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Veni grants for 19 young Leiden researchers

Nineteen researchers who have recently been awarded their PhD are to receive a Veni grant of up to 250,000 euros. Science funding agency NWO has awarded a total of 158 Venis in this round; Leiden University's share of the awards is 12 percent.

Of the nineteen Veni winners, seven work at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). Twelve of the Leiden recipients are men and seven women.  The Veni funding allows promising young scientists to further develop their ideas over a period of three years. 1056 researchers submitted an application. The 158 grants awarded represent an investment by NWO of 39.5 million euros in fundamental and curiosity-driven research.

Joost Schimmel, LUMC - Human Genetics

Polymerase Theta, an Achilles heel in cancer?
Incorrect repairs of breaks in chromosomes can cause serious illnesses, such as cancer. These errors can be caused by alternative DNA repair mechanisms in cells. Schimmel will be studying how the polymerase theta protein regulates this mechanism and whether inhibiting this protein can be used in treating cancer.

David Falck, LUMC - Centre for Proteomics and Metabolomics

Antibody receptor glycosylation and arthritis
David Falck will be designing an instrumental analysis that he can use to study proteins activated by antibodies. He hopes this will generate new insights into the molecular mechanism of arthritis that will lead to better diagnosis and treatment.

Alvaro Hacar, Leiden Observatory

ORION-4D: Towards a unified theory of low- and high-mass star formation
Are light stars like our Sun born in the same way as heavy stars in Orion? This is one of the big open questions in modern astrophysics. Hacar combines new radio observations of the Orion nebula with innovative analysis techniques. He tests, for example, critically differing theories and answers the question of how most stars in our Milky Way galaxy are formed.

Botond Szabó, Mathematical Institute

Bayesian uncertainty assessments in complex models
Bayesian uncertainty assessments are often used in practice in all kinds of different areas, including genetics, financial models, epidemiology and artificial intelligence. In some cases the result is fundamentally misleading. Szabó waims to determine those cases in which statements based on Bayesian uncertainty assessments are reliable.

Berthe Jansen, Area Studies

The interaction between religion and the law in Tibet
Monks wrote almost all the literature in pre-modern Tibet. The works were mainly religious and philosophical, but also related to secular matters such as the law. Jansen will be exploring how monastic Buddhism and the law influence one another. She will shed light on religious-secular exchanges, in the past and present.

Anne-Isabelle Richard, History

What did Africans think of Eurafrica? 1918 - the 1970sAfrica-Europe relations have been shaped in many ways. One of these is Eurafrica. It means that Africa-Europe relations are special: these continents complement and depend on each other. It has always been examined from a European perspective. The historian examines what Africans thought about it and how they used it.

Roos van Oosten, Archaeology

The myth of the dirty and unhealthy medieval town
Van Oosten wants to add some shades of meaning to the popular idea that medieval towns were dirtier and more unhealthy than early modern or 19th century towns. In her research she will chart the archaeological sanitary infrastructure - cesspits and wells - in four large pre-industrial towns. She will use historical GIS applications to analyse this infrastructure.

Marijn van Putten, Linguistics

Before the Grammarians: Arabic in the formative period of Islam.
After the birth of Islam, the Arabs rapidly conquered a large part of the world. As we have only written language available, we do not know how the language of these conquerors sounded. Van Putten studies Arabic language material in, for example, Greek and Hebrew scripts to find out how these people spoke.    

Maaike Warnaar-Schuitmaker, Institute for Area Studies

The familiar other: Cultural representations and Netherlands-Iran relations, 1959-1979 
Foreign policies are influenced by cultural images, and vice versa. Similarities in these images are at least as important as differences. The close Dutch-Iranian relations in the 1960s and 1970s are an excellent example of this. Warnaar's research bridges international relations and cultural imaging.

Davood Ghara Gozli, Cognitiee Psychology

Internal and External Sources of Action
Our actions are determined by what we observe in the environment (what is now present) and the changes that we want to bring about (that are not currently present ). Ghara Gozli will be studying the interacaion between these two sources. 

Corinna Jentzsch, Political Science

Pro-government militias and political order during civil war
Governments in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan have mobilised militias to defend the state and its citizens against armed revolt. The emancipataion of pro-government, armed groups has diverse consequences for security and political order in societies afected by conflict. Jentzsch studies the conditions in which cooperation between the state and militias supports political order.

Wouter Veenendaal, Political Science

Explaining political stability in small states
Why do small countries have more stable political systems than large countries, in spite of the weakness of the political structures and  strongly person-oriented politics? Veenendaal studies the effect of smallness of scale and informal relations on political stability and analyses how personal relations can contributee to the absence of political crises and violence.

Joris van der Voet, Public Administration

Innovation in times of cutbacks
The need for cutbacks can stimulate innovation in local municipalities, but they can also be a barrier to innovation. Van der Voet studies which strategies for cutbacks municipalities can use to maintain or even to strengthen their capacity for innovation. Joris van der Voet compaares Dutch municipalities with their equivalents in Spain and the United Kingdom. 

Scott Waitukaitus, Physics

Active bouncing balls with the Elastic Leiden Frost Effect
Everyone has seen water droplets junping in a hot pan. This is the Leiden frost effect. Waitukaitus will unravel how and why hydrogel particles bounce around in a hot pan. He will also design new particles so that he can use them to study active, collective dynamics.

Laila Ritsma, LUMC - Molecular Cell Biology

On walk-about: spying on skin cancer cells that have spread
If skin cancer cells spread to the liver, a cure is almost impossible. Ritsma wants to improve the effectiveness of a medicine (TGF-β inhibitor) that currently has only an average effect.  Using advanced microscopy she will chart which cells the medicine can better attack and at what point in time.

Diane van der Woude, LUMC – Rheumatology

Putting the heart into rheumatism
Rheumatism patients have a high risk of cardiovascular diseases. Van der Woude studies the link between these two types of illnesses. Specific substances in the blood of rheumatism patients are also present in the blood of heart patients. What do these markers tell us about how these two diseases originate and do they play a role in causing the diseases?

Ulrich Scherer, LUMC – Rheumatology

Keep on protecting! Removing derailed immune cells in auto-immune diseases
Our immune system is a powerful weapon. In rheumatoid arthritis immune cells that normally produce protective antibodies can become derailed. Scherer is searching for the Achilles heel in these derailed immune cells. He will be able to use this knowledge to remove these specific cells without compromising the protection of the immune system.

Elmar Tobi, LUMC 

When does gestational diabetes leave its mark?
Gestational diabetes increases the risk of a child suffering from obesity and diabetes. Diagnosis and treatment generally start halfway through the pregnancy. Is this early enough to prevent it having an effect on the child?  Tobi is studying whether gestational diabetes changes the metabolism as early as in the first trimester. He is also charting changes in metabolism at cell level.

Noel de Miranda, LUMC - Pathology

A new immune therapy for colon cancer
De Miranda recently discovered a new immune cell population with the potential of removing cancer cells that are not recognised by T-cells, one of the most important immune cells. De Miranda wants to characterise and test these new cells to see whether they can be used for a new immune therapy for cancer patients.

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