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Four Leiden Science researchers go abroad with Rubicon grant

Astronomer Donggang Wang, physicist Anne Meeussen and chemists Nick Gerrits and Elliot Mock: all four are receiving a Rubicon grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). This grant for young talent will enable them to spend two years doing research at a foreign university.

The announcement comes at a good time: international travel is slowly but surely picking up again. And experience abroad is an important step in the career of many scientists. However, NWO emphasises in their press release that researchers only start working abroad when the signals are green. 

The Faculty of Science scores well this year, with four scholarships for talent from the Faculty. Besides Wang, Meeussen, Gerrits and Mock, former PhD candidate Kamal Tehrani also received a Rubicon. Tehrani obtained his PhD at the Institute of Biology Leiden at the end of last year. 

Below is an overview of the four research projects: 

Nick Gerrits – Modelling the building blocks of plasma catalysis 

Little is known about how plasma catalysis works. Therefore, in this project Gerrits will develop various methods to investigate the building blocks of plasma catalysis, such as vibrational excitations, electric fields and charged surfaces. Gerrits will visit the University of Antwerp for this research. 

Elliot Mock – A new drug target for Parkinson’s disease 

Mock will be leaving for the University of Oxford for two years to search for a new treatment method for Parkinson's disease. In this disorder, the functioning of the mitochondria – the body's mini-energy plants – is impaired. Inhibition of USP14 is a new strategy to clean up damaged mitochondria. Mock will use pharmacological and genetic tools to investigate USP14 as a drug target in Parkinson’s disease.

> Read more about Mock's earlier research on the body's own marijuana

Donggang Wang – Symmetries in the sky

The primordial Universe offers a unique opportunity to test the physics of the microscopic world with observations on cosmic scales. In this natural laboratory, Wang will investigate new ways to measure symmetries in fundamental physics. Wang will spend two years at the University of Cambridge for this research.

Anne Meeussen – Efficient design of shape-morphing materials 

Shape-changing materials – from tents to solar sails – are useful, but hard to design. Based on experiments, Meussen will model such shape-morphing materials and draw up design rules. These rules help scientists create new shape-morphing structures. With the grant, the physicist can finance her stay at Harvard University, where she recently started working. Last year, she won the
Fysica 2020 Young Speakers’ Contest

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