Leiden University: Eight researchers to travel abroad on Rubicon grant

Eight young researchers from Leiden University have received a Rubicon grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). This will allow them to conduct research at a top institute or university abroad.

Experience abroad is a vital step in the career of many researchers. The Rubicon grant enables young researchers to conduct research at a top institution abroad. NWO has provided a total of 31 Rubicon grants to researchers who recently received their PhD. Most of them will spend 24 months abroad.

Eight young researchers from Leiden University have received a Rubicon grant. Below is a brief description of their projects and where they will be conducting their research.

Accurate modelling of the building blocks of plasma catalysis
Nick Gerrits will spend 24 months conducting research at the PLASMANT Research Group at the University of Antwerp. Little is known about how plasma catalysis works. Gerrits will therefore develop various methods to investigate different building blocks of plasma catalysis, such as vibrational excitations, electric fields and charged surfaces.

A new drug target for Parkinson’s disease
Elliot Mock will spend 24 months doing research at the University of Oxford. With Parkinson’s disease the functioning of the mitochondria is impaired. A new strategy to remove impaired mitochondria is to inhibit the protein USP14. In this project Mock will use pharmacological and genetic tools to investigate USP14 as a drug target in Parkinson’s.

Picking up the pieces
Arianna Sacco’s Rubicon will enable her to spend 24 months at the Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Reconstructing how different regions interacted during times of political turmoil is challenging. By using a digital and quantitative method to examine pottery, Sacco aims to investigate interactions between different regions in ancient Egypt.

Reprogramming microorganisms to produce better antibiotics
Kamaleddin Tehrani has already started his Rubicon research. He will spend 24 months at the Helmholtz Institute for Pharmaceutical Research Saarland in Germany. Microorganisms are the primary source of new antibiotics. To combat antimicrobial resistance, Tehrani will alter the antibiotic production line of certain bacteria to produce more effective antibiotics.

Blood platelets and the risk of venous thrombosis
Julia Tilburg will be swapping the LUMC for Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where she will spend 24 months researching venous thrombosis. The size and number of blood platelets is linked to the risk of venous thrombosis. Tilburg will investigate whether genetic variations associated with venous thrombosis can influence the production of blood platelets by megakaryocytes.

Symmetries in the sky
Donggang Wang’s Rubicon grant will enable him to do 24 months of research at the University of Cambridge. The primordial universe provides a unique opportunity to test the physics of the microscopic world with observations on cosmic scales. In this natural laboratory Wang will explore novel approaches to probe symmetries of fundamental physics.

Targeted design of shape-morphing materials
Anne Meeussen will spend 24 months conducting research at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. Shape-changing materials—from tents to solar sails—are useful, but hard to design. Meeussen will use experiments to model such materials, and will draw up design rules to help researchers create new shape-morphing materials.

Stress test for cardiovascular disease
A. de Jong will spend 24 months at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in the United States. Disease can cause stress reactions in cells. This can disrupt normal processes, like the production of proteins. In this project De Jong will research the effect of cellular stress on the development of cardiovascular disease.

NB The awards in this article are from two rounds from 2020 that were combined. This explains why some of the researchers above have already started work at the institution abroad.

NWO is complying with the Dutch government’s Covid mesaures. The current circumstances require appropriate measures, which will differ per grant. This means that the researchers in this Rubicon round will only be able to start their research when the situation is safe for them.

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