This round involves grants in the domains of Science (ENW), Applied and Engineering Sciences (AES), Social Science and Humanities (SSH), and Healthcare Research (ZonMw). NWO awarded 97 grants out of a total of 551 applications.
Together with Veni and Vici grants, the Vidi grants are part of the NWO Talent Programme. NWO bases its selection on the scientific quality and innovative nature of the research proposal, the scientific and/or societal impact of the proposed project, and the calibre of the researcher.
The UvA and Amsterdam UMC laureates
- Dr Silke Allmann (Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences): Volatile perception in plants
Plants under attack are able to emit large amounts of volatiles into the air. These volatiles can profoundly change the behaviour of nearby insects and plants, but the underlying mechanisms are largely unknown. In her project, Allmann’s goal is to unravel the molecular mechanisms of green leaf volatile perception in plants and what this means for the plant itself and the interaction between plant and insect.
- Dr Lieuwe Bos (Amsterdam UMC, location AMC): Navigating treatment response in acute respiratory distress syndrome using a biological compass
At the moment there is no effective treatment of acute respiratory failure. Around 1 in 3 people who experience respiratory failure now die. This is due to our lack of understanding what changes in the body are beneficial or harmful when drugs are administered. Bos will study which changes enable better survival rates among patients and how this information can be used to conduct better research and improve personal care.
- Dr. Lemeng Dong (Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences: Decoding an interkingdom hybrid chemical language (DECODE)
Organisms interact with their surroundings through intricate signalling webs using chemical language. In this project, Lemen Dong will DECODE a hybrid chemical language jointly made by plants and their associated microbes, but hijacked by parasitic nematodes. She will uncover how this language is created, who is listening to it, and what its fitness benefit is. Dong anticipates discovering an entirely new, important and evolutionary conserved, signalling molecule that is involved in the plant-beneficial microbe-nematode interaction.
- Dr Gaurav Dugar (Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences): Journey through the world of RNA connections
RNA is a central molecule of life which carries genetic information from DNA to make proteins. But Some RNA molecules do not code for a protein. Instead, they interact with other RNA molecules to alter their function. These RNA-RNA interactions are important in regulating protein synthesis during cell development and adaptation to changing environments. The discovery of such RNA-RNA interactions remains challenging. Dugar’s proposed research uses an innovative approach to identify all RNA-RNA interactions in bacteria. This method will make it possible to study new modes of RNA-based regulation and their regulatory role during bacterial infection.
- Dr Joep Grootjans (Amsterdam UMC, location AMC): Abdominal cavity immune cells facilitate cancer cells
Peritoneal metastasized colorectal cancer responds poorly to systemic therapy and therefore results in a very high mortality rate. In this project, Grootjans will study whether interfering with peritoneal immune cells that facilitate cancer cells will improve the response to therapy, and ultimately patient survival.
- Dr Seval Gündemir (Psychology Research Institute): A wolf in sheep's clothing: hidden resistance to diversity and inclusion initiatives
Organisations annually spend billions on diversity and inclusion initiatives to attract and nurture talent from underrepresented groups. However, these initiatives rarely achieve their intended goals. Gündemir’s research examines covert employee resistance as a possible overlooked mechanism that explains the failure of these initiatives and explores possible interventions to limit (the impact of) such resistance.
- Dr Oliver Gurney-Champion (Amsterdam UMC, location AMC): Taking a closer look at tumours
If doctors can see what happens in tumours at the microscopic level before and during anti-cancer treatment, they can tailor the treatment to the specific tumour accordingly. A technique called quantitative MRI makes it possible to measure tumour microstructure such as cell density and blood circulation. However, current quantitative MRI approaches give poor images that are deformed, blurry and inaccurate. That’s why Gurney-Champion will develop a novel artificial intelligence-based approach that will produce clear, sharp and accurate images.
- Dr Nordin Hanssen (Amsterdam UMC, location AMC): Methylglyoxal stress in the gut microbiome and human metabolic disease: two sides of the same coin?
Why do people increasingly develop diabetes with associated complications that may lead to blindness, cardiovascular disease and amputations? In this project, Hanssen investigates whether metabolism of the toxic sugar metabolite methylglyoxal mediates an interaction between the gut microbiome and the human host, driving the diabetes pandemic. He uses a combination of clinical cohorts and laboratory studies to gain a deeper understanding into the role microbial methylglyoxal metabolism plays in human health.
- Dr Marij Hillen (Amsterdam UMC, location AMC): Discussing the unknown - an interdisciplinary perspective on communicating uncertainty in health care
Uncertainty is everywhere in healthcare, ranging from unclear screening results and ambiguous diagnoses to unpredictable treatment effects. Nowadays, healthcare professionals need to discuss such uncertainties with patients, but they lack guidance in the best way to do this without having an adverse effect on patients. Hillen will map the most effective ways clinicians can discuss uncertainty with patients in multiple clinical contexts. The research will result in practice recommendations and training interventions to support healthcare professionals and patients in recognising, discussing and managing uncertainty.
- Dr Elena Rampanelli (Amsterdam UMC, location AMC): A natural metabolite to treat diabetes
Type 1 and 2 diabetes (T1D, T2D) are highly prevalent diseases, representing a huge burden to the healthcare system. Systemic inflammation as well as malfunction of the pancreatic beta-cells, which produce insulin, is among the primary causes of T1D and T2D. Rampanelli’s research group has discovered a new natural metabolite which is produced by gut bacteria. This metabolite can counteract inflammation as well as stimulate the function of beta-cells. Rampanelli will now investigate if this metabolite can be used as a new natural therapeutic agent against the progression of T1D and T2D.
- Dr Rahil Roodsaz (Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research): Rhythms of Love: Enduring Romantic Relationships at Midlife in Contemporary Western Europe
Maintaining romantic love can be challenging when people reach midlife, a time when they face mortality and reflect on lost alternatives. In this ethnographic project, Roodsaz investigates the daily rhythms of enduring love in midlife among Western Europeans of diverse backgrounds. She asks how people keep love alive at midlife while simultaneously facing societal challenges: work pressure, parenting expectations, multiple care responsibilities, fear of commitment, and fear of missing out. The insights will enable a (re)consideration of dominant notions of temporality and the good life.
- Prof. Paul Smeets (Amsterdam Business School): What drives professional investors to finance the climate transition?
To reach net-zero emissions by 2050, an additional $3.5 trillion in investment is required every year. Professional investors (e.g. financial analysts, investment managers, CFOs) are the gatekeepers to most of this capital. Yet, existing research mainly focuses on retail investors. Smeets' project will identify the key financial and psychological factors that influence the sustainable investment decisions of professional investors. These novel insights will give policymakers the tools to develop better regulations to help prevent greenwashing and to create public-private partnerships with professional investors. This is key to unlocking the capital critical for reaching net-zero emissions.
- Dr Andrew Yates (Informatics Institute): IDEAS: Incremental Dense Representations
Modern content-based search and recommendation systems take a piece of text as an input, such as a web page or a job posting, and create a representation of this entire text. This is used to generate results and recommendations based on the user’s query. This approach works well, but it lacks control over how parts of the input text influence the resulting representation. Yates proposes a paradigm where information is incrementally added into a representation piece-by-piece. This control can improve result quality and enable analysis of the content inside a representation, allowing us to look for harmful content like biases.