Vidi grant for twenty UvA and AMC-UvA researchers

18 May 2015

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded a Vidi grant to twenty researchers from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Academic Medical Center (AMC-UvA). Each researcher will receive a maximum of 800,000 euros to develop an innovative research theme and form their own research group.

The Vidi grant will enable each researcher to conduct research for a period of five years. A total of 509 researchers submitted a research proposal during this grant allocation round, 87 of which were successful.

The recipients

Dr Nathalie Degenaar (Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy): The Appetite of a Neutron Star

Neutron stars belong to some of the most extreme objects in the universe. Because of their enormous gravity these cannibals can consume the gas of a nearby star. Degenaar uses astronomical observations to map the eating patterns of neutron stars in detail.

Dr Raquel Fernández Rovira (Institute for Logic, Language and Computation): The Mysteries of Conversation Revealed

When people communicate with one another in a spontaneous conversation, a large number of unconscious processes take place. Fernández Rovira uses computer algorithms to analyse large numbers of conversations with the aim of discovering how we can communicate better with one another and with computers.

Dr Rene Gerritsma (Institute of Physics): A New Quantum Material

A system of interacting atoms and ions resemble a natural solid in which the atoms play the part of electrons while ions form the crystal structure. This new material can be used as quantum simulator of solid state physics. Gerritsma will excite the atoms into a Rydberg state, allowing the interactions to be adjusted over a large range.

Dr Valeria Gazzola (Psychology) Does empathy help?

Although it is often assumed that a lot of/more empathy automatically translates into more helpfulness, no direct causal evidence exists. In her project, Gazzola will develop an innovative form of brain stimulation by which she will directly stimulate brain activity in the areas that are responsible for empathy, in turn measuring whether this leads to more helpfulness.

Dr Mette Hazenberg (AMC-UvA): Donor Immune System Against Acute Leukemia

The transplantation of donor stem cells is important for the treatment of acute leukemia, but it is also risky. It has been shown that donor immune systems produce leukemia-specific antibodies through which a relapse of the disease is prevented. Hazenberg will investigate the kind of assistance the donor immune system needs to do so and how transplantation-related complications can be prevented.

Dr Riekelt Houtkooper (AMC-UvA): Energy Against Ageing

Mitochondria, the energy power stations of our cells, deteriorate as a result of ageing. Genes, however, have been discovered which might delay this process. Houtkooper will investigate exactly how these genes could delay ageing.

Dr Stephan Huveneers (AMC-UvA/Sanquin): What causes stiffened arteries to leak?

The stiffening of arteries causes leaks and inflammatory/vascular diseases. Huveneers will look for proteins that regulate the sutures of blood vessel cells. With the use of advanced microscopy, he will then investigate the function of these proteins in blood vessels and look for new possibilities for therapy.  

Prof. Arnon Kater (AMC-UvA): Using Immune Cells with Renewed Energy in the Battle Against Leukemia

The immune cells of patients who suffer from chronic lymphatic leukemia have a diminished effect, making them ineffective in battling the disease. Previous studies suggest that a disturbed energy management might play a part in this process. Kater hopes to use a patient’s own immune cells against leukemia through the recovery of energy management. 

Dr Annemieke Petrignani (Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences): Forms and Formats of Extraterrestrial Organic Molecules 

Hydrocarbons are ubiquitous. The extraterrestrial variants play an important role in the formation of stars and planets, and possible life forms. Petrignani will measure infrared characteristics in a laboratory to determine the extraterrestrial forms and formats.

Dr Yolanda Rodríguez Pérez (European Studies): Mixed Feelings: Literary Hispanophobia and Hispanophobes in the Netherlands and England

The love-hate relationship with Spain played a key role in the emergence of national identities in the Netherlands and England. This tension is both visible in early modern literature and in 19th-century national image formation and canon formation. In her research, Rodriguez will focus on this theme. 

Dr Floris Roelofsen (Institute for Logic, Language and Computation): Information Exchange: The Interpretation of Questions and Answers

Roelofsen will develop a new meaning of theory, in which the exchange of information by means of questions and answers take centre stage. He explores how the interpretation of a sentence is constructed from the meanings of its elements, and how links of meaning are made between the different expressions within a dialogue.

Prof. Ellen Rutten (Slavic Languages and Cultures): The Longing for Imperfection

Dilapidated tables, grainy photos, worn jeans: in a world of rapid technological change, imperfection is an answer to our longing for more authenticity and the sublime. Together with designers, Rutten explores the origin of this longing and how we can use it in Europe during times of economic and ecological crisis.

Dr Christian Schaffner (Institute for Logic, Language and Computation): Cryptography in the Quantum Age

Cryptography produces solutions for the safe transmission and processing of information. Recent developments in quantum computers offer new possibilities, but also pose a risk. In his project, Schaffner will prepare cryptography for the new Quantum Age. 

Dr Joost van Spanje (Amsterdam School of Communication Research): Defending or Damaging Democracy? Legal Action against Anti-immigrant Parties in Europe and its Effects on their Electoral Support

Many anti-immigration parties are challenged by legal action. Their members are criminally prosecuted on a regular basis, sometimes even the parties themselves. Van Spanje investigates the effects of legal measures against anti-immigration parties on the electoral support of these parties in 21 European countries between 1965 and 2015..

Dr Ivan Titov (Institute for Logic, Language and Computation): Semantic Deciphering in the Wild

Computers that extract knowledge from text would revolutionise search engines and other web applications. Current manually created sources aren’t sufficient enough to extract knowledge from texts on the Web. How can computers understand text by reading it? This will be the chief challenge Titov seeks to address in his research. 

Prof. Moniek Tromp (Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences): Camera Ready? Action!

Chemists must understand catalysts and their reactions to improve the former. By taking pictures in rapid succession with various colours of light, Tromp can illuminate all components separately and thereby create a real-life film for the first time.

Dr Louis Vermeulen (AMC-UvA): Organs and organ systems, Gastrointestinal System: The Evolution of Colon Cancer

The word ‘evolution’ generally conjures up images of the most diverse and magnificent life forms. And yet, evolution can also lead to a host of problems such as cancer and therapy resistance. Vermeulen will map the evolutionary processes that underlie the development of colon cancer.

Dr Marit Westerterp (AMC-UvA): Cholesterol Transport, Inflammation and Arteriosclerosis

Cells in the vessels transport cholesterol to particles within the blood. Disabling cholesterol transporters in these cells leads to chronical inflammation resulting in arteriosclerosis. Westerwerp will investigate whether in these conditions arteriosclerosis depends on a crucial inflammatory regulator. 

Dr Ingo Willuhn (Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience /AMC-UvA): Flexible Dopamine and Rigid Behaviour

Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is important for learning new habits. Willuhn would like to discover the neural pathways that coordinate dopamine secretion during habit formation. Rigid habits, which emerge as a result of a disruption of this coordination, can lead to psychiatric diseases.

Dr Guido van Wingen (AMC-UvA): Using Brain Scans to Predict Therapy Outcomes

A range of treatments are available for patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, but these are only effective in half of all patients. With the help of new analysis methods of brain scans, Van Wingen will go in search of patterns that could predict which treatment is the most suited for a patient.

Published by  University of Amsterdam