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Eight talented researchers have been awarded a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship to conduct research at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). The awarded projects include research on border control within the EU, on suicide prediction and on increasing fire activity in the Amazon Basin.

Credits: FlickrCC

Each fellowship recipient will receive about 180,000 euros. The fellowship is meant to support the mobility of researchers across national borders within and beyond the European Union. In addition to the 8 ‘incoming’ researchers, two UvA researchers will receive a fellowship to carry out a research project at a partner institution within Europe.

The UvA welcomes

Thomas Blankers (Biology): The Genetic Basis of Mating Behaviour: Pheromone Communication in Noctuid Moths

Unraveling the genetic basis of animal behaviour plays an important role in understanding and managing biodiversity. Thomas Blankers aims to identify the genes underlying pheromone communication in a species-rich group of Noctuid moths. In moths, pheromone communication is an important part of the species' identity and essential to finding and selecting a mate. Moreover, these moths are part of a major pestilent lineage and a threat to many agricultural crops. Therefore, Blankers' research on pheromone genetics in moths not only contributes to understanding the evolution of animal behaviour and diversity, but also to the development of sustainable pest management.

Blankers hails from Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) and will carry out his research in Prof. Astrid Groot’s group at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED).

Jozefien De Leersnyder (Psychology): Emotional Fit in Intercultural Interactions: Studying Mimicry and Emotional Grounding as Micro-Processes of (Intercultural) Belonging

When people are emotionally similar, they feel like they belong. Jozefien De Leersnyder investigates how immigrant minority and majority members come to fit emotionally – through mimicking and/or grounding? – and if emotional fit enhances the quality of intercultural interactions. As such, her project explores a novel route toward intercultural understanding, well-being and social cohesion.

De Leersnyder will move from KU Leuven to Prof. Agneta Fischer’s group at Social Psychology.

Yoshi Maezumi (Ecology): Fire Impacts in Rainforest Ecotones

The combined factors of global warming and increased human disturbance in the 21st century are projected to cause an unprecedented increase in fire activity in the Amazon Basin. The increase in recent fire activity is most notable in Amazonian rainforest ecotones (AREs), a naturally occurring vegetation transition zone from fire-averse rainforest to fire-prone savanna vegetation. AREs are vital ecosystems that harbour high-levels of habitat heterogeneity (beta diversity), play an important role in rainforest speciation and provide corridors spanning different vegetation types to allow species to shift their geographic ranges in response to a changing climate. To date, AREs have largely been neglected in conservation initiatives and the long-term ecological effects of fire in AREs remain poorly understood. A critical need exists to understand the long-term effects of climate variability and human disturbance on fire these vital ecosystems for future management and conservation efforts. Maezumi’s aim will be to develop a case study for proof-of-concept of a new interdisciplinary framework that will result in a greater understanding of the long-term drivers of fire in AREs and inform how future climate and changes in land-use practices may impact these vital ecosystems.

Maezumi hails from the University of Exeter and will join Dr Will Gosling’s group at IBED.

Brian O'Shea (Psychology): Predicting Suicide

Brian O’Shea will first spend two years at Project Implicit (Harvard University), working with Professor Matthew Nock and Professor Mahzarin Banaji. Here he will use the Simple Implicit Procedure (SIP) – a highly advanced implicit measure that he developed and validated to overcome the limitations in existing implicit measures – to predict those most likely to attempt suicide and self-harm. The SIP can be used to precisely specify the cognitive mechanisms that are driving an automatic bias, which will offer researchers across a host of domains crucial additional information. This additional insight will be used to assist the development of interventions aimed at reducing problematic behaviours or thoughts. Following his period at Harvard University, O’Shea will return to the University of Amsterdam to work in the Adapt Lab with Professor Reinout Wiers to measure the utility of the SIP in areas such as addiction, depression and anxiety.

O’Shea hails from the University of Warwick and will work in the team of Prof. Reinout Wiers at Developmental Psychology.

Thomas Schindler (Logic and Metaphysics): The Logical Function of Property Talk

Properties are those things that we attribute to objects, such as the property of being red or the property of being a prime number. Talk of properties is ubiquitous throughout the sciences and everyday language and raises difficult philosophical questions as to the nature and existence of properties. Thomas Schindler’s project offers a novel deflationary account of the notion of property. His aim is to lay down a fundamental theoretical framework for a deflationary account of properties, according to which the notion of property was only introduced into our language to serve a certain logical function.

Schindler hails from the University of Cambridge and will join Prof. Francesco Berto’s group at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC).

Charalampos Tsavdaroglou (Urban and Regional Planning): The Refugees’ Right to Housing: State Policies and Housing Commons in Istanbul, Athens and Belgrade

A noticeable body of literature is emerging which explores aspects of humanitarianism, NGOs’ activities and state immigration policies related to the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. However, little research actually focuses on refugees themselves. Charalampos Tsavdaroglou will fill this gap by investigating how refugees self-organise and enact the production of collective housing common spaces based on principles of self-organisation and mutual help. Tsavdaroglou will examine refugees’ right to housing as expressed in the housing practices of Turkey, Greece and Serbia and how these relate to the solidarity housing practices in each country.

Tsavdaroglou is from the School of Architecture at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and will carry out his research in the group of Prof. Maria Kaika at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR).

Cecilia Vergnano (Anthropology): Rejection Regimes: An Ethnographic Study of the Social Life of Intra-EU Border Regimes

The intra-EU mobility of migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean Sea is increasingly governed through systematic rejections at the borders within the Schengen area. Border enforcement within the EU, specifically at the French/Italian and the Austrian/Italian borders, entails unexpected social and political consequences: shifting sovereignties of neighbouring countries, rising economies of human smuggling, escalating numbers of deaths at the borders, social mobilisations, criminalisation of solidarity and evolution of migrants' strategies. By comparatively focusing on two significant areas of transit/buffering, the proposed project intends to uncover and understand side-effects of border enforcement by collecting empirical data on the field.

Vergnano moves from the Universitat de Barcelona to Prof. Barak Kalir’s group at the AISSR.

Bernadette van Wijk (Psychology): Understanding Decision Making by Linking Brain and Behaviour

Although deep brain structures play an important role in decision-making, it is difficult to measure activity in these areas. Bernadette van Wijk will use the latest MRI technology and deep-brain stimulation to investigate why people differ in choice behaviour. As part of the project, she will develop a new computer model that combines brain and behaviour.

Van Wijk will move from Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin to Prof. Birte Forstmann’s group at Brain & Cognition.

UvA researchers abroad

Bart Schimmel from the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) and Elia Bruni from the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation (ILLC) will use their fellowship to carry out a research project abroad.

About Individual Fellowships

Individual Fellowships are awarded to experienced researchers. There are two types of Fellowships: European Fellowships (for researchers coming to or moving within Europe) and Global Fellowships (for researchers based in the EU conducting research beyond Europe). The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions form part of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.