NWO granted funding to a total of 188 projects in this round of Veni grant applications. The Veni is an individual research grant that is part of the NWO Talent Programme.
The UvA and Amsterdam UMC laureates
Amsterdam Law School
- Dr Vladimir Bogoeski (Private Law): Towards Sustainable Labour in Food Production – How Can the Law Help Achieve This?
Law and legal regulations shape the dominant global model of food production that thrives on environmental destruction and labour exploitation. However, not all food comes by causing environmental and social injustice. Bogoeski investigates how existing alternative practices and visions of sustainable labour coming from farmers, grassroots food movements, food workers and unions in the Netherlands have been inhibited or encouraged by law and legal structures. He offers a new bottom-up theory about the role of law in building sustainable labour relations as a central component of food justice in the green transition.
- Dr Andrea Leiter (Public International Law): (Re)Coding Value in the Digital Economy - ‘Decentralised Autonomous Organisations’ as Potential Pathways to a Sustainable Society?
How value is measured has significant consequences on the economic system. Experts from various disciplines concur that the narrow financial perspective on value is perpetuating an unjust accumulation of wealth and extractive practices that are detrimental to the environment. They agree that a fresh perspective on value is required. Using an interdisciplinary approach, Leiter studies blockchain-based Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) and token-engineering mechanisms as a potential pathway for new valuation practices that measure and allocate value in a more fair and equitable way.
- Dr Marijn Sax (Information Law): Nothing Personal? A Critical Reformulation of the Personalised-Manipulation Paradigm in the Context of Digital Choice Architectures
Digital choice architectures such as social media platforms, web shops, and streaming services become increasingly good at manipulating their users’ behaviour. Unfortunately, the sophistication of their behaviour-influencing techniques is not matched by current, outdated, theories of manipulation. As a result, there is a lack of ethical analyses that should help us distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate digital influences of behaviour. The same holds true for the legal regulation of manipulation in online choice environments. European legislation doesn’t sufficiently address manipulation. Sax will update the outdated ethical theories of manipulation and use the updated theory to suggest a better regulatory response to the manipulation of behaviour online.
Faculty of Humanities
- Dr Emily Clark (Media Studies): Listening to the Colonial Past: Dutch Audio Archives as History, Heritage and Data
Sound recordings are increasingly being used as a source of knowledge about the past: in scientific research, in museum exhibits, and as collective and personal heritage. But, like a photograph that is framed by the photographer's gaze, a sound recording does not provide neutral evidence of, or direct access to, past voices, experiences, or events. Clark explores a variety of factors that shape an historical sound recording: for example, who created it and why, how has it been preserved and made available in archival collections, and what are our contemporary ways of listening to the past.
- Dr Nour Munawar (Archaeology): A Decolonised Future – Heritage, Memory and Emerging Stories in the MENA Region
The victorious side in a war often employs heavy-handed means to re-write the (hi-)story of conflict. Diverging meanings are often inserted into post-conflict narratives of cultural heritage reconstruction and memory preservation. Munawar’s project critically engages with the potential of decolonizing the past and present-day historisation practices. It also explores their future impact on (re-)shaping, (re-)producing, promoting, and transmitting cultural heritage, collective memories, rebuilding identity, and conflict narratives in post-Arab Spring states in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
- Dr Cesko Voeten (Linguistics): The Challenge of Explaining Language Change: Frisian Vowel Breaking
For centuries, linguists have tried to explain language change. While there is consensus that this explanation lies in linguistic, social, and cognitive factors, their integration into a coherent whole has proven challenging. Ongoing changes in Frisian offer a solution. Voeten studies Frisian vowel breaking: a linguistic process that is currently changing through linguistic, social and cognitive factors. Voeten conducts corpus research, sociolinguistic fieldwork, and brain experiments to describe Frisian vowel breaking alongside its social and cognitive context. The results will contribute fundamentally to linguistics, and empower Frisian language education and language technology.
Faculty of Medicine (Amsterdam UMC)
- Dr Emma Birnie (Experimental Molecular Medicine): Antibodies for Preventing and Treating Melioidosis
Thee infectious disease Melioidosis is caused by the soil bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei. This bacteria is a major killer in the tropics with 165,000 estimated cases and 89,000 deaths worldwide annually. It is also on the list of potential bioterrorism weapons. To date, no effective vaccine or specific drug treatment is available for this disease. Birnie will develop potent neutralising monoclonal antibodies for the prevention and treatment of melioidosis.
