The Young Academy Groningen (YAG) has appointed seven new members from diverse disciplines at the University of Groningen. Dr Sahar El Aidy, prof. Shirin Faraji, dr Marijke Leliveld, prof. Panos Merkouris, dr Milena Nikolova, dr Judith Paridaen, and dr Jorge Pérez were selected by a committee. The official Installation ceremony will be held on September 30th.
The Young Academy Groningen is a club for the University’s most talented, enthusiastic and ambitious young researchers. Its members come from all disciplines and have a passion for science and an interest in science policy, interdisciplinarity, diversity, internationalization, outreach, leadership and career development in academia.
The microbiota-gut-brain trialogue is the core of several immune and neurological disorders, which are rapidly increasing in the western society. One key regulator of this trialogue is food, which has recently been a topic of interest among the general public. My group studies how gut microbiota senses and metabolises neuroactive compounds that are part of our food and the impact of these bacterial products on the neuro-immune response. My interdisciplinary research that combines microbiology, immunology, (bio)-chemistry and neurology; and my broad international experience in academia and industry, enable me to convey three messages I have to the general public; “let your food be your medicine”, “your gut microbes can influence effectiveness of your medication”, and “basic research is important in health and disease”. In fact, my group recently discovered that gut microbiota can be a threat for the effectiveness of medication for Parkinson’s patients and this can likely be circumvented by dietary interventions that change our gut microbes.
Being a member of YAG will enhance my chance to convey the importance of basic research to the general public and policy makers, and to narrow down the gap between basic and applied research to influence food industry, which is rapidly growing in the Netherlands. Equally important is that, being from a non-western society, I strive to be a role model demonstrating students from ethnic minorities that you can be successful in science.
Prof. Shirin Faraji is the chair of the Theoretical Chemistry at Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials. Her research group focuses on the development of hybrid classical/quantum dynamical methods for studies of light-induced processes and quantum effects in biomolecules and novel materials. She is among the developers of Q-Chem, one of the world's leading quantum chemistry programmes. Her research spans a broad range of applications, such as optoelectronics and optogenetics. She has received several prestigious fellowship/awards among which DAAD German fellowship for junior scientists in 2014 and Burg Foundation Teaching Award of University of Southern California in 2015. In 2018, her proposal entitled “Watching chemistry happen with light” was awarded a NWO-Vidi grant.
Prof. Faraji finds the Young Academy Groningen an exciting and vital initiative that has the ability to play a significant role in shaping the landscape of RUG science policy by providing a unified voice and, considering her multicultural background, she would like to contribute to this voice towards “Diversity and Internationalization”. In addition, as she become a more senior academic, she naturally gravitated towards a mentoring role for female doctoral/postdoctoral researchers, and she has a strong vested interest in the long-term success of women in science.
I am a behavioral scientist at the Marketing department interested in the role of morality and ethics in economic decision-making. For example, why do people engage in charity donations? How about collaborations between companies and charities? When do we perceive such cause-related marketing campaigns as hypocritical and when as genuine? Why are scandals within commercial organizations often less severe than for charity organizations? For these questions, I build upon theoretical and methodological insights from different disciplines, e.g., marketing, psychology, business administration, economics, sociology, philosophy, and public administration. This interdisciplinary approach reflects how I think about what science should be: learning from each other and combining expertise to tackle scientific and societal problems. A good example of such an interdisciplinary group at UG is the Center for Philosophy, Politics and Economics, of which I am a proud board member.
As a YAG member, my first goal is to improve university wide policies to make interdisciplinary research more attractive and rewarded for all researchers, including PhD students and early career researchers. Moreover, an important factor in public outreach is that our research is easily accessible for all people around the globe. I will be actively involved in the discussion on how to implement Open Access publishing.
Prof. Panos Merkouris is Adjunct Professor at the Department of Transboundary Legal Studies of the University of Groningen, where he holds a Chair on Interpretation & Dispute Settlement in International Law. He completed his LLB studies at the University of Athens, two LLMs on International Law at the University of Athens and UCL respectively, and a PhD at Queen Mary, University of London. He has taught as guest lecturer at UCL, Queen Mary, University of Athens and the University of Thrace.
His area of expertise is public international law, with a particular interest in the areas of law of treaties, sources of international law, dispute settlement and environmental law. He has written prolifically on all these areas, and his writings have been cited in international reports and judicial decisions. In 2018, he received the prestigious ERC Starting Grant, for his 5-year project ‘The Rules of Interpretation of Customary International Law (TRICI-Law)’.
He is excited to join the Young Academy Groningen (YAG) and collaborate with its members in promoting YAG’s mission and aims. He aspires to contributing to YAG’s efforts on two main pillars, namely diversity/internationalization and outreach, which are at the very core of the scholarship of public international law.
About me: I am a Bulgarian who obtained her undergraduate and graduate education in the United States and worked in Germany before coming to Groningen.
My research: I work at the intersection of labor and development economics. Specifically, I rely on both subjective and objective well-being measures to explore the drivers and consequences of migration, economic development, labor market arrangements, and institutions. I recently started two new research projects. The first one is on well-being and work, which is an increasingly important topic amidst the growing complexity and potential labor-saving consequences brought by digitalization and automatization. Second, together with co-authors, I am studying the long-term socio-economic consequences of forced prison labor in the Soviet Union.
Motivations for the Young Academy Groningen: I am happy to be joining the YAG and I am excited about working with other YAG members on developing new interdisciplinary research projects and identifying and solving the main challenges that young RUG academics face. I embrace the fact that the YAG helps young researchers advance in their careers by giving them voice to influence policy-relevant outcomes.
My research focuses on the biology of stem cells, which are the cells that generate and maintain our body. I aim to understand better how stem cells in tissues and bodies work, so that we can use them in the future to prevent or repair lost cells and tissues due to disease and aging. Rather than thinking immediately about applications, my research is mostly shaped by asking curiosity-driven fundamental questions on stem cell biology. To me, asking fundamental questions is key to scientific progress and innovation. I am very excited to join the YAG and to work together with enthusiastic peer scientists from different disciplines.
As a new YAG member, I would like to contribute to outreach initiatives on communicating the importance (and fun!) of (fundamental) science to the general public. I also look forward to discuss key issues in science in general and career development of junior researchers.
I work as a tenure-track assistant professor at the Fundamental Computing group of the Bernoulli Institute for Mathematics, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (Faculty of Science and Engineering).
My academic journey started in Cali, Colombia, where I obtained an Engineering Degree in Computer Science. After that, I obtained my PhD in Computer Science in Bologna, Italy. My last stop before Groningen was Lisbon, Portugal, where I worked as postdoctoral researcher.
My research is driven by the question: how can we produce error-free computer programs? I focus on communicating programs, which are the backbone of the software systems we all depend on. Communicating programs are everywhere, and can be surprisingly hard to get right. My passion is developing techniques that catch errors in programs by analyzing their source code. By relying on solid mathematical foundations, these techniques can make software more reliable and secure for everyone.
Why joining the Young Academy Groningen? It perfectly fits my long-standing interests in policy, diversity, and internationalization. In particular, one goal close to my heart is gender equality. I am thrilled I have been selected to join such a unique network of enthusiastic young scientists; a privileged forum to reflect about science and its impact from a vantage point.
"This coming year the YAG will continue its mission to engage with the UG community and beyond in matters of policy, foster diversity and internationalization, explore further avenues of public engagement and stimulate interdisciplinary research. We enthusiastically welcome our seven new members who are all outstanding researchers, share in the YAG's vision and will contribute with their own unique viewpoints and experiences to our organization."
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