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Four Leiden consortia awarded large NWO grants

No less than four Leiden research teams have been awarded a grant by NWO. On 27 July NWO honoured 21 applications in the Open Competition ENW-XL. NWO awards the grants to consortia in the exact and natural sciences who are doing unconnected fundamental research that is 'driven by curiosity'.

Rational points: new dimensions

Dr. M.J. Bright

Number theory studies whole-number solutions to polynomial equations with whole-number coefficients. Geometrically, these solutions correspond to “rational points” on the geometric objects cut out by these equations. The nine projects described in this proposal open up new avenues for the study of rational points, in three different directions: by extending our knowledge about curves to higher-dimensional objects; by comparing the world of rational numbers to that of modular arithmetic; and by interpolating between whole-number and rational solutions. Applying methods from both algebra and geometry, both qualitative and quantitative results will be obtained, with both theoretical implications and real-world applications.

The Dark Side of the Universe

Prof. dr. K.H. Kuijken

In 2023 the European Space Agency will launch the Euclid satellite on a six-year mission to map out the evolution of the Universe over the past 8 billion years. This map will contain about 2 billion galaxies. The ‘Dark Universe Science Collaboration’ will analyse these data with tools such as gravitational lensing, statistical models for the clustering of galaxies, and supercomputer simulations incorporating complex feedback processes due to supermassive black holes and star formation, to study how the mysterious components of the Universe – dark matter and dark energy – behave and how they influence the evolution of galaxies and the Universe.

Live or let die: the fate of pathogenic mycobacteria that manipulate our immune cells

Prof. dr. A.H. Meijer

Mycobacteria are the causative agents of tuberculosis and other serious infectious diseases that are increasingly difficult to treat due to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. These notorious human pathogens replicate inside macrophages, a crucial cell type of our immune system. In this project a multidisciplinary team of researchers will join forces to elucidate key mechanisms underlying the complex interplay between mycobacterial virulence factors and the macrophage immune defenses. The new insights will be used to explore innovative therapeutic strategies to fight mycobacterial infections.
Read the interview with Annemarie Meijer

Why do plants develop wood and lignin in their stems?

Prof. dr. R. Offringa

Plants can be divided into woody and non‐woody species. The stems of woody species thicken through development of wood, a tissue with cells having a high lignin content in their cell walls. Also non‐woody species produce cells with lignin deposits. This proposal brings together scientists from diverse research fields to investigate i) which genes drive wood and lignin formation, ii) if increased wood/lignin production in stems makes plants more drought tolerant and iii) which effect this has on lignin structure and whether this allows a sustainable method to harvest high value lignin from waste streams of food crops.

These and all 17 other ENW-XL grants may be found on the NWO site.

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