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Susan Marie Frontczak portraying Marie Curie on stage
Credit: Courtesy of Susan Frontczak - Paul Schroder 2001

Aspasia grant for promising researchers in psychology

Janna Marie Bas-Hoogendam, Stefanie Meeuwis, and Eliška Procházková have all been awarded a share of the Aspasia diversity grant obtained by Mariska Kret. These three promising young psychologists will each receive 10,000 euros as a stepping stone towards a career in science. This gives them three months to write a grant application for a postdoc position.

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Marie and Irene Curie, 1925

The cognitive psychologist Mariska Kret has invested part of her Aspasia grant from NWO's diversity programme in helping promising young researchers. As Kret knows from experience, 'often one scholarship leads to another, so the sooner you start stimulating promising researchers, the more effective your assistance will be'. The grant will fund the promising young researchers for three months, enabling them to write an application for an NWO Rubicon grant or a Marie Curie fellowship, for example, to finance an international postdoc position.

Janna Marie Bas-Hoogendam

Application for a Rubicon grant for a postdoc at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)( Bethesda Maryland, USA) 

"This wouldn't have been possible without the Aspasia grant. I am very grateful for this award." 

'I investigate individuals' vulnerability to developing a social anxiety disorder (SAD). This is a serious psychiatric illness that emerges during adolescence and often has life-long negative consequences. In my PhD project 'Extremely Shy & Genetically Close' I made brain scans of participants from families in which SAD was common. I used these MRI data to investigate which hereditary characteristics in the brain are linked to social anxiety. In my future research I want to explore this genetic vulnerability to SAD in more depth. To carry out my own research at Leiden University, I need external funding.'
'I have just submitted an application for a Rubicon grant for a research project at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, USA). In that project I focus on children with a 'reserved temperament', who have been reserved in new situations since birth. Earlier research shows that precisely these individuals are vulnerable to developing SAD in adolescence. We think that brain changes play a role in this innate vulnerability. I want to investigate this further, under the supervision of Daniel S. Pine.'
'I plan to compile a large international dataset of MRI scans of adolescents who, on the basis of their temperament, have an increased risk of developing SAD. These MRI data have already been collected and come from several research institutes all over the world. By comparing these data, I want to examine which brain characteristics are linked to the risk of developing SAD.'

Stefanie Meeuwis

Application for a Rubicon for a postdoc at the University of Sydney (Australia)

'From the beginning of my PhD project, I already knew that I wanted to continue in science. With the Aspasia sub-grant, I have the opportunity to write an application for a Rubicon grant as the most suitable next step. Within that Rubicon, I want to study placebo and nocebo effects, in line with my PhD research. In particular, I want to investigate how we can prevent the manifestation of nocebo effects.’ 

‘Nocebo effects are negative treatment effects, that arise from negative expectations or negative experiences with past treatments. An example of a nocebo effect is nausea that can occur in chemotherapy: when people have experienced this a number of times, nausea can already be experienced before treatment is even given.’ 

"The opportunity to gain experience in an international lab would be amazing."

'With the Rubicon I want to compare different prevention strategies for nocebo effects such as this, in collaboration with experts in nocebo effects from the University of Sydney. These experts are the only ones in the world to gave developed an experimental model for nocebo effects in nausea, using virtual reality. This makes it possible to measure the effectiveness of the various prevention strategies in a very precise manner.’

Eliška Procházková

Application for a Postdoc position at the Gottman’s Institute (Seattle, USA)

'After submitting my PhD in June 2020, I would like to use these months to write a research proposal which aims to define the factors that contribute to a healthy relationship and identify methods that could help people to make better romantic choices. This grant would allow me to work at an international top institute where I could build on my international network and acquire new knowledge, which I eventually hope to bring back to Leiden University.' 

"This research hopes to identify behavioural patterns that are predictive of un/healthy relationships."

'If successful, this post-doc position would take place partly in the USA and partly in the Netherlands. In the first year, I will visit the Gottman’s Institute. Dr. Gottman has studied romantic couples over periods of 20 years and is an expert on longitudinal studies and time series analysis. His and others research has shown that relationship satisfaction is a major predictor of an individuals’ physical health and happiness. Despite its importance, half of the marriages end in divorce and from those which survive, a large proportion report to be stable but unhappy. During my stay at Gottman’s Institute, I hope to gain the technical skills and theoretical knowledge necessary to conduct longitudinal research with newly met couples.'

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Banner: Susan Marie Frontczak portraying Marie Curie on stage (photo Paul Schroder, 2001)

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