a Veni for his research Including public debate and identity politics. The construction, composition and consequences of communication by dominant and marginalized groups.
How do dominant and marginalized groups differ in their communication surrounding identity politics? How does their communication affect access to public debate and persuasiveness toward the public? As politics is increasingly discussed using identity groups explicitly (e.g., based on gender or ethnicity), these questions are essential for a healthy democracy. Unfortunately, challenges surrounding measurement of emotions in video and social desirability hinder progress in this field. Using innovative automated emotion recognition from facial expression and voice, and novel physiological measurement of emotion, Boyer investigates the media’s democratic functioning and avenues for progress in journalism and society.  
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Criminal law expert Yannick van den Brink receives a Veni for his research Inequality in juvenile justice: How to tackle it?
Inequalities in youth criminal justice decisions are well-documented and disproportionally impact socially disadvantaged children. Children from ethnic minorities, children with disabilities and children from low socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to be qualified a suspect, prosecuted, detained and sentenced to prison. How are inequalities in youth criminal justice decisions produced? How do they move across different stages of the process? And how do they interact with inequalities in the educational system and child welfare system? Van den Brink seeks answers to these questions, which are much-needed to develop equal, fair and effective youth criminal justice practices in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
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Systems biologist Catalin Bunduc receives a Veni for his research Caught in the act – the inner workings of the type VII secretion machinery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
The tuberculosis bacterium protects itself from our immune system and antibiotics with an almost impermeable cell wall. However, channels in this cell wall are still needed to secrete virulence factors. These are formed by co-called type VII secretion systems. Bunduc will analyse how exactly the type VII secretion systems are able to secrete proteins without compromising the function of the mycobacterial cell wall. Understanding these weak spots in the cell wall will give rise to new strategies for the control of tuberculosis.
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URC-Professor of Strategy, Technology & Innovation Fleur Deken receives a Veni for her research Collaboration routines for mission-driven innovation.
There is a widespread consensus that collaboration between sets of vastly different organizations is needed to develop innovative solutions for grand societal challenges, so-called mission-oriented innovation (MOI). Such collaborations are often hampered by the traditional methods for collaboration. Surprisingly little is known about the organizational capabilities and routines that facilitate MOI. Through comparative process research inside five diverse organizations, Deken unveils the capabilities that equip organizations to develop MOIs and unpack the process through which these are acquired. She deploys an innovative, open science method for reusing qualitative datasets to expand and validate the set of capabilities identified.
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Physicist Laura Dreissen receives a Veni for her research Searching for physics beyond the Standard Model with quantum-entangled ions.
Understanding the nature of dark matter is one of the biggest challenges in modern-day physics. With entangled ions, a sensitive quantum sensor will be developed to search for interactions between ‘normal’ and dark matter particles. Using electric fields and laser light, the ions will be trapped in space and cooled down to near the absolute zero-point temperature. The sensor will be designed such that it rejects unwanted signals stemming from environmental noise, while it is sensitive to signal induced by dark matter. This novel quantum sensor opens-up a yet unexplored parameter range in the search for dark matter particles.
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Neuroscientist Femke Feringa receives a Veni for her research Cell aging in Alzheimer's the key to therapy.
Fundamental understanding of the origin of Alzheimer's disease is still lacking and hence no curative treatment is currently available. Increased accumulation of senescent (aged) cells has been suggested to contribute to AD development. Feringa will use human induced pluripotent stem cells to generate astrocytes and study how the AD risk mutation APOE4 contributes to senescence in these supportive brain cells. The mechanistic insights obtained are crucial for targeting senescence as a therapeutic strategy for AD.
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Economist Ana Figueiredo receives a Veni for her research Self-insurance through Temporary Work.
Understanding the job search behavior of the unemployed is important to design effective labor market policies. For example, wealthy workers can use their liquid savings to prolong job search, but this is not an option for low-wealth workers. Instead, these workers can search for easier-to-find jobs to smooth consumption. What type of jobs they pursue to shorten unemployment duration and protect themselves against the adverse consequences of job loss remains an open question. This research tackles this issue by studying the impact of wealth on the take-up of temporary work after job loss and its long-term implications for earnings.
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Journalism scientist Tim Groot Kormelink receives a Veni for his research Beyond the news: How people develop insights about social issues.
From the morning news to viral TikTok-videos: we are constantly bombarded with information. Groot Kormelink explores how people deal with this influx to develop understandings of societal issues. In particular, it looks at the role different media platforms and genres play in this process, as well as the social dynamics involved. He combines cutting-edge computational and ethnographic methods to capture people’s practices and experiences.