- Dr Nam Bui (Experimental Vascular Medicine): Treatments Using Gut Bacteria Strains for Metabolic Health: from Lab to Clinic
The human microbiome is strongly associated with health and disease. Deviations in microbiome composition and function are known to contribute to the development of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This places a significant burden on our health care system. Despite this, only limited cause-and-effect studies have been performed and mechanistic insight in how microbiota affects host metabolism is lacking. In this project, Bui will employ a stable isotope approach using carbon 13C-labeled dietary components in intervention studies to advance mechanistic understanding and unravel the therapeutic potential of specific gut bacteria on type 2 diabetes.
- Dr Arthur Buijink (Neurology): Personalised Deep Brain Stimulation to Treat Essential Tremor
Essential tremor is a common movement disorder leading to shaking of the arms during movement. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an effective treatment where electrodes are placed deep in the brain, and block the ‘tremor circuit’ using an electric current. However, many patients frequently experience troublesome side-effects such as difficulties with their balance and coordination. Buijink wants to implement advanced MRI-techniques in clinical practice. The goal is to individualise treatment and reduce side-effects.
- Dr Alvin Han (Medical Microbiology and Infection Prevention): Linking Human Behaviour and Infectious Diseases
The actions we take and people we interact with are key factors that shape how respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, influenza viruses and respiratory syncytial virus spread across the human population. However, these factors are often ignored when making public health policy. Han will create a new mathematical simulation program to better understand how human behaviour and social factors drive the transmission of respiratory viruses. The purpose of this research is to use these findings to improve public health management of acute respiratory diseases.
- Dr Najim Lahrouchi (Experimental Cardiology): Identifying New Genes for Congenital Heart Defect
Congenital heart disease is a common birth defect. In the majority of cases, the underlying genetic cause remains unknown. This is in part due to the rudimentary understanding of how the human heart develops. Lahrouchi will combine studies in human fetal hearts with genetic analyses in large patient sets with congenital heart disease to identify novel genes underlying these disorders.
- Dr Annette Neele (Medical Biochemistry): The Hidden Identity: Macrophage-to-Myofibroblast Transdifferentiation in Atherosclerosis
Macrophages are key immune regulators of atherosclerosis. Neele will study a novel mechanism by which macrophages contribute to disease. More specifically, this occurs through transdifferentiation into cells that resemble myofibroblast (smooth muscle) cells. These macrophages acquire other characteristics that contribute to atherosclerotic plaque stability, an undescribed feature for macrophages. Applying cell-culture systems, Neele will identify regulators and mechanisms that contribute to transdifferentiation of macrophages in atherosclerosis.
- Dr Rik Olde Engberink (Nephrology): Dehydration with a Grain of Salt
Large amounts of salt can accumulate in the skin and muscle. Local salt storage has been related to high blood pressure but the exact mechanism is unknown. Olde Engberink will study the link between local salt storage, long-term water homeostasis and blood pressure regulation, and test whether high blood pressure can be treated by intervening in this process.
Faculty of Science
- Dr Marjolein Bruijning (Ecology): Pathogens, Microbiomes, and Host Evolution in a World of Global Change
Under predicted climate change, plants and animals may suffer more from pathogens that cause disease and epidemics. Bruijning studies how microbes living in and on their host (referred to as the microbiome) protect their host against pathogens. By combining experiments on water fleas with theoretical models, this research unravels the causal relationships between pathogen infection, shifts in the microbiome, and host responses.
- Dr Hazel Doughty (Informatics): From What to How: Perceiving Subtle Details in Videos
While video analysis can describe what’s happening, where it’s happening, and who is performing the activity, it fails to identify how activities happen. Knowing how to perform an activity well is the key to achieving the desired outcome. For instance, CPR must be performed using a certain amount of force, at a certain speed and at a specific location on the body if it is to have a chance of success. Doughty will develop AI models that can perceive subtle details in videos by describing how the activities occurring within them happen.
- Dr Aditya Parthasarathy (Astronomy): A Gamma-ray Interferometer to Advance Gravitational Wave Astrophysics (GIGA)
Coalescing supermassive black holes in the centres of merging galaxies fill the universe with low-frequency gravitational waves. Studying these waves allow scientists to understand how galaxies evolve and provide a map of the Universe just moments after the Big Bang. Astronomers have typically been using large radio telescopes but recently an international team of scientists has shown that gamma rays collected by NASA’s Fermi space telescope yield a clearer view of the pulsars and these gravitational waves. In the GIGA project, Parthasarathy will build upon this foundational work and accelerate developments that will lead to the detection of low-frequency gravitational waves.
- Dr Ziggy Pleunis (Astronomy): Using Fast Radio Bursts as Astrophysical Tools
Fast radio bursts originate far outside our Milky Way and were only recently discovered. It is still a mystery how the bursts are produced, but it is clear that some sources repeat while others apparently do not. In his research, Pleunis will aim to better understand the variety of fast radio bursts by using effects that are imparted on the signals by their local environment.
