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The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded Veni grants to twenty-eight recent doctoral recipients, enabling them to conduct research at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) or the UvA's Academic Medical Center (AMC-UvA). This figure is much higher than last year's, when nineteen UvA and AMC-UvA researchers were awarded Veni grants.

Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research

Dymph van den Boom, Rector Magnificus of the UvA: ‘We are extremely happy that research proposals from such a large number of disciplines have been accepted. It is fitting for a large-scale research university, and this record number is proof that research at the UvA is of a very high standard.’

A total of 1086 researchers applied for a Veni grant from the NWO this year. A total of 152 applications were accepted after having been assessed by a panel of scientists from the Netherlands and abroad. Each researcher will receive an amount of €250,000, which will allow them to conduct research for a period of three years.

Research with an impact on society

The Veni grants represent a wide range of academic disciplines. A large number of the studies are directly related to current social issues, with researchers examining the causes of social isolation, rhythm in language development and intellectual property law, among other things. Other projects delve into gender differences in career choices, quantification in the form of 'Likes' on social media (among other forms) and the development of the universe.

Accepted projects

Economics and Business

  • Dr Thomas Buser (Economics of Markets and Organisations): Using behavioural economics to understand gender differences in career choices
    Men like to compete more than women, and Buser plans to investigate the causes behind this difference between the genders as well as its consequences. Could this account for the gender discrepancies in academic and vocational career choices? Could gender differences in responding to feedback offer an explanation? And do women experience more stress from competitive pressure than men?  

Humanities

  • Dr Paul Bijl (Dutch Literature): Contested letters from the Dutch East Indies: the transcultural appropriations of Kartini's writings since 1911
    The Dutch letters written by Kartini (1879-1904), a Javanese woman, have been translated into eight languages, and yet have remained excluded from the Dutch literary canon. In his project, Bijl will research how Kartini's letters have been used in Asia and in the west to describe visions on the role of women during both the colonial and post-colonial periods.
  • Dr Marjolijn Bol (Art History): Deceiving stuff: histories, functions, techniques, and effects of material mimesis
    In our day-to-day lives, we are surrounded by deceptive materials: laminate floors pretending to be wood, and the plastic kitchen bench that looks like marble. This project examines the function and impact of this practice of material imitation within the history of art and science.
  • Dr Carolin Gerlitz (Media Studies): Numbering life. Metrics and measures in digital media
    Gerlitz researches the increasing quantification of social and cultural life within social media, and the effects thereof. Quantification occurs in the form of counting friends or 'Likes', popularity lists and algorithms. Such figures not only measure people's social lives, but also transform them, making it possible for third parties to assign economic value to social-media activities.
  • Dr Djoeke van Netten (History): Hide and leak. Secrecy and openness in overseas companies in the Dutch Golden Age
    Secrets generate power, fear and desire. How did the Dutch overseas trading companies (the Dutch East and West India Companies (VOC and WIC)) deal with confidentiality and openness? Van Netten examines the seventeenth-century practice of covering up and revealing information by seamen, merchants, scientists and administrators. And how were spies, traitors and snitches dealt with?

Medicine (AMC-UvA)

  • Dr Geert Boink (Cardiology): Biological pacemakers based on gene therapy
    In the Netherlands, thousands of pacemakers are implanted each year. Despite the success of this kind of treatment, it still has significant shortcomings. In his project, Boink plans to search for solutions by developing biological pacemakers based on a new type of gene therapy.
  • Dr Nienke Bosschaart (Biomedical Technology and Physics):Readings without needles
    Ill or premature babies sometimes require multiple needles per day in order to take blood tests. The aim of Bosschaart's research is to take the same readings in a non-invasive manner (i.e. needle-free) using a new technology: low-coherence spectroscopy.
  • Dr Jan van den Bossche (Medical Biochemistry): Stop the big eaters, stop ASVD
    The word 'macrophage' means 'big eater'. Macrophages destroy germs, however during ASVD (atherosclerosis, or calcification of arteries) they consume too much fat. This results in local accumulations of fat and inflammation of the walls of the blood vessels. As part of this research, the energy metabolism of macrophages will be altered in order to reduce the degree of calcification.
  • Dr Bianca Buurman (Geriatrics): Why do the elderly take so long to recover after hospital?
    Elderly people who are admitted to hospital for acute treatment often leave the hospital in poor condition and take a long time to recover. In her research, Buurman will examine why this is the case, as well as the psychological impact of a hospital stay and the potential for rehabilitation.
  • Dr Frank Coumans (Biomedical Technology and Physics): ExoFlow: learning to listen to whispering cells
    Cells in our body can communicate with each other via 'speech bubbles' in our blood. As part of this project, Coumans will develop technology for distinguishing the 'speech bubbles' from the 'background noise'. This will make it possible to interpret the 'speech bubbles' and detect serious illnesses at an earlier stage.
  • Dr Raphaël Duivenvoorden (Vascular Medicine): Nano 'postcode' therapies for ASVD
    Local inflammations in the walls of blood vessels play a key role in the development of atherosclerosis (ASVD), but are currently untreatable. Duivenvoorden plans to develop a kind of nanotherapy that will enable the targeted administration of powerful anti-inflammatory medication to ASVD sites in the body.
  • Dr Marc Engelen (Paediatric Neurology): A crystal ball for adrenoleukodystrophy
    Some patients with adrenoleukodystrophy, a metabolic disease, suffer from neurological anomalies. One major problem with treatment is that doctors cannot predict which patients these will be. Engelen is searching for predictors (through MRI and blood testing) to help improve treatment.
  • Dr Raph Hamers (Global Health): New challenge for HIV in Africa: exacerbated immune activation during antiretroviral treatment; biomarkers and health impact
    Thanks to HIV-inhibitors, HIV has now become a chronic disease, even in Africa. Hamers is researching how the activity and functioning of the immune systems of HIV-positive patients undergoing treatment is affected by tuberculosis, hepatitis B and antiviral drugs; the associated health effects; and new ways of measuring the immune response in the blood.
  • Dr Jarom Heijmans (Liver and intestinal research): Intestinal stem cells averse to stress
    Intestinal stem cells and intestinal tumours disappear under protein stress. Heijmans plans to research healthy intestines and intestinal tumours to find out why, in the hope of discovering a way to treat intestinal tumours.
  • Dr Eva Velthorst (Psychiatry): No man is an island
    Social isolation is a serious problem for sufferers of psychotic disorders, and social reclusion can have particularly disastrous consequences during adolescence, when the first psychotic symptoms start to emerge. Using innovative techniques, Velthorst is researching the various causes of social reclusion among these young people.

