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Veni awards for seventeen young Leiden researches

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded Veni funding to seventeen researchers who recently obtained their PhD. This award offers promising young scientists the opportunity to develop their own ideas over a period of three years.

In total NWO awarded a Veni to 154 researchers this year. Veni, together with Vidi and Vici, is part of NWO's Talent Scheme.  The funding, of up to 250,000 euros, is intended for excellent researchers who have recently obtained their PhD.  More than 1100 researchers submitted an application for a Veni. With these 154 awards, NWO is investing a total of 38.3 million euros in fundamental and curiosity-driven research. 

Seventeen young Leiden scientists can now make a start on their research projects. A short summary of their projects is given below. 

The formation of galaxies in clusters

Yannick Bahé – Leiden Observatory
Galaxies living in galaxy clusters - the densest, most extreme environment of our Universe - are observed to differ strikingly from isolated galaxies. The proposed research project will use state-of-the-art computer simulations to understand the origin of these differences, filling a major gap in our understanding of galaxy formation. 

Risk behaviour in young people 

Barbara Braams – Psychology
Risk-taking behaviour is widely studied in the lab, but the relationship with real-life behavior is unclear. This proposal aims to relate lab measures and real-life risk-taking behavior.

The magnetic brain: Alzheimer’s disease seen through iron

Lucia Bossoni – LUMC Radiology, Biophysics
Abnormal accumulation of iron is found in the brains of patients suffering from several different neurodegenerative diseases, but its potential toxicity is still not understood. This research uses a new multidisciplinary approach to detect and characterize different forms of iron, also leading to new in vivo methods of visualization.

Cosmic remodeling: how galaxies changed the structure of the Universe

Marcel van Daalen – Leiden Observatory
The structure of our universe is tightly connected to the distribution of both dark and visible matter. However, the violent processes associated with galaxy formation make significant changes to this distribution. By better understanding how they do so, astronomers can learn more about our universe as a whole.

Leaving a Lasting Impression: The Earliest Printed Books in the Low Countries

Anna Dlabačová– Dutch Language and Culture
The influence of Dutch book printing on spirituality and visual culture at the end of the Middle Ages was far greater than previously thought. Cultural-historical research into the first generation of printed books paints a new picture of religious practice in the transitional period from manuscript to print.

Nanoparticle-Based Gene Therapy of Hemoglobinopathies

Christina Eich – LUMC Radiology
Sickle cell disease/β-thalassemia are deadly gene disorders disrupting erythrocyte function and greatly reducing the patient’s quality of life and expectance. Researchers aim to overcome the disadvantages of current therapies by developing a nanoparticle-based gene therapy using CRISPR/Cas9 to specifically modify erythrocyte precursors in the body to eliminate disease symptoms.

How hot is ice-cold chemistry?

Thanja Lamberts– Leiden Institute of Chemistry
At the low temperatures in space (-260 ºC), the molecular building blocks of life can only be formed through chemical reactions that produce lots of heat. In this project, computer simulations are used to study how this heat is transferred to the ice-covered dust grains on which the reactions occur.

Polytheism as language. A linguistic approach to divine plurality in the religious experience of Greek worshippers

Saskia Peels – LUCAS
The ancient Greeks knew a plurality of gods (polytheism), who helped them in all aspects of life. But what image did they have of these often complex gods? And why did a Greek sometimes turn to one god, and at other times to another? A linguistically inspired method helps us.

In a job, out of trouble?

Anke Ramakers – Criminology
Based on the common belief that employment increases successful re-integration, policy efforts are directed towards connecting inactive ex-prisoners to jobs. This project helps to develop theory and evidence-based policies by examining (1) causes of joblessness, and (2) effects of different kinds of jobs and different kinds of joblessness on reoffending.

Vulnerable and unheard: Refugee children and their right to effective participation in asylum procedures

Stephanie Rap – Department of Child Law
Refugee children have the right to be heard in asylum procedures. Through a combination of qualitative methods and legal analysis of children’s rights, this study provides an urgent  exploration of the conceptual and practical implications of their right to effective participation. It will result in guidelines for effectively hearing children.

General psychopathology: greater than the sum of its parts?

Jolien Rijlaarsdam – Centre for Child and Family Studies
A psychiatric problem seldom comes alone but is often accompanied by other psychiatric symptoms. Can we identify one overall dimension that summarizes various psychiatric symptoms? How is this overall dimension associated with the environment and gene regulation at sensitive developmental periods?

Evaluating the effect of baryons on cosmological probes with next-generation simulations

Matthieu Schaller – Leiden Observatory
We will finish the development of a novel simulation code that exploits modern computer architecture and use it to perform large simulations of the Universe and the formation of galaxies. We will use these to interpret observations aiming to shed light on the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

The Family Business of Power

Jasper van der Steen– History
This project approaches the Nassau family between 1550 and 1815 as a family business and explores how the Nassaus organized their family and attempted to maintain continuity and expand their power. It demonstrates that dynasties functioned more logically and consistently than historians have previously assumed.

Foraging in a noisy world: Marine predator-prey interactions under fluctuating sound conditions

Fleur Visser – Institute for Biology
Noisy human activities may disturb foraging whales, top predators of the ocean. I will combine experimental sound exposure with advanced sensor technologies to investigate how noise affects whales, their prey and whale-prey interactions. Such knowledge is crucial for effective protection of whales and the marine environment at large.

Changes in tumour metabolism, a marker of effectiveness of proton therapy?

Dennis Vriens – LUMC Radiology, Nuclear Medicine section
Head-and-neck cancer often recurs after radiotherapy. This requires additional treatment. The researchers investigate whether molecular imaging of early changes in tumourmetabolism after proton therapy, is able to predict if and where recurrences will appear. This technique could be used to selectively intensify radiotherapy to tumour-regions that seem resistant to treatment

Detrimental or beneficial effects of imprisonment?

Hilde Wermink – Criminology department
Imprisonment is typically the most severe sentence that can be imposed. Nevertheless, it is unknown whether sentencing goals are achieved through imprisonment. This study examines whether imprisonment works to reduce re-offending, for whom it works, and how consequences can be understood. This knowledge is necessary for more effective correctional intervention.

Epic Pasts: pre-Islam through Muslim eyes

Peter Webb – LIAS
Since Islam’s rise, Muslims have been interested in pre-Islamic history, and contrary to much current opinion, they have not simply rejected all pre-Islamic heritages as incompatible with Islam. EPIC PASTS explores how Muslims confront their pre-history, and reveals how changing impressions of pre-Islam have reshaped the definition of Islam itself.