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Veni grant for six FSE researchers

05 November 2020

Six researchers of the Faculty of Science and Engineering have been awarded a Veni grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). A grant has been awarded to Dr. Allen, Dr. Drienovská, Dr. Laetz, Dr. Tromer, Dr. Barry and Dr. Christoff. With the Veni grant, which has a maximum value of EUR 250,000, they can further develop their own research ideas over a three-year period.

The six FSE researchers will conduct research on the molecules of life around young stars, unnatural amino acids, how solar-powered slugs steal chloroplasts and survive starvation, how parasites segregate chromosomes, the glow from our cosmic dawn and social networks and democracy.

Dr. Veronica Allen, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute: Following the molecules of life around young stars

Scientists are unsure how life began on Earth, but molecules from space may have helped. In this project, astronomers will use radio telescopes to find molecules of life around young stars and understand how they could have ended up in comets that may have brought them to early Earth.

Dr. Ivana Drienovská, GRIP: Expanding the enzyme universe: a closer look at unnatural amino acids

Genetically encoded unnatural amino acids represent a promising strategy toward designer catalysts, however still very few examples exist. This proposal aims to investigate a set of unnatural amino acids with high catalytic potential. If successful, it would allow a generation of enzymes for newto-nature catalysis in a sustainable fashion.

Dr. Elise M. J. Laetz, GELIFES: Examining how solar-powered slugs steal chloroplasts and survive starvation

Solar-powered sea slugs are an evolutionary enigma. They acquire the ability to photosynthesize by stealing functional chloroplasts from algae. The energy produced allows them to withstand extended starvation. This research unravels the mechanisms behind this ability by examining chloroplast sequestration, retention and the energetic tradeoffs associated with hosting foreign organelles.

Dr. Eelco Tromer, GBB: Defying nuclear conventions: How parasites segregate chromosomes

Equal distribution of chromosomes during cell division is essential for propagation of life. In unicellular parasites this process evolved remarkably rapidly, resulting in unconventional ways of chromosome segregation. This research aims to pinpoint molecular innovations within these systems in relatives of malaria parasites, hoping to uncover opportunities for new therapies.

Dr. Nichole Barry, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute : Measuring the glow from our cosmic dawn

The birth of the first galaxies during Cosmic Dawn is a mystery. Astronomers could theoretically observe the faint glow of interstellar hydrogen, but small precision errors in analysis prevent detection. By incorporating information from American, Australian, and Dutch software, astronomers may be able to glimpse the Epoch of Reionization.

Dr. Zoé Christoff, Bernoulli Institute: Social networks and democracy

How do social networks impact democracy? In the age of ‘fake news’, this question is societally more relevant than ever. This project develops a general theory of the interaction between networks and democracy, tests its results on the ‘liquid democracy’ voting system, and provides concrete recommendations that provably safeguard democracy.


Together with Vidi and Vici, Veni is part of the NWO Talent Programme. Veni is aimed at excellent researchers who have recently obtained their doctorate. Researchers in the Talent Programme are free to submit their own subject for funding. NWO thus encourages curiosity-driven and innovative research. NWO selects researchers based on the quality of the researcher, the innovative character of the research, the expected scientific impact of the research proposal and the possibilities for knowledge use.

Last modified:06 November 2020 11.38 a.m.
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