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5 Grants for Leiden Physics in 10 years ERC

This weeks marks the 10th anniversary of the European Research Council. For the past decade, the council has contributed to many scientific projects all over Europe, including Leiden University. It has funded almost 7,000 researchers, leading to just short of 100,000 scientific articles. A total of fifty ERC subsidies have been granted to Leiden scientists. Five of those went to physics research groups.

Tjerk Oosterkamp was awarded an ERC starting grant in 2008. ‘That helped me to upgrade my research from atomic force microscopy (AFM) at room temperature to magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM) at ultra-low temperatures of milliKelvins,’ says Oosterkamp. ‘I used the grant to work at the IBM lab in California for half a year to learn the technique and to build the necessary equipment.’ In the nine years since, Oosterkamp and his research group have applied MRFM in their lab and managed to measure magnetic relaxation at the nanoscale. This is essential for getting contrast in future MRI-scans at the nano level.

Carlo Beenakker even received two ERC grants, in 2009 (Advanced) and 2012 (Synergy). ‘The Advanced grant was for studying graphene,’ he says. ‘That was only recently discovered at the time, and we had already done some prior research so we were in a good position to set up a broader study on the material’s properties.’ Beenakker obtained a Synergy grant in 2012 for building a quantum computer together with TU Delft. ‘Our aim was to build a computer composed of 1 qubit within ten to twelve years. We expected that industry would take over from there. This went faster than predicted; companies have already invested around ten times the grant money in our research. Some people ask if we could have managed without the money, but I still think we needed it to plant the seed and make it grow into the large project it is now.’

ERC Starting Grant
Tjerk Oosterkamp (2008)

ERC Advanced Grant
Michel Orrit (2008)
Carlo Beenakker (2009)
Joost Frenken (2009)

ERC Synergy Grant
Carlo Beenakker (2012)

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