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Five ERC Starting Grants for young Leiden University researchers

The European Research Council has awarded a Starting Grant to five early career scientists from Leiden University. They received funding up to 1.5 million euros to further expand on their research subject.

Leiden University obtained almost 14% of the Starting Grants awarded to Dutch scientists (36 in total). The Dutch average is 11%. Also the succes rate of Leiden scientist applying for an ERC grant was good: 22% of the applications were granted funding, compared to a succes rate of 12,7% amongst all universities in The Netherlands.

De laureaten

Mariska Kret, Institute of Psychology
From Mimicry to Trust: A Tinbergian Approach

We make many of our everyday decisions by quickly assessing whether ‘the other’ is trustworthy. An important aspect of this assessment is the other person’s mimicry of our expressions of emotion. Mariska Kret will investigate which forms of mimicry are empathic, and hence important for our decision to trust or to distrust. A lively debate is currently ongoing within psychology about what mimicry precisely entails, and what its effects are. Kret will therefore locate it within a completely new theoretical framework, examining both biological and psychological factors in order to understand the function, mechanisms and development of mimicry. An important step will be to compare humans and the bonobo, our closest living relative among the ape species.

Geeske Langejans, Faculty of Archaeology
Ancient Adhesives - A window on prehistoric technological complexity

Even in prehistoric times people used glue, which they made from plants. All the various kinds of adhesives remain very well preserved: in fact, they are the plant-based residues that show the best preservation. Geeske Langejans has been researching prehistoric glue for some time, using a combination of traditional archaeological techniques (such as microscopy), experimental research and high-tech methods of adhesive strength testing. This enables her to document the sophistication of the glue-making technologies of Neanderthals and early modern humans, and to gain insight into the complexity of our distant ancestors’ chemical know-how.

Sarah de Rijcke, Centre for Science and Technology Studies
How evaluation shapes ocean science. A multi-scale ethnography of fluid knowledge

Research evaluation can help science to deliver its promise to society. But does it? Sarah de Rijcke will investigate this in the area of ocean science. Ocean science is under great pressure to be ‘relevant’: to scientific advancement, to the interests of industry and to the future of our planet. This places its research between many different demands. De Rijcke will look at whether evaluation of earlier scientific results has an effect on how new ocean research is conducted, taking the perspectives of both ethnography and scientometry (the measurement of scientific research). Knowledge about the interaction between evaluation and scientific practice is crucial in a world where trust in science can no longer be taken for granted.

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Reinout van Weeren, Leidse Sterrewacht
Unravelling the physics of particle acceleration and feedback in galaxy clusters and the cosmic web

Van Weeren will use the opportunities offered by the LOFAR radiotelescope to investigate the formation and evolution of galaxy clusters, and the cosmic web in which they are situated. The aim is to produce ultra-high resolution images of clusters at low radio frequencies. These observations give information about how super-heavy black holes affect the formation and evolution of clusters. For this study, Van Weeren will also make use of the international stations of the LOFAR telescope in other parts of Europe.

Ben Wielstra, Instituut Biologie Leiden
Untangling the Evolution of a Balanced Lethal System

Genetic traits can be inherited in various ways. One of these is a balanced lethal system, where two forms of a chromosome are required for survival. Parents randomly pass on one of the two forms to the next generation. Offspring with two copies of the same form of chromosome – 50% according to Mendel’s laws of inheritance – are not viable. This incredibly high death rate appears to defy evolutionary theory. Wielstra will use modern genetic techniques and evolutionary models to investigate how balanced lethal systems can evolve. Read more

ERC Starting Grants are awarded to researchers of any nationality with two to seven years of experience since completion of the PhD (or equivalent degree) and a scientific track record showing great promise.  The funding can be up to 1.5 million euros per grant. 

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