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ERC Consolidator Grants for four Leiden researchers

From fake news via WhatsApp to mini hearts from a 3D printer: four Leiden researchers have been awarded a Consolidator Grant by the European Research Council. These grants, of up to 2m euros, enable researchers to establish or expand their research team and continue to develop their career.

The Consolidator Grant is for promising researchers with seven to 12 years of experience since competing their PhD. They can use the grant of up to 2m euros to fund their team of researchers and support staff for a period of five years.

The four Leiden Consolidator Grants go to:

Milena Bellin – Leiden University Medical Center

Milena Bellin will use her ERC Consolidator Grant to investigate human cardiac diseases with mini hearts from a 3D printer. These hearts will be made from human-induced pluripotent stem cells: cells that can still grow into different types of cell. Bellin has already succeeded in making such mini hearts, but wants to improve the model by including cells such as nerve and immune cells. The model will then help determine the cause of complex heart diseases, and will ultimately help in the development of new therapies.  

Read more: 2 million euros to identify 'culprit' and 'victim' cells in cardiac diseases using 3D mini hearts

Simon Chauchard – Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

In his ERC project Simon Chauchard will look at the causes and consequences of misinformation on social media, focusing on encrypted discussion apps (such as WhatsApp) in India and Brazil. The emergence of these kinds of discussion apps allow for cheap, rapid and private communication within and across communities of users. What does this development mean for the spread of misinformation, and beyond, for democracy in these countries?

Read more: Polarising chats? Political misinformation on discussion apps in India and Brazil

Elena Maria Rossi – Faculty of Science

Supermassive black holes, enormous energy levels and the densest stellar systems in the Universe: according to Elena Maria Rossi, galactic centres are the most fascinating objects in space. It is hard to observe directly what is going on inside, but Rossi has developed a creative method to find out: she looks at hypervelocity stars that are emitted from the galactic centre into the emptier galactic halo. This tells her more about what is going on inside.

Read more: Catching stars to reveal the secrets of the darkness

Martina Vijver – Faculty of Science

Professor of Ecotoxicology Martina Vijver conducts research into the behaviour and possible toxicity of new nanomaterials in ecosystems. New nanomaterials are often used to improve products. Fewer of these are needed to improve the properties of the products because they are much more effective than other materials and they make products stronger and lighter and more conductive. But are they safe? Vijver will investigate this in detail and will look at the effect on not only an individual cell or tissue in the lab, but also a whole ecosystem. One place she will do this is in the ‘Living Lab’.

See the ERC website for the full list of recipients: Consolidator Grant recipients 2020

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