Mathematician Rianne de Heide receives a Veni for her research E-values for multiple testing.
De Heide wants to develop powerful adaptive statistical methods, that provide flexibility in extending studies or stop gathering data at will (optional stopping), and adding/retracting hypotheses (selective inference) while data keeps coming in. Standard statistical methodology using p-values, confidence intervals and Bayesian methods cannot provide this: our new paradigm of hypothesis testing with e-values can. She wants to create at theory for e-value based multiple testing, involving the simultaneous testing of many hypotheses, a problem ubiquitous in applications such as genomics and brain imaging.
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Researcher Media studies Marek Jancovic receives a Veni for his research Agriculture and the Global History of Celluloid Film Manufacturing.
Before films became digital, celluloid film was the basis of cinema. Celluloid is a plastic made from agricultural products like camphor, gelatin and cotton. Many of these materials were extracted in colonized regions of the world before being processed in Europe and North America. By mapping the trade routes and supply chains, Jancovic will clarify how the film industry has historically relied on and driven the demand for agricultural materials. By doings so, he will examine how cinema has contributed to a global economic system dependent on plants, animals, plastics, nitrogen and other materials.

Economist Nadine Ketel receives a Veni for her research Influence of the environment and selection procedures on inequality of opportunity in education.
One of the most consequential early choices for later-life success regard the level and field of education. Ketel studies how higher education choices are influenced by family and peer networks and investigates whether equality of access to education is restricted by admission procedures. She studies the long-term effects of attending the most-preferred secondary school, estimates spillover effects of education choices of siblings, cousins and neighbours on their younger peers and explores whether selection in higher education exacerbates existing inequalities in education. Her research will contribute to the design of optimal admission procedures in education in the Netherlands and beyond.
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Art Historian Kyveli Mavrokordopoulou receives a Veni for her research Uranium Matters: An Interdisciplinary Study of Radiotoxicity in the Arts.
Uranium, the raw material of nuclear technologies, has been neglected in histories of the ‘nuclear age.’ Art history is only slowly directing its attention to artworks that take uranium as their subject, or even use the material itself. Mavrokordopoulou examines uranium in twentieth- and twenty-first-century art, as artists today are finally looking into histories of uranium extraction, its ecological implications, and its toxic legacies. By examining uranium in and through art, her research connects environmental justice to art making.

Climatescientist Marleen de Ruiter receives a Veni for her research When the total is different from the sum of its parts: improving our understanding of consecutive disasters caused by natural hazards and disease outbreaks.
Researchers do not fully understand when, where, and how often disease outbreaks happen after a series of disasters, and which conditions can play a role in causing this. For example, a flood that follows a storm can lead to an outbreak of diseases such as cholera, but this is not always the case. This research aims to better understand the likelihood and impact of these events happening together, and why some communities are more vulnerable to such combined events than others. This will help scientists and decision makers to better prepare for and respond to combined disasters and disease outbreaks.
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Physicist John Sheil receives a Veni for his research Radiation-hydrodynamic modelling of next-generation EUV source plasmas for nanolithography (ARIES).
Today’s most advanced computer chips are manufactured by exposing silicon wafers to delicately shaped extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation originating from million-degree plasma fireballs. Looking to the future and society’s ever-growing thirst for smarter, greener chips necessitates producing ever-brighter plasma fireballs in a more sustainable, energy-efficient manner. In ARIES, Sheil will identify novel pathways to increase the power and efficiency of EUV sources driving advanced chip production. Through a unique combination of plasma modelling and experimental investigation, I will unravel the physics of EUV generation and transport in laser-driven plasmas and exploit these learnings to design tomorrow’s EUV sources for nanolithography.
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Paleoclimatologist Niels de Winter receives a Veni for his research MACRO: More Accurate Climate Reconstructions from fossil water in bivalve shells.
Clam shells record detailed information about the climate in which they grow. This information is crucial for improving models used for future climate projections. Minute water droplets are locked in shell carbonate crystals during their growth. These droplets present a new, untapped source of information about shell growth and climate. New state-of-the-art lab techniques now allow us to measure the composition of this “fossil water” in lab-grown clam shells and fossil shells from past greenhouse periods. The results document precisely how shells grow and how they preserve in ancient sea floor sediments, thereby helping us to improve climate reconstructions.
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NWO Talent Programme
The NWO Talent Programme gives researchers the freedom to pursue their own research based on creativity and passion. They receive up to EUR 280,000. The programme encourages innovation and curiosity. Curiosity-driven research contributes to and prepares us for tomorrow's society. That is why NWO focuses on a diversity in terms of researchers, domains, and backgrounds. Together with the Vidi and Vici grants, Veni is part of the Talent Programme.

NWO selects researchers based on the academic quality and the innovative character of the research proposal, the scientific and/or societal impact of the proposed project, and the quality of the researcher.
Read more on the NWO website