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Physics research at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) has received an enormous boost with the award of a new grant worth 18.3 million euros from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO ) as part of its 'Gravitation Programme’. The money will be used for research into different forms of matter.

The research will be headed by Erik Verlinde, professor of Theoretical Physics at the UvA, in close cooperation with fellow UvA professor of Theoretical Physics Jan de Boer, and is a collaboration between scientists from the UvA, Leiden University and Utrecht University. The research will be conducted within the newly formed Delta Institute for Theoretical Physics (ITP-D).


The main focus will be on big questions about matter at length scales ranging from atoms and molecules to stars and galaxies. These challenging theoretical questions relate to forms of matter, yet to be understood, which have been observed in both laboratories and in the universe. Examples of unanswered questions to be addressed include:

  •  the origin of the invisible 'dark matter';
  • an explanation for superconductivity at high temperature;
  • the development of building blocks for a quantum computer.


‘My co-applicants and I are extremely pleased with this NWO grant for theoretical physics,’ stated Verlinde. ‘Thanks to this grant, we can dedicate ourselves to tackling these unanswered questions about the origin and properties of matter. At the same time, we will create a vibrant research environment for young researchers which will occupy a prominent place internationally.

Two other research projects awarded grants

The UvA is also involved in two other research projects that have received awards from the NWO. University Professor Johan van Benthem is going to conduct research as part of the project ‘Language in Interaction', under the leadership of Radboud University Nijmegen. This group will examine language at genetic and cognitive levels, as well as dealing with how it relates to social interaction and linguistic structures.


In addition, Patti Valkenburg, UvA Professor of Youth and Media, will be involved in conducting research into the development of children. The scientists will look at the role of the development of the brain, how children’s’ opportunities are affected by their parents or grandparents, and how we can help children to develop better. Utrecht University is the lead organisation for this research project.

About the Gravitation Programme

The contribution is part of the NWO’s Gravitation Programme, funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW). A total of six research teams from various Dutch universities will receive money for the next ten years in order to jointly set up excellent scientific research programmes. The newly appointed Minister of Education, Culture and Science Jet Bussemaker has made 167 million euros available for this purpose.


The OCW and NWO have given new impetus to cooperation at the highest scientific levels with the introduction of the Gravitation Programme. The establishment of these excellent research groups should lead to a higher public profile for top-quality research in the Netherlands.