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Veni grants for researchers at the Faculty of Science

14 August 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. Seven of the Veni's were awarded to researchers from the Faculty of Science.

With this money, a maximum of 280,000 euros, they can further develop their own research over the next three years. The Venis have been awarded to the follwing projects:

Caught in the act – the inner workings of the type VII secretion machinery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis
Catalin Bunduc 
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. Catalin 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. (Read more)  

 Searching for physics beyond the Standard Model with quantum-entangled ions 
Laura Dreissen 
Understanding the nature of dark matter is one of the biggest challenges in modern-day physics. With entangled ions, Laura Dreissen will develop a sensitive quantum sensor 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. (Read more)  

Cell aging, the key to Alzheimer's therapy 
Femke Feringa 
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. Femke 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. (Read more

E-values for multiple testing 
Rianne de Heide 
Rianne de Heide aims 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. In this project De Heide wants to create a 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. (Read more

When the total is different from the sum of its parts: improving our understanding of consecutive disasters caused by natural hazards and disease outbreaks 
Marleen de Ruiter 
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 by Marleen de Ruiter 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. (Read more

Radiation-hydrodynamic modelling of next-generation EUV source plasmas for nanolithography (ARIES) 
John Sheil 
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, John 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. (Read more

MACRO: More Accurate Climate Reconstructions from fOssil water in bivalve shells 
Niels de Winter 
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. (Read more

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