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The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded prestigious Consolidator Grants to six researchers at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Amsterdam Medical Center (AMC-UvA). The recipients are astronomer Joeri van Leeuwen, anthropologist Amade M’charek, medical anthropologist Vinh-Kim Nguyen, physicist Florian Schreck, theoretical computer scientist Ronald de Wolf and medical biochemist Noam Zelcer.

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The grants, totalling between 1,5 million euros and 2 million euros for each project, will enable researchers to establish themselves as independent research leaders. ERC Consolidator Grants are meant for young researchers who obtained their PhD between 7 and 12 years ago.


Dr Joeri van Leeuwen (Astronomical Institute Anton Pannekoek)

The Apertif-LOFAR Exploration of the Radio Transient Sky - €2,000,000

Van Leeuwen will perform research into unexplained radio flashes. Throughout the universe, there is a continuous burst of extremely short and bright radio flashes. Some of these flashes are emitted by pulsars, which function as galactic lighthouses. Others, however, originate from far outside our solar system, and are believed to be caused by enormous explosions. The exact reason for these explosions is still unclear. Van Leeuwen will assemble a team of young researchers with whom he will investigate these mysterious bursts. Van Leeuwen’s team will perform their research at the UvA and the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON), and will make use of the Westerbork and LOFAR radio telescopes.

Dr Amade M’charek (Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research)

Race Matter: On the Absent Presence of Race in Forensic Identification (RaceFaceID) - € 2,000,000 

In her ethnographic study on race in forensic practice, M’charek will examine how identification technologies shape ‘race’. The emphasis will be on so-called ‘face-making’ in forensic identification: the reconstruction of unknown people’s faces. Mcharek’s primary research aim will be to develop methods and theoretical concepts with which to understand the simultaneous presence and absence of ‘race’ in society. By taking into account biological factors, this research project will go beyond the social constructivist paradigm and unravel the ways in which ‘race’ is constructed as a set of relations between the biological, the social and the technical.    

Dr Vinh-Kim Nguyen MD (Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research)

Eradication: the Science and Politics of ‘A World Without AIDS'-€2,000,000  

New biomedical technologies and public health strategies are being tested worldwide in an effort to eradicate the HIV epidemic. Mass treatment and preventative drugs require high levels of compliance to achieve the desired public health effects. Intensified mapping of ‘most at-risk populations’ marks a shift from the existing emphasis on rights and empowerment to one of surveillance and discipline. The effort to eradicate HIV is a public health experiment of unprecedented proportions, the outcomes of which will shape global health efforts for decades to come. Nguyen will explore the aims of HIV eradication efforts, and the reasons behind the outcome, be it partial success or partial failure. While doing so, Nguyen will carry out an ethnographic study in Africa, Europe and North America, which will be performed within the UvA’s research priority area 'Global Health'.

Prof. Florian Schreck (Institute of Physics)

Quantum-Degenerate Strontium: Mixtures, Molecules and Many-Body Physic - €1,800,000 

Florian Schreck’s project is focused on the quantum mechanics of so-called ‘many-particle’ systems. These systems exhibit behaviour that cannot simply be deduced from the equations describing the individual particles. Seeing that even the most advanced computers are unable to do so, Schreck will study these systems experimentally. The project will be performed within the UvA’s research priority area ‘Quantum Matter and Quantum Information’.

Prof. Ronald de Wolf (Institute for Logic Language and Computation)

Progress in Quantum Computing: Algorithms, Communication and Applications - €1,500,000 

For his project, De Wolf will seek to find and expand the boundaries of quantum algorithms and communication protocols. He will hereby aim to learn more about the possible applications of quantum computers, such as algorithms for multi-core quantum computers and the use of quantum entanglement in communication. In addition, De Wolf will use new and existing quantum techniques to shed fresh light on classical problems in mathematics and physics. The research will be performed at the Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica (CWI).

Dr Noam Zelcer (AMC)

The Making and Breaking of Ubiquitin Chains in Lipid Metabolism - €2,000,000

Disturbed lipid metabolism plays an important role in the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). To achieve new and improved treatment methods, it is vital that the mechanisms which influence cellular and whole-body lipid metabolism are identified and characterised. The so-called ubiquitin proteasomal system (UPS), which is involved in all cellular processes, has been thoroughly examined with regard to cancer and inflammation. However, much less is known about its contribution to the adaptive regulation of lipid metabolism and the way this system may be deregulated in CVD. Through his research, Zelcer hopes to gain new insights about the way in which UPS contributes to lipid metabolism in health and disease.