Social and Behavioural Sciences

  • Dr Orhan Agirdag (Educational Sciences): Educational inequality and language
    Pupils whose native language is not Dutch do worse at school than their native Dutch-speaking counterparts. Agirdag is researching why this is the case. Do all non-Dutch speaking pupils do worse? And is language inequality exacerbated by aspects of the schools and education systems? These questions are not only relevant from an academic perspective, but also offer practical solutions for parents, teachers and policymakers.
  • Dr Angélique Cramer (Psychometrics): Network psychometrics: methods for exposing the architecture and dynamics of mood disorders
    According to the network approach, a psychological disorder is the result of interactions between symptoms (e.g. feeling gloomy and worrisome). In this study, Cramer is researching methods for the construction and further analysis of these networks. Next, the networks of patients with mood disorders are investigated, e.g. to determine whether it is possible to predict when a patient might relapse.
  • Dr Caroline Junge (Developmental Psychology): Listen to your mother! Elucidating the role of speaker familiarity in initial word learning
    In her research, Junge examines whether a familiar voice helps babies to learn words. If this is the case, is it because babies listen more attentively, or because they find the voice more pleasant to listen to, or both? She is also studying whether a familiar voice influences word-learning in babies who are at greater risk of developing autism.
  • Dr Mariska Kret (Professional and Organisational Psychology): Role of pupil-synchronization in trust
    When deciding whether or not to trust a stranger, we use our intuition. The size of someone's pupils is an important signal, and is picked up by observers whose pupils synchronise automatically. Kret's research is aimed at the relationship between pupil synchronisation and trust, and the neurohormonal processes that modulate this relationship.
  • Dr Sofie Marien (Political Science): The quality of political debate and political trust
    Both Dutch scientists and the general population are concerned about the deterioration of manners in society. In this project, Marien will investigate whether the quality of political debate in the media is declining (as is often claimed), and what the consequences are for trust in the political sphere.
  • Dr Emily Yates-Doerr (Anthropology): When global health meets local development: a case study of the 'First 1000 Days of Life'-intervention in Guatemala
    The United Nations intends to link healthcare to a focus on development and sustainability, starting with projects for children during the first 1000 days after their conception by improving nutrition for mothers. Yates-Doerr will travel to the Guatemalan highlands to study how this global policy is reflected in local situations.
  • Dr Luara Leite Ferracioli (Political Science): Asylum theory for a non-ideal world
    In this project, Ferracioli will research questions such as: Who are refugees? Why do states have obligations towards them, and how can the costs of protection be divided fairly among nation states? The aim of the study is to develop a theory that can pave the way towards more desirable and effective regulations for the protection of refugees.

Science 

  • Dr Silke Allmann (Plant Physiology): Z/E-conversion of hexenal as modulator of insect physiology and plant-herbivore interactions
    When under stress, plants emit a green aroma compound into the air called Z-3-hexenal. Caterpillars that eat plants convert this substance into E-2-hexenal. Allman studies why caterpillars make this conversion, and what the precise physiological and ecological consequences are for both plant and caterpillar.
  • Dr Adam Ingram (Astronomy): Einstein's Frame Dragging effect around galactic black holes
    According to the theory of General Relativity, black holes distort the space that surrounds them. A similar effect can be observed in water flowing down a drain. Astronomer Adam Ingram will study this effect by observing gases being drawn into black holes that are located within our own Milky Way galaxy.
  • Dr Ran Ni (Chemistry): Glass transition and crystallization of active colloidal swimmers
    Unlike passive matter, active matter is able to convert organic/chemical energy into motion, giving rise to a range of striking new phenomena. Ni studies dynamic phase transition in systems of active matter using computer simulations, in particular those of glass transition and crystallisation.
  • Dr Benjamin Pasquiou (Physics): The infinite atomic laser
    Atoms exist not only as particles, but also as waves. Just as with light, it is therefore also possible to build atomic lasers. Recent discoveries by researchers have removed the biggest obstacles to building this infinite atomic laser. Pasquiou will construct the laser, and use it to make extremely accurate measurements.
  • Dr Fabio Zandanel (Astronomy): Monsters unveiled: cosmic rays and dark matter in clusters of galaxies
    How did the universe develop? And what exactly is dark matter? Zandanel looks into these questions using the largest structures in the universe: galactic clusters. Consisting of hundreds of galaxies and with a mass of a million billion times that of the sun, they may well be the key to finding answers.

Law 

  • Dr Stef van Gompel (Information Law): The challenge of evidence-based intellectual property law reform: legal pragmatism meets doctrinal legal reasoning
    Legislation policy surrounding intellectual property law traditionally takes a very dogmatic approach. In his research, Van Gompel identifies ways of improving the foundations for intellectual property law using an empirically substantiated approach. He makes concrete suggestions for the development of empirically substantiated policy that unify the traditional legal doctrinal approach with a more legal pragmatic one.