Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden celebrates tenth anniversary of ERC

The European Research Council, better known as the ERC, turns ten this year, and researchers from Leiden celebrated this on 23 June. The ERC is an important provider of research funding, also to Leiden University. Over the past ten years researchers from the University have been awarded over 70 ERC grants.

On 23 June Leiden University and the LUMC held a gathering to showcase ERC-funded research in Leiden. A number of the researchers awarded ERC Grants spoke about their research projects. Other recipients shared their knowledge of the application process with colleagues who want to apply for a grant in the future. The researchers shared information on their field of study and on practical matters surrounding it.

Een verzameling Leidse onderzoekers die werken met een ERC Grant
A few Leiden ERC grantees, at the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the ERC.

Since 2007, the University has been awarded 27 Starting Grants, 10 Consolidator Grants, 19 Advanced Grants, 5 Proof of Concept Grants and 2 Synergy Grants, collectively worth over a hundred million euros. The ERC funds research from all disciplines. In the run-up to the ten-year anniversary of the ERC we highlight three ERC projects.

How democratic are state secrets?

Political philosopher Dorota Mokrosinska studies government secrecy. This could mean the work of the secret service, espionage, diplomatic discretion or backdoor politics. ‘On the one hand, we as a society do not question the importance of transparency in a democracy, but on the other, certain information is a state secret and certain political decisions are taken behind closed doors. There’s a bit of a problem therefore.’ Mokrosinska is using her ERC Starting Grant to study how secrecy and democracy can be compatible. ‘Because how can we monitor our democratically elected government if the very same government conceals things from us?’

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Archaeologists reconstruct ancient Greek building boom

It most have been exciting times for those living on the Peloponnese, the largest peninsula in Greece, between 1600 and 1200 BC. In this the heyday of the Mycenaean civilization, the rulers were out to impress with a flurry of monumental buildings, such as huge burial tombs, strong defences and new roads and bridges. But this building boom ended abruptly 400 years later. Archaeologist Ann Brysbaert is investigating the possible causes with the aid of an ERC Consolidator Grant. After one-and-a-half years of work (the project runs until 2020) it is already very clear that her broad perspective has yielded many new insights.

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Fighting cancer with light

In 2013, chemist Sylvestre Bonnet was awarded an ERC Starting Grant to investigate fighting cancer with light-activated molecules. He uses a metal complex to make molecules that only becomes toxic to cells if a specific colour light is shone on them. ‘By lighting only the tumour, you limit the harmful effect of the metal complex to the tumour itself. It’s really a combination of chemotherapy and radiation, but without the side-effects.’ Bonnet’s successful project is now two postdocs and three PhD candidates later and nearing its end.

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