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Veni, Vidi and Vici grants awarded to the University of Groningen in 2013

The grants awarded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), under its Innovational Research Incentives Scheme, are listed below.

Vici awards

Prof. S. (Sijbren) Otto
Darwinian evolution of molecules
Prof. S. (Sijbren) Otto (m) – Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Chemistry has thus far focused mainly on the development of stable systems – but the time has come to extend research to systems that are not in balance. Biological systems owe their existence to evolution and decay, synthesis and degradation, a cycle of life and death. Sijbren Otto aims to investigate whether these biological principles can also be applied to synthetic chemistry. Self-assembling and self-replicating macromolecules play an important role here. Artificial chemical systems made up of such molecules may also be able to undergo Darwinian evolution. Otto hopes this may be a first step towards synthetic life.

Prof. H.J. (Herman) de Jong
The welfare paradox: crisis in the 1930s, but greater wellbeing?
Prof. H.J. (Herman) de Jong (m) – Economics and Business

‘Economic history is a field from which we can learn many lessons’, states De Jong. ‘Why was there such a clear improvement in wellbeing in the 1930s, for example, despite the economy doing so badly? It seems there is a complicated interplay of factors at work, and we want to decipher what is cause and what is effect.’

Economic prosperity and human welfare may seem like two sides of the same coin, but in fact they do not always develop at the same pace. The project will analyse the European prosperity paradox of the period between 1913 and 1950, a time when the economy stagnated but the quality of life improved rapidly.

Prof. A.J. (Tineke) Oldehinkel
Regaining the lost sense of pleasure
Prof. A.J. (Tineke) Oldehinkel (f) – University Medical Center Groningen

Oldehinkel aims to investigate how the inability to experience pleasure develops, how it manifests itself, and how a lost sense of enjoyment can be regained. First, she will study which factors evoke loss of enjoyment in young people. She will do this using data from the TRAILS study, in which a large group of young people have been monitored for more than ten years. Subsequently, the project will focus on the various manifestations of loss of enjoyment and on the question of what can be done to regain the lost sense of pleasure. Oldehinkel: ‘I would like to focus on personal lifestyle recommendations. It is very difficult to stimulate people who suffer from loss of enjoyment to make life changes that could improve their wellbeing. They are trapped in a vicious circle’.

Vidi awards

Galectin-3: stiffening of the heart
Dr R.A. (Rudolf) de Boer (m), University of Groningen/University Medical Center Groningen – Cardiology

Congestive heart failure, in which the heart becomes stiff, is a disease that occurs mainly in the elderly. The researchers will investigate the role of galectin-3 on the formation of connective tissue in the heart, and will test whether inhibiting this process improves heart function.

Dr M. (Michael) Chang
Swapped ends
Dr M. (Michael) Chang (m), University Medical Center Groningen – ERIBA

Nucleotide sequences can be exchanged between two similar DNA molecules in a process known as recombination. Telomeres are repetitive DNA elements that protect the ends of chromosomes. The researcher will investigate how the integrity of telomeres can be affected by recombination.

Dr S. (Steven) Hoekstra
Searching for dark matter with stationary molecules
Dr S. (Steven) Hoekstra (m), University of Groningen – KVI

The researchers will make molecules stationary so that they can be used as highly sensitive antennae. Nano-antennae such as these might even be able to pick up signals from the mysterious ‘dark matter’. Comparing the very accurate measurements of the molecules with the predictions from the Standard Model of particle physics could help to extend the boundaries of fundamental knowledge about our world.

Dr A. (Arjan) Kortholt
The biochemical unravelling of Parkinson’s disease
Dr A. (Arjan) Kortholt (m), University of Groningen – Cell Biology

Mutations in the LRRK2 gene are the most common genetic link to Parkinson’s disease. The aim of this project is to understand LRRK2-regulated Parkinson’s with the help of structural and biochemical analyses.

Dr. S. (Stefanos) Papanikolaou
Universal oscillations due to structural relaxations
Dr. S. (Stefanos) Papanikolaou (m), RUG – Physics

Many complex systems, such as glasses and networks in cells, respond abruptly to stresses. When these amorphous structures become ‘softer’ and they can better relax to be more stable, the response becomes oscillatory. This research aims to explore their universal features.

Dr J.W. (Jan-Willem) Veening
How bacteria take shape
Dr J.W. (Jan-Willem) Veening (m), University of Groningen – Molecular Genetics

The pneumococcal bacterium is an important cause of ear infections, meningitis and pneumonia. This research will investigate at molecular level how this pathogenic bacterium acquires its characteristic rugby ball shape. Because cell growth and cell division are essential processes for the bacterium to survive and multiply, this research may lead to the development of new, highly necessary antibiotics.

Dr M.A.T.M. (Marcel) van Vugt
Weak links in the tumour genome
Dr M.A.T.M. (Marcel) van Vugt (m), University Medical Center Groningen – Medical Oncology

The genetic material of tumours is often highly unstable. Nevertheless, tumour cells appear to be able to deal with this. This research will investigate how tumours manage to do this, with the aim of using these changes in tumour cells as a starting point for treatment.

Dr R.K. (Rinse) Weersma
Host-microbe interactions define inflammatory bowel disease
Dr R.K. (Rinse) Weersma (m), University Medical Center Groningen – Gastroenterology

In the human body there are more bacteria than cells. Loss of tolerance to intestinal bacteria can result in Crohn’s diseases or ulcerative colitis. The researchers will investigate human and bacterial genes in relation to the development and progression of the disease.

