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14 Veni grants awarded to Leiden researchers

Fourteen promising researchers from Leiden University have been given the opportunity to realise their research plans for the coming years thanks to a Veni grant from the NWO. This year, these subsidies have been granted to studies of the influence of noise on the great tit, the conditions necessary for the evolution of life on planets, architecture in Paris and London, itching, and the role receptors play in the growth of cancer, among others.

Leiden Venis

The Veni grant is part of the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme of the NWO. This financing instrument offers researchers in various stages of their career an opportunity to finance new studies. The grant is open to scientists who have completed their PhD studies up to three years ago. The Veni grant consists of a maximum of €250,000, with 14 grants being distributed equally between male and female researchers in Leiden. The specialisms in which the researchers are found are diverse and include anything from art history to astronomy. In total, 161 researchers will receive a Veni grant this year.

Influence of noise on the processing of visual and spatial information 
Dr W. (Wouter) Halfwerk (m), Institute of Biology 

Animals are bothered by human noise, but the extent to which it influences them is uncertain. As part of this project, big tits will be monitored while looking for prey to find out how noise disrupts their ability to process visual and spatial information. Through this study, we will gain a better understanding of how species can adapt and what we can do to protect them from noise pollution.

A Novel Supramolecular System for Membrane Fusion and Biosensing 
Dr A.L. (Aimee) Boyle (f), Leiden Institute of Chemistry 

This project will use simple building blocks to develop a new supramolecular system with two distinct functions. It can be used to gain further understanding of membrane fusion, a crucial process in the human body. It can also be used as a biosensor to detect pollution in our water sources. 

The Inventory of Large Molecules in Protoplanetary Disks 
Dr A. (Alessandra) Candian (f), Leiden Observatory 

What conditions are crucial for the evolution of life on planets? Are these conditions already present in the areas where planets come into existence? I will be studying these questions through models that mimic the life and decay of large and smaller carbonaceous molecules in space.

Observing the Universe at the longest wavelengths 
Dr F. (Francesco) de Gasperin (m), Leiden Observatory  

Clusters of galaxies are the largest and most massive structures in the entire universe. In an effort to map the characteristics of these clusters and to further our understanding of how they came into existence, the proposed project will rely on LOFAR, ‘the Low Frequency Array’, a revolutionary new European radio telescope developed in the Netherlands. 

Unraveling Homer's Language 
Dr L.C. (Lucien) van Beek (m), Linguistics 

Ancient Greek author Homer composed his epics in an artificial language. According to linguists, that language was derived from a mixture of various Greek dialects. This project analyses the origins of possible dialect forms through a new model on how languages develop, and will use it to prove that Homer only relied on a single dialect. 

Paths through slavery: urban slave agency and empowerment in Suriname, 1700-1863 
Dr K.J. (Karwan) Fatah-Black (m), History 

Despite inhumanely difficult living conditions, some slave families in Paramaribo were able to improve their lives through their own efforts. Historians generally only look at slavery on plantations and at large scale resistance to slavery. In contrast, this project sheds light on how - usually female - slaves in the city found their way to liberty for themselves and their families, through personal relations, trade and even judicial hearings.

Experience and Design: The Emergence of Architectural Experience in Paris and London, 1750-1815 
Dr S.D. (Sigrid) de Jong (f), History of Art and Architecture 

How you experience buildings with all your senses and your entire body was first described in the eighteenth century. This project studies to what extent the experience of architecture influenced descriptions, theories and the design process in the two most important cultural centres of its time: Paris and London.

Landscapes of War in Roman Literature 
Dr B.L. (Bettina) Reitz-Joosse (f), Literary Studies

Veni, vidi, vici, Caesar proclaimed: I came, I saw, I conquered. But how did other Romans look back on all those wars? This project will show how Roman authors attached meaning to battles and how this contributed to the cultivation of thought processes surrounding man, violence and nature. 

Alcohol on Social Netwerk Sites 
Dr H (Hanneke) Hendriks (v), Social and Organisational Psychology 

This project studies how often and why adolescents talk about alcohol on Social Networking Sites (SNS), as well as the effects that these comments about alcohol on SNS have on alcohol consumption, and why and when these effects take place. An intervention plan will subsequently be developed and tested to counter the harmful effects of alcohol-related discourses on SNS.

Paying attention to itching 
Dr A.I.M. (Antoinette) van Laarhoven (f), Health, Medical and Neuropsychology 

Itching is hard to ignore and there are no effective treatment methods for chronic itching. Attention plays a critical role in chronic pain, but this characteristic has hardly been studied in the context of itching. This research project compares thought processes involved in pain and itching, as well as ways to change thought processes in both patients and healthy people. 

A better understanding of labour exploitation 
DrM.J. (Masja) van Meeteren (f), Criminology 

Since labour exploitation has been classified as human trafficking, new cases regularly surface. However, it’s still unclear exactly how labour exploitation takes shape. What types of labour exploitation are there and how can we understand them? These questions will be answered through a newly developed research plan that pays attention to both the employers and the victims.

Taking Pictures of Free-flying Electrons 
Dr J. (Johannes) Jobst (m), Physics 

In graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms, electrons travel large distances without changing direction. The researcher will use a novel microscopy technique to study how these free-flying electrons behave when the devices are switched on and off.

New role for receptors in cancer 
Dr G.J.P. (Gerard) van Westen (m), LACDR/Drug & Target Discovery  Cluster  

Cancer has become the leading cause of death in the Netherlands. Research has shown that so-called receptors present in cancer tissue have often been altered. Receptors are the most important type of ‘target proteins’, to which medicine used for other illnesses attach themselves. In this ‘computational project’, the role of receptors in the growth of cancerous will be is studied and exploited.

Stress, steroids and poor eyesight 
Dr C.J.F. (Camiel) Boon (m), LUMC - Opthalmology 

Central serous retinopathy (CSC) is a relatively common eye disease that is associated with the use of corticosteroids and stress (‘manager’s disease’). Little is known about how CSC develops, while there are few treatment options. In this study, I will look for the genetic factors in CSC and their consequences on a cellular level, as well as improved treatment options. 

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