Twelve Veni grants for Rotterdam researchers

Campus Woudestein
Sunny day on campus Woudestein.
Alexander Santos Lima

From making AI less artificial to young people as drivers of change: 12 Rotterdam researchers will receive Veni grants of up to 280,000 euros. The Veni is a personal scientific grant from NWO for promising researchers. It allows them to further develop their own research ideas over the next three years. The laureates come from Erasmus School of Economics, Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication, Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam School of Management and Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

The Rotterdam laureates

Here's what our award winners say about their research:

Cerebrocerebellar interactions underlying the coordination of complex behaviour - Dr. Vincenzo Romano (Erasmus MC)

''Interaction between small and big brainTo make precise movements, our big and small brain (cerebrum and cerebellum) exchange electrical signals. Thus far, studies have examined the big and small brain separately, or in relation to one body part. Therefore, we lack a comprehensive understanding of how we control simultaneous movements in multiple body parts. My hypothesis is that signals travel back and forth between the big and small brain at different stages of movement. With the technologies I develop, I aim to reveal how these two brain cortices work together during natural behaviour, deepening our understanding of neurological conditions.''

Sanders Building
Alexander Santos Lima

The front page: early transcriptional regulation of host-pathogen interaction - Dr. Kristina Lanko (Erasmus MC)

''While wild-type poliovirus is almost eradicated, other related enteroviruses have emerged, that can also lead to a sudden paralysis in children. This happens when motor neurons are affected by the virus. In this project the scientist will investigate the first responses when an enterovirus infects motor neurons with a novel combination of techniques from the field of genetics and virology. This research aims at understanding how motor neurons change their behaviour during infection. This will help us to elucidate how enterovirus causes paralysis.''

Green growth and equity: Securing material resources for green transition - Dr. Ioannis Kampourakis (Erasmus School of Law)

''My project explores how the new EU policies on critical raw materials change the political economy of the Union. These EU policies seek to reshape markets so that they function not only for the fulfilment private interests but also for the achievement of public objectives. I will empirically investigate how this emerging legal framework affects impacted communities in mining and manufacturing sites. Finally, I will explore whether the legal framework on material resources can lead to a just and global green transition – and, if not, what reforms will be necessary to achieve this.''

From creative labour to social change: another look at cultural work through care politics - Dr. Kristina Kolbe (Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication)

''Despite diversity policies, raced, classed, and gendered inequalities in Europe’s creative sector persist. This project, however, explores how cultural work can be re-imagined, and notably, re-practiced through a focus on care politics. Looking at the music sector, I will conduct a multi-sited ethnography of music collectives in the Netherlands, UK, Germany, and France to study how care is constructed in their creative, organizational, and social practices of music production. I thereby trace how care offers a new principle for creative labor that unsettles inequalities but will also analyze under which institutional parameters it merely reproduces hierarchy and precariousness.''

A view of our campus with the faculties flags.

Dealing with social rejection and the well-being of young people - Dr. Michelle Achterberg (Erasmus School of Social and Behavioral Sciences)

''Social rejection is one of the most challenging experiences for children and can have long-lasting negative impact on their well-being. Scientists currently do not understand why some children are more affected by social rejection than others. With the data collected in this Veni-project, I will be able to investigate the social development of children for 10 ongoing years (7 to 17 years old). Using brain imaging techniques in combination with daily questions through smartphones, I aim to discover which children are most affected by social rejection, to ultimately determine how we can best facilitate social development of these children.''

A deep machine learning approach to foster sustainable behavior - Dr. Sebastian Gabel (Rotterdam School of Management)

''Behavioral interventions are a valuable tool for policymakers to tackle persistent societal problems such as climate change. However, researchers have increasingly challenged predominant one-size-fits-all approaches that use the same interventions for everyone. I propose a scalable deep machine learning approach that personalizes behavioral interventions. The approach first predicts the effectiveness of behavioral interventions and then identifies the optimal intervention mix and timing for each individual. Understanding differences in individuals’ susceptibilities to interventions will enable researchers to offer more nuanced guidance to policymakers. Policymakers can use the proposed approach to trigger behavioral change more effectively and increase welfare.''

