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Ten 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 public support for different interpretations of ‘Social Europe’, the transmission of pathogens from animals to humans and metaphorical narratives in discourses on dementia.

Map of Europe containing pushpins
Charles Clegg (FlickrCC)

The awarded fellowships range from 175,000 to 280,000 euros. The grants are awarded as part of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, which forms part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The aim of the fellowship is to equip researchers with the necessary skills and international experience to pursue a successful career.

The recipients

Sharon Baute (Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, AISSR): Public Attitudes towards Social Europe: Diverging Interpretations and Support within and across EU Member States?

European leaders increasingly believe that a ‘Social Europe’ is indispensable for the continuation of the European project. To improve our understanding of the democratic legitimacy of the European social policy, Sharon Baute investigates the public support for different interpretations of 'Social Europe'. Her research identifies whether and why European citizens have diverging attitudes towards various EU policy instruments to protect social rights.

Sharon Baute is affiliated with KU Leuven and will collaborate with Prof. Frank Vandenbroucke and Prof. Brian Burgoon from the AISSR programme group Political Economy and Transnational Governance.

Iacer Calixto (Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, ILLC): Informing Multi-Modal Language Generation with World Knowledge

Models trained to generate human language already integrate visual input but still lack world knowledge. This is our knowledge about how the world works and how we use language to describe it. World knowledge is necessary to perform even simple human-like tasks such as describing an image. In IMAGINE, Iacer Calixto will build better and improved human language generation models that not only use vision and language, but also integrate world knowledge that will be automatically derived from presently available, large-scale knowledge bases.

Calixto holds a Global Fellowship and will collaborate with Raquel Fernández, who heads the ILLC’s Dialogue Modelling group. He will also visit New York University (USA) and Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research (France).

Lemeng Dong (Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, SILS): Unlocking Mechanisms of Cyst Nematode Hatching for Sustainable Cyst Nematode Control

Cyst nematodes worldwide attack agricultural crops such as potato, sugar beet, rice and soybean and cause large yield losses. There is a great need for developing new control methods for cyst nematodes. Plant roots secrete signalling molecules into the soil that are known to induce hatching of cyst nematodes, called hatching stimulants (HSs). Lemeng Dong will develop a new strategy to control cyst nematodes by altering the signalling relation – mediated by HSs – between the host plant and the cyst nematodes.

Dong will collaborate with Prof. Harro Bouwmeester within SILS’ Plant Hormone Biology group.

Martina Ferraguti (Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, IBED): Through the Eye of a Mosquito: Theoretical Modelling of Vector-borne Zoonotic Pathogens

One of the biggest global health challenges we are facing today is the spillover of wildlife diseases into human populations, most of which are transmitted by mosquito vectors. Martina Ferraguti will be studying the role of vector species diversity and specifically the diversity of their distinct behaviours in shaping pathogen transmission dynamics and, ultimately, the risk of spillover into human populations. Her project lies at the interface of theoretical and empirical research and will contribute to the much-needed integration of mathematical modelling, fieldwork and laboratory work into OneHealth studies.

Ferraguti will collaborate with Dr Yael Artzy-Randrup within IBED’s department of Theoretical and Computational Ecology.

Giulia Frezza (Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication, ACLC): Metaphorical Narratives in Dementia Discourse

Do we mean what we say? Two main metaphorical narratives are used in dementia discourse across different contexts as journalism, clinical practice, and between people living with dementia and their caregivers: ‘decline’ and ‘plasticity’ narratives. When we say that people living with dementia are ‘zombies’ or that they can ‘rewire their brain’ what are we implying? Giulia Frezza’s project analyses which scenarios such narratives entail for the different social agents involved and with which implications, risks and responsibilities for individual and social health.

Frezza will collaborate with Prof. Gerard Steen within the Metaphor Lab Amsterdam.

Elize Mazadiego (Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis, ASCA): Decentralising Conceptual Art's Internationalism: Latin American Artists in Western Europe, 1968-1979

Elize Mazadiego’s project aims to problematise conceptual art’s ‘internationalism’ and the persistent binary between Euro-American conceptual art and global conceptualism with a re-examination of the interregional flows and networks of production between the two. Mazadiego will comprehensively study transnational artists who fled from Latin American repressive political regimes to Western Europe between 1968-1979, yet conceivably moving in and out of Conceptualism’s centres. The aim of this research is to develop our understanding of Latin American conceptualist art practices as they developed and adapted in a diasporic context, with the objective to demonstrate the fundamental importance of these artists to the development of Conceptual art in Europe and its international context beyond the U.S.

Mazadiego will collaborate with Prof. Christa-Maria Lerm-Hayes within the Art History capacity group. She will also be affiliated with the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA). Mazadiego receives a Career Integration Grant.

Kenny Chun Yu Ng (Institute of Physics, IOP)Understanding the Peculiar Gamma-Ray Emission of the Sun

With space telescopes, we only recently gained the sensitivity to precisely study the gamma rays from the Sun, presumably caused by energetic cosmic particles (cosmic rays) bombarding the Sun. Surprisingly, many properties of these gamma rays are not yet explained. Kenny Chun Yu Ng plans to understand them through new observational and theoretical investigations, which will ultimately help us better understand the Sun itself and the solar system space environment. 

Ng will collaborate with Dr Shin'ichiro Ando at Gravitation and AstroParticle Physics Amsterdam (GRAPPA) and the UvA’s Institute of Physics.

Christin Scholz (Amsterdam School of Communication Research, ASCoR): When Public Health Campaigns Warn You, but Your Friends Like to Drink – Connecting Computational Social Science and Neuroscience to Understand Real-World Health Behaviour

Unhealthy behaviours burden global societies and are therefore targeted by public health media campaigns. In real life, health campaigns compete with other (un)healthy sources of influence (e.g. related media/peer-content). Understanding how decision-makers integrate competing sources of influence in daily life is crucial to understanding and improving health campaigns. Yet, people struggle to self-report such complex decision processes. Christin Scholz uses computational social science to objectively and unobtrusively quantify daily exposure to multiple sources of influence and identify neuropsychological processes that explain how these are integrated in daily decisions. 

Scholz will collaborate with Prof. Claes de Vreese, the Digital Communication Methods Lab and the Health Communication research group within ASCOR’s Persuasive Communication programme group.

Mikki Stelder (Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, ASCA): Maritime Imagination: A Cultural Oceanography of the Netherlands

Mikki Stelder will develop a cultural oceanography of Dutch maritime imagination. Her research will generate an innovative multi-era and interdisciplinary approach to the study of maritime worlds. Applying an oceanic perspective, her aim will be to show how a maritime frame – rather than a land-based frame – engenders new ways of theorising the formation of Dutch empire and colonialism and their intersecting socio-political, legal, environmental and economic discourses

Stelder heeft een Global Fellowship toegekend gekregen.Stelder has been awarded a Global Fellowship and will conduct her research at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (Prof. Mireille Rosello) in collaboration with the University of British Columbia (Prof. Renisa Mawani).

Ruben Zapata Perez (Amsterdam UMC): Enhancing brown adipose tissue through NAD+ precursors: a new approach to treat cardiometabolic disease

Type 2 diabetes is a disease that doctors currently class in the group cardiometabolic disease, a collective term for diseases such as diabetes, obesity or an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases due to high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels. Ruben Zapata Perez is investigating a possible new treatment for this group of diseases.

Zapata Perez is a postdoc at Amsterdam UMC where he collaborates with Prof. Riekelt Houtkooper.