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18 Veni subsidies for Leiden, 8 for our faculty!

This year, NWO has awarded a Veni subsidy to 143 young researchers who have recently obtained their PhD. 17 of these researchers are at Leiden University and one works at the LUMC. The successful applicants will each receive 250,000 euro to develop their ideas and carry out research over a period of three years.


From this year, more funds are available for the Veni, Vidi and Vici subsidies; both the amount per subsidy and the number of subsidies have been increased. Whereas in previous years, some 115 researchers received a Veni subsidy, this year that number has increased to 143: a 20% increase. In total 809 researchers submitted a research proposal to NWO. Their applications were assessed by Dutch and international scientists. Among the winners there are 47 women.  Of the 18 Leiden Veni winners, six are women, which reflects the national trend. 

Knowledge exploitation

As a  new feature in 2009, researchers were able to devote a paragraph in their proposal to the possible exploitation of their research findings. In the assessment, this paragraph only counted if it had a positive influence on the proposal. Some 700 applicants included such a paragraph, and for 37 of the 143 winners, the paragraph had a positive influence on the proposal. A third of the proposals were awarded following an interdisciplinary assessment in domain panels. 


In spite of the high number of awards, many good researchers were unsuccessful as NWO received an unusually high number of applications this year and was therefore obliged to apply strict selection criteria.  Those researchers whose proposals were not accepted will have to wait until next year to make another attempt to acquire a Veni subsidy.  

The Leiden Veni awards

Marion Elenbaas – LUCL/English 
The historic development of light verbs
Liight verbs hardly have any meaning and have characteristics of both independent verbs and verbs used as auxiliaries.  This research will study the historic development of light verbs in West German languages, with the aim of gaining insight into the status of these verbs.  

Paul van Els – Leiden Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) 
Reasoning using anecdotes
Thinkers in Ancient China who wanted to influence those in power, often referred to events from the past. Historic anecdotes were consequently remarkably important in political-philosophical argumentation. This research studies the rhetorical function and cultural significance of such anecdotes.  

Muriel Hagenaars – Department of Clinical, Health and Neuropsychology 
Frozen with terror: a study of freezing
When under threat of acute danger or trauma, people can respond in one of three ways: fight, flight or freeze. The researchers will look at what causes a person to freeze during a trauma and what the consequences are in terms of handling trauma.  

Willemijn Heeren – Phonetics 
Melodies in whispers
In speech, melody is determined by the speed at which our vocal chords vibrate.  We can use this melody to ask questions, stress particular words or show emotion.  When we whisper, our vocal chords do not vibrate. Can we still use melody? If so, how?   Rivke Jaffe – Cultural Anthropology and Developmental Sociology
Between state and street
Who do the inhabitants of Caribbean slums go to when they need help? This research looks at how criminal organisations take over the role of the state, and how citizens, the state and criminal bosses experience such alternative power structures. 

Maartje Janse – History
The invention of pressure groups 
British, Irish and American reformers between 1820 amd 1840 developed the technique of mass politics, in pressure groups against slavery and alcohol abuse, for example. Why were these first pressure groups so controversial? Studies of digitised newspapers show that contemporaries realised that the invention of pressure groups would bring democracy irrevocably close. This was a development not everyone was in favour of. 

Anders Johansen – Sterrewacht
The Many Scales of Planet Formation 
Planets are formed in discs of gas around young stars when dust particles stick together and grow into ever larger objects. This research aims to understand how the turbulent movement of the gas influences the formation, development and spinning of young planets.  

Casper de Jonge – Greek and Latin Languages and Cultures
The sublime in context
In the ancient world, literary texts that overwhelmed or inspired the reader used to be referred to as 'sublime'. Longinus wrote a tract on the sublime that influenced many modern thinkers. This research reconstructs the intellectual context of Longinus and his concept of the sublime.  

Vladimir Juricic – Lorentz Institute
Exploring curved graphene 
Graphene is a layer of carbon, one atom thick, in a honeycomb grid. The material is not completely flat; rather it is wrinkled and has the same shortcomings as the grid. Juricic will be studying the characteristics of graphene. He wants to find out whether new quantum phases can be realised in the presence of these wrinkles and shortcomings of the grid.  

Rob Lane – Department of Medicinal Chemistry 
Analysing a new focal point in Parkinson's disease
There is a particular protein in the brain that plays a significant role in Parkinson's disease. In this project, the researchers will study how this protein works. They hope to use the findings to develop  new medicines.  

Zunfeng Liu – Chemistry 
Fishing with nano-rods
If researchers want to understand the structure of the molecular motors of life, they will first have to be able to isolate them from living cells. In my project, I aim to develop a new method of achieving this, using nanotubes as rods.  

Christoph Pieper – Greek and Latin Language and Culture 
Eloquent aristocrats in imperial Rome
Eloquence was a key skill for aristocrats in their political career in imperial Rome. But why was this the case? This project asks why the ideal of eloquence, as developed in the Roman republic, was still successful in the imperial period.  

Karin Pike-Overzet – Immunohaematology and the bloodbank 
Reprogramming gene therapy 
Errors in genetic material can cause fatal diseases, including serious immune conditions. If a single gene causes the illness, repair is possible using gene therapy. The researcher reprogrammes cells to stem cells of the immune system so that immune diseases can be repaired at source.  

Benjamin van Rooij – Faculty of Law
Reorienting Global Risk Regulation: Matching Regulatory Instruments and Enforcement Environmental pollution, unsafe working conditions or toxic foodstuffs: all these are dangers that are difficult to control, and that constitute an increasing problem in developing economies such as China, India and Brazil. A key problem is that laws are not firmly enforced in these countries and rules are frequently breached. This project investigates what combination of rules and implementation mechanisms can work  in these contexts.  

Lenny Taelman – Mathematical Institute
Special Values and t-Motives 
Difficult mathematical questions on such topics as prime numbers or the existence of whole solutions for equations are often easier to understand when they are viewed in terms of geometry. In this study, problems of 'special values' will be approached from the viewpoint of geometry.  

Brian Tighe – Physics 
Floppiness and Flow
Shaving foam and mayonnaise are unusual solids because they are 'floppy': they make complicated, collective motions that avoid squeezing bubbles or droplets together. This project will show how floppy rearrangements make foams and emulsions unusual fluids when forced to flow. 

Maurijn van der Zee – Evolution biology
Serosa: the key to success? 
Insects are the most successful group of animals on the earth. Researchers will be studying the flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, to see whether the protective membrane around their eggs, the serosa, has played a role in this wonder of evolution.  

Peter Zijlstra – Huygens Laboratory
Probing the inside of a living cell with an optically trapped gold nanorod
Mechanical processes in a cell, such as the absorption of molecules in bubbles, often occur on a scale of just a few tens of nanometers. The researchers are intending to use a small gold nanorod in an optical trap to measure these forces in a living cell. 

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