- Dr Nicolas Resch (Informatics): Secure and Efficient Code-Based Cryptography
Code-based cryptography offers many beneficial features such as potential security against quantum attacks and extremely efficient implementations of powerful cryptography such as multi-party computation. However, the current theory of its security is very incomplete. First, unlike lattice-based cryptography, it lacks a broad theory of security reductions. Second, many recent constructs lack sufficient cryptanalysis. Resch intends to fill in these gaps by leveraging deep tools from the study of error-correcting codes, many of which are absent in cryptographic literature. His research will advance secure and efficient cryptographic designs.
- Dr Jeremy Young (Physics): Pathways to Quantum Advantage in Intermediate-Scale Quantum Devices
Quantum technologies provide the opportunity for solving problems which conventional computers cannot. However, interference from external sources, also known as the environment, tends to destroy the desirable quantum features researchers hope to use. Young will develop new pathways to practical quantum technologies. He will do this by devising new ways of controlling interactions in order to accelerate dynamics to mitigate this interference from the environment, and by turning the environment itself into a resource.
Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
- Dr Marie Deserno (Psychology): Developing Networks: Sensitive Periods in Early Cognitive Development
Sensitive periods during early cognitive development are periods where minor individual differences have a significant impact on a child’s learning performance and wellbeing later in life. How can we identify sensitive periods and how do minor differences in the cognitive system determine the long-term effects of a sensitive period? Using a longitudinal network methodology, Deserno will create a formal model of developmental dynamics that is based on clinical expertise and empirical evidence.
- Dr Christel van Eck (Communication Science): The Boundaries of Climate Activism for Scientists
Scientists are increasingly sounding the alarm about climate change, for example by participating in disruptive climate actions. Van Eck will look at how the boundaries of scientists’ communication to the public shift during crises and whether this is desirable for science’s authority. She will study where both scientists and the public draw the line when it comes to the public communications of scientists. She will also examine the effects of various communication strategies on science’s authority and climate action. This research reveals the boundaries of the role played by scientists in the climate crisis and provides evidence-based communication strategies for them to engage the public with climate change actions, while safeguarding science’s authority.
- Dr Maria Hagan (Anthropology): Injured Body: when Injury Disrupts Migration
In recent years, countries within Europe have raced to make their borders difficult and dangerous for migrants to informally cross borders. While a lot of research and media attention has been paid to migrant deaths at Europe’s external borders, the issue of migrant injury at its internal borders is underexplored. Taking the French borders with the UK and Italy as case studies, Hagan will use a multi-method research approach to offer a better understanding of how borders injure, how injury impacts migrants, and what this says about the shifting humanitarian morals of European states.
- Dr Jonas Haslbeck (Psychology): Modelling Heterogeneousness in Psychological Networks
Network models have become extremely popular in psychological research over the last decade. However, there is currently no methodology to investigate subgroups in network models. For example, different individuals with severe depression may have different underlying networks of interacting symptoms, which require different treatments. Haslbeck will analyse existing methodologies and develop new methodologies to model subgroups in network models in both cross-sectional and time series data. He will collaborate with domain experts to apply the new methodology to advance research in climate change communication and the treatment of chronic pain and severe depression.
- Dr Anne Kroon (Communication Science): (Don’t) Convince Me: How Job Seekers, Algorithms and Recruiters Can Influence (In)Equality in Job Opportunities
Organisations are increasingly turning to algorithms to automate their hiring and recruitment processes. Kroon investigates whether this trend increases or decreases equality in the labour market. Specifically, she will examine how job seekers present themselves in online resumes and how this strategic self-presentation can lead to implicit ethnicity, age, and gender preferences in recruitment algorithms. Kroon also looks at the impact of this on job opportunities in relation to any conscious or unconscious biases of employers. Finally, she examines measures to counteract inequality to achieve a fair and inclusive recruitment and selection process.
- Dr Natashe Lemos Dekker (Anthropology): The Politics of Grief: COVID-19-Related Loss and Collective Action in Brazil
Lemos Dekker investigates the impact of COVID-19-related grief in Brazil. Brazil is one of the most heavily affected countries in the world, where many deaths occurred under traumatic circumstances that continue to affect subsequent experiences of grief. In this context, the deceased have explicitly become incorporated in political protests. Using ethnographic fieldwork, Lemos Dekker investigates the experiences of people who lost relatives during the pandemic and have become politically active as a result. Her research will shed new light on the relationship between grief and politics, demonstrating how grief could potentially generate political transformation and enhance the capacity to act.