Young people as drivers of change - Dr. Lysanne te Brinke (Erasmus School of Social and Behavioral Sciences)

''Adolescents who are growing up in the current decade need to deal with several societal challenges, such as increases in social inequalities and climate change. During the developmental period of adolescence, individuals experience a strong need to contribute to these societal challenges. However, little is known about how best to shape this need to contribute. In this project, I examine how adolescents can become agents of change, by looking at differences between contributions to close others and contributions to the broader society.''

Studenten wandelen op campus

Making AI less artificial - Dr. Joao Fernando Gonçalves (Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication)

''Artificial intelligence has brought exciting innovations to everyday life, but also risks such as discrimination and errors in high stakes decisions such as awarding child benefits or driving a car. This risk often happens because the people who develop these algorithms can make them work very well on the data they have, but not in unpredictable real-world situations that depend on complex human interactions. To solve this problem, this project uses knowledge from the social sciences to improve data and make AI algorithms better at handling unforeseen situations when interacting with humans.''

Self-insurance through Temporary Work - Dr. Ana Gomes Figueiredo Varatojo dos Santos (Erasmus School of Economics)

''Understanding the job search behavior of the unemployed is important to design effective labor market policies. For example, wealthy workers can use their liquid savings to prolong job search, but this is not an option for low-wealth workers. Instead, these workers can search for easier-to-find jobs to smooth consumption. What type of jobs they pursue to shorten unemployment duration and protect themselves against the adverse consequences of job loss remains an open question. This research tackles this issue by studying the impact of wealth on the take-up of temporary work after job loss and its long-term implications for earnings..''

Enterovirus' guide to the central nervous system: how to infect, spread and cause inflammation in brain cells - Dr. Lisa Bauer (Erasmus MC)

''Enteroviruses infect millions of people annually and can cause a broad range of severe and life-threatening neurological diseases. It is unknown which brain cells enteroviruses infect, how enteroviruses spread through the brain and how brain cells react to the virus infection. Here, I will study which specific brain cells are infected by enteroviruses and how these viruses travel from cell to cell. This project is an essential stepping stone to understand enterovirus-induced neurological complications and will help in the development of antivirals.''

Erasmus MC
Guido Pijper

ThyHeart: male-female differences in cardiovascular disease explained by thyroid hormone metabolites - Dr. Layal Chaker (Erasmus MC)

''The reason for sex-differences in cardiovascular disease is not fully understood but hormonal  differences may play a role. Thyroid dysfunction is common in the general population, especially in women. Thyroid hormone and its metabolites have shown clear cardiovascular effects in animal models, but this has not been studied in humans due to lack of a reliable measurement method.  This project uses a novel method to measure thyroid hormones and their metabolites to investigate their role in the difference in cardiovascular disease between men and women.''

To breathe or not to breathe on your own? New strategies for safe transition to assisted artificial ventilation- Dr. Annemijn Jonkman (Erasmus MC)

''Mechanical ventilation in the ICU is life-saving for patients with acute lung failure. In the initial phase, respiration is fully controlled by the ventilator - the patient is deeply asleep. A crucial milestone is switching to assisted ventilation: patient’s spontaneous breathing is resumed while the ventilator assists respiration. The optimal timing of this switch is unknown. Spontaneous breathing could worsen lung injury, but there are no bedside methods to measure this risk. Using innovative lung imaging techniques, this project aims to determine when to safely switch to assisted ventilation. This is extremely important in order to accelerate ventilator liberation and recovery.''

About the Veni grant
Veni, together with the Vidi and Vici grants, is part of the Talent Programme. The NWO Talent Programme gives researchers the freedom to conduct their own research based on creativity and passion.
NWO selects researchers based on the scientific quality and innovative nature of the research proposal, the scientific and/or societal impact of the proposed project and the quality of the researcher.

The programme encourages innovation and curiosity. Free research contributes to and prepares us for tomorrow's society. This is why NWO focuses on a diversity of scientists, domains and backgrounds.

Assistant professor
Assistant professor
Assistant professor
Assistant professor
Assistant professor
Assistant professor
Assistant professor
dr. Ana Gomes Figueiredo Varatojo dos Santos
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Six researchers from Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) and Erasmus MC have been awarded a Veni grant by the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).
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