Dr I.S. (Inge) Zuhorn
Smuggling into the brain
Dr I.S. (Inge) Zuhorn (f), University Medical Center Groningen – Cell Biology

The blood-brain barrier prevents drugs against brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, from ending up in the brain. In this research, nanoparticles will be developed that contain drugs and can pass through this barrier. This will open up new possibilities for the effective treatment of brain disease.

Veni Awards

Dr M.H. (Martin) de Borst
Phosphate: salt in the wound for kidney patients?
Dr M.H. (Martin) de Borst (m), UMCG - Internal Medicine

Kidney patients retain salt, which makes their treatment less effective. Phosphate apparently plays an important part in regulating salt levels. The research will explore whether monitoring phosphate and salt in the diet will improve treatment for kidney patients.

Dr J. (Jakub) Dotlacil
Making sense of sentences
Dr J. (Jakub) Dotlacil (m), University of Groningen – Center for Language and Cognition

When a person speaks, we immediately start to interpret what we hear. We often choose the right interpretation even before the person has finished speaking. How do we do that? This project combines semantic and cognitive research in an attempt to answer this question.

Dr S.A. (Suzan) Folkerts
Street corner evangelism
Dr S.A. (Suzan) Folkerts (f), University of Groningen – Faculty of Arts

It is time to rethink our traditional views of 'mediaeval' v. 'modern', and 'religious' v. 'secular'. This project aims to study how ordinary people read and understood the first printed versions of the Bible, and to formulate new ideas about late-mediaeval urban religious culture in the Netherlands.

Dr E (Eva) Heine
Choosing more sustainable transport
Dr E (Eva) Heinen (f), University of Groningen – Planning

Every day, we all choose whether to travel by car, bike or public transport. This needs to change if we are to create a more sustainable and healthier society. The researcher aims to unravel the effect of identity and variation on this change.

Dr. V. (Vibor) Jelic
Through galactic fog to the first stars
Dr. V. (Vibor) Jelic (m), RUG – Kapteyn Institute

Complicated emission from our own Galaxy obscures the first stars in the Universe. Astronomers will study this Galactic "fog", and clear the view towards the early Universe. This will allow them to see 13.2 billion years back in time.

Dr S.A. (Sjouke Anne) Kingma
Calculating babysitters?
Dr S.A. (Sjouke Anne) Kingma, (m), University of Groningen – Behavioural Ecology and Self-Organization & Theoretical Biology

In cooperative breeding systems, some animals postpone reproduction in order to help other animals care for their broods. This project will use computer simulations and 30 years of field data on the Seychelles warbler to find out why certain individuals do this.

Dr. A (Alicia) Lammerts van Bueren
Bacterial warfare in the human intestine
Dr. A (Alicia) Lammerts van Bueren (f), RUG – Microbial Physiology

The human gut microbiome consist of over 1000 bacterial species that are competing for space within the gastrointestinal tract. Researchers will study the activity of bacterial enzymes that target and degrade surface sugar molecules of competing bacterial species in a “bacterial warfare”, which exposes the targeted bacteria for clearance by the immune system. Investigating this novel competition strategy will lead to new insights into the regulation of human microbiome populations.

Dr M.C. (Marijke) Leliveld
Buying for charity
Dr M.C. (Marijke) Leliveld (f), University of Groningen – Marketing

Companies sometimes run campaigns in which they make a charity donation for each purchase of a certain product. This research examines the differences between monetary and non-monetary donations (e.g. a meal). At the same time, it will examine the negative impact of such campaigns on prosocial behaviour.

Dr. Y. (Yang) Li
Systems genetics of metabolic fluxes
Dr. Y. (Yang) Li (f), RUG – Molecular Systems Biology
Genetic analysis on multiple molecular levels can provide insight into how a genotype relates to a phenotype. The researcher will use this approach to look for heritable causes of metabolite flow rate (flux) through metabolic pathways.
Dr M.N. (Manuel) Melo
Breaking into and breaking down membranes
Dr M.N. (Manuel) Melo (m), University of Groningen – Molecular Dynamics / Biochemistry

Some antibacterial proteins work by breaking down the bacterial membrane, while others break into the cell and attack from within. The researchers will use computer simulations to try to understand the difference, and test whether this knowledge can be used to produce better drugs.

Dr D. (Daniela) Mustata
Socialist state TV meets the West
Dr D. (Daniela) Mustata (f), University of Groningen - Media and Journalism Studies

During the Cold War, Romanian state television managed to maintain secret relations with the British BBC. This project aims to disclose accounts of the day-to-work of the television makers, which have remained secret until the present day.

Dr. A. (Alex) Pigot
The limits to life's diversity
Dr. A. (Alex) Pigot (m), RUG - Biology

Life has diversified into a bewildering array of species but is there a limit to how many species can be supported? This research project aims to address this question and identify the ecological and geographical processes regulating species diversity.

Dr. I.A. (Izabela) Rodenhuis
When 2 viruses strike at once
Dr. I.A. (Izabela) Rodenhuis (f), RUG / UMCG – Medical Microbiology

Cases of the simultaneous mosquito-borne Dengue and Chikungunya virus infections are on a rise. Since the mechanisms of the co-infection are yet not known, researchers will analyze, which cells are targeted during the co-infection and how these cells respond to the dual attack.

Dr M.B. (Martijn) Wieling
Tongue movement affects pronunciation
Dr M.B. (Martijn) Wieling (m), University of Groningen – Applied Linguistics

A Dutch or German person’s pronunciation of English is often recognizable. In this project, we are trying to find out how their tongue movements differ from those of English native speakers, and how visualizing these movements can improve their pronunciation.

Last modified:09 January 2019 12.31 p.m.
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