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Eleven researchers from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Academic Medical Center (AMC) have each received a Vici grant worth 1.5 million euros to conduct research over the coming five years. Vici, which is awarded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), is one of the largest personal grants in the Netherlands and is targeted at outstanding senior researchers who have successfully demonstrated the ability to develop their own innovative lines of research and to act as coach to younger researchers.

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A total of 35 researchers from several disciplines received a Vici grant. The Vici programme allows researchers to submit their own research proposals. The approved proposals include projects on how prejudices become implicit, on whether parents can get under their children’ skin, and on why, when and how particular migrants started to call themselves refugee.    

The recipients

Prof. David Amodio (Psychology): How do Prejudices Become Implicit? A Social Cognitive Neuroscience Account

How does exposure to racist messages transform into one’s own implicit (unconscious) prejudice? Although the existence of implicit prejudice is well-documented, the process through which it forms remains a mystery. Using an integrative social cognitive neuroscience approach, Amodio tests a new model of implicit prejudice formation and behavioural expression.

Dr Sarah Bracke (Sociology): EnGendering Europe’s Muslim Question

Islam in Europe is increasingly debated in a way that resembles Europe’s ‘Jewish Question’. Bracke’s project carefully investigates such resemblances, as well as significant differences, and the underlying cultural dynamics these might point to. She takes a detailed look at the critical role of gender and sexuality in Europe’s ‘Muslim Question.’

Dr Ulle Endriss (Institute for Logic, Language and Computation): Collective Information

Combining information supplied by different people plays an important role in a variety of scientific domains. Examples include the ballots voters fill in during an election or the answers participants give in a survey. Endriss’ project aims to develop a general approach for processing such collective information.

Prof. Birte Forstmann (Psychology): The Brain at Depth: A Model-Based Cognitive Neuroscience Approach to the Human Subcortex

The human subcortex can be considered terra incognita: only 7% of the structures are available in standard-MRI atlases. Forstmann investigates how cognitive, limbic-, and motor processes are implemented in the human subcortex. Her aim is to find subcortical nodes that could become new target regions for deep-brain stimulation.

Prof. Geert Janssen (History): The Invention of the Refugee

Refugees have been common throughout history, but are for the first time described as such in the early modern period (1450-1750). Janssen’s project explains why, when and how particular migrants started to call themselves ‘refugee’ and what consequences this had for the emergence of empathy, humanitarianism and states.

Dr Joeri van Leeuwen (ASTRON/UvA, Astronomy): The Newly Visible Universe

It turns out space and time too are “stuff” that can stretch. We feel that space-time curvature as gravity. Like other stretchy things, space-time can also flutter. By quickly pointing our sensitive radio telescopes the next time gravitational waves are observed, Van Leeuwen’s aim is to determine what creates these gravitational waves.

Prof. Willem Mulder (AMC, Medical Biochemistry): Nanobiologic Training of Innate Immunity to Treat Disease

Immunotherapy aims to empower the immune system to perform its natural role, which is to fight disease. Mulder’s project proposes to develop nanobiologics that reprogram a recently discovered innate immune memory – known as ‘trained immunity’ – to either induce immune tolerance and prevent transplant rejection, or provoke immunity to treat cancer.

Prof. Geertjan Overbeek (Child Development and Education): When Mommy and Daddy Get Under Your Skin..

Overbeek examines whether parents can get under their children’s skins. By using effective parenting interventions for families at risk, his aim is to enrich parenting to such an extent that it leads to changes in gene expression. This potentially predicts improved stress reactivity and less disruptive behaviour in children.

Dr Rogier Sanders (AMC, Medical Microbiology): Training B Cells to Generate Broadly Neutralising HIV Antibodies

Most antiviral vaccines work by inducing protective antibodies. However, such antibodies have not yet been generated through vaccination against HIV. Sanders will use HIV-infected patients who make protective antibodies as the template for designing an HIV vaccine.

Prof. Göran Sluiter (Law): Rethinking the Outer Limits of Secondary Liability for International Crimes and Serious Human Rights Violations

Secondary liability is about accountability of those who help in the commission of a wrongful act. Göran explores the adequacy of secondary liability in case of human rights violations. His aim is to readjust ­–expand – law and practice on secondary liability in light of the demands of human rights protection.

Prof. Noam Zelcer (AMC, Medical Biochemistry): SPRING and a RING in Lipid Metabolism

Our body needs cholesterol and fat, but in excess these are harmful and cause metabolic and cardiovascular disease. In this project, Zelcer and his team will study genes they discovered, SPRING and RING-finger-145, which regulate cholesterol and fat production. With these studies, his aim is to develop new treatments for lipid-related diseases.

About Vici

Vici is one of three grants awarded as part of the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme. The other two grants are Veni (for researchers who have recently obtained their PhD) and Vidi (for researchers who have gained several years of research after their PhD).