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The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded a prestigious Vici grant worth 1.5 million euros to five researchers from the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research

The grant will enable the researchers to conduct research and create their own research group during the coming five years. A Vici grant is one of the largest personal academic grants in the Netherlands and forms part of the NWO’s Vernieuwingsimpuls programme. The NWO awarded a total of 36 Vici grants within this allocation round, which saw 216 researchers submit a proposal.

The recipients

Prof. Connie Bezzina, professor of Molecular Cardiogenetics: Cracking the Molecular Underpinnings of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden heart failure caused by cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) is one of the leading causes of death in Western countries. The risk of acute heart failure is to a large extent determined by hereditary factors. In her project, Bezzina will seek to unravel the complex hereditary underpinnings of sudden cardiac arrest with a view to developing strategies for diagnosis, risk stratification and treatment.    

Prof. Femius Koenderink, professor by special appointment of Physics: Hybrid Nanophotonic Architectures for Ultrafast Quantum Optics

The fact that a single molecule can emit, absorb or scatter a single photon underpins the way we observe and illuminate our world, as well as send one another classical or quantum-secured information. In Koenderink’s research, a cross-fertilisation of miniature halls of mirrors and radio antennas will enable ultra-fast, ultra-efficient and ultra-broadband information processing on a nanoscale with packets of single photons. Koenderink will conduct his research at the FOM Institute AMOLF.  

Prof. Florian Schreck, professor of Experimental Quantum Physics: From the NeverEnding Atom Laser to the Ultimate Clock

Atoms aren’t merely particles but also waves. Schreck will use this quality to build an eternal atom laser. He will then use this laser to construct the ultimate clock: an optic laser with unheard of stability.

Dr Frank Takken, assistant professor of Molecular Plant Pathology: DNA Damage and Plant Immunity; An Ancient Link, a Novel Paradigm. Elucidating the Activity of NLR-type Immune Receptors in the Plant Nucleus

Plants are the most important source of nutrition for humans and animals. Despite plants’ advanced immune systems, 35% of the worldwide potential yields are lost as a result of diseases. Takken wishes to understand how plants activate their defence system when perceiving pathogens. This knowledge will make it possible to better protect plants against pathogens.

Prof. Herman van de Werfhorst, professor of Sociology: Between Institutions and Social Mechanisms: Education and Inequality in Comparative Perspective

The way an education system is arranged is related to students’ educational performance and inequalities in education. Comparative research between countries does not focus enough on the micro-mechanisms that explain how it happens that system characteristics with these outcomes are related. Van de Werfhorst will study how education system characteristics can strengthen or weaken microprocesses in families and schools, and how these system characteristics emerged and are legitimised.