NWO Vidi grants for 11 UvA researchers

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) has awarded Vidi grants worth 800,000 each to 11 experienced researchers from the UvA and the Amsterdam UMC, location AMC. The grants will enable them to develop their own innovative lines of research and set up research groups over the next five years.

The Vidi grant will allow researchers to conduct research for five years. In total, 625 researchers submitted eligible research projects for funding in this Vidi round. Of those, 101 have now been honoured.

The UvA laureates

  • Dr Vanessa van Ast (Clinical psychology): Changing minds by reshaping memories
    A memory from the past brings up emotions in the present. However, the emotions evoked by memories can be changed - either for better or for worse - by the simple act of remembering. This forms the basis of psychotherapy. But why does remembering make some evoked emotions worse, and others better? This question determines whether "confronting the past" - a common approach in psychotherapy - will actually be effective. Van Ast will unravel how the act of remembering can modify emotions evoked by past memories, and reveal how this memory flexibility can be harnessed to alleviate psychological disorders.

  • Dr Bert Bakker (Amsterdam School of Communication Research): Under pressure: studying the causes and consequences of societal threats
    With a pandemic, climate change, and terrorist attacks, we have seen threats that could have, or will in the future, fundamentally alter our way of life. The perceptions of threat can disrupt society as threat fuels protest, support for anti-democratic policies, and even leads to violence. In this project, the researchers will study how people perceive and regulate threats and adopt political attitudes and behaviours to counter these threats. Bakker’s project will inform citizens how to deal with the threats of the 21st century and prevent threats from disrupting society.

  • Dr Mark Boukes (Amsterdam School of Communication Research): Safeguarding the future of journalism in the digital age
    The future of independent high-quality journalism is at stake. The fragmenting digital media landscape has drastically reduced the revenues of journalistic organizations; simultaneously, an atmosphere of distrust has been fostered regarding the "mainstream" news media. Boukes’s project investigates the causes, consequences, and solutions for the declining trust in journalism as well as the public’s reduced willingness to pay for its news. He will examine these processes on the micro- (individual citizens), meso- (type of news media) and macro-level (differences between countries). The findings of the project will contribute to the preservation of journalism’s crucial role in our democratic society.

  • Dr Eddie Brummelman (Research Institute of Child Development and Education): Can disadvantaged children excel in school if others think they can’t?
    Can children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds excel in school if others think they can’t? Brummelman’s project examines why children from disadvantaged backgrounds often develop negative views of themselves and their abilities, and how these negative self-views can perpetuate socioeconomic disparities in educational achievement and mental health. To do so, the project will focus on the subtle transactions between children and their teachers. This will contribute to new insights that will help remedy inequality, so that all children, regardless of their background, can develop their skills and realize their full potential.

  • Dr Corentin Coulais (Institute of Physics): Achieving animate properties with odd robotic matter
    Can we create materials that can autonomously move and perform tasks even in unpredictable environments? Coulais’s project will introduce a novel type of robotic materials that are materials made of robots instead of atoms, and which will be capable of autonomously rolling, crawling and swimming in complex terrains.

  • Dr Sonja Cox (Korteweg-de Vries Institute): E-ciently simulating stochastic processes in curved spaces
    Stochastic differential equations in curved spaces are key models in applications ranging from cell biology to imageand speech recognition. As the solution to such equations cannot be given explicitly, practitioners rely on various approximation methods. However, for many of these approximation methods it is unknown whether they converge to the true solution, and if so, how fast. Cox’s goal is to establish convergence (rates) for methods that are currently used in practice, as well as to develop new methods that are either more efficient or can be applied to a larger class of problems.

  • Prof. Fenella Fleischmann (Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research): What does religion mean for integration? The role of religious reasoning
    Most immigrants to Europe are more religious than non-migrants and religion is frequently conceived of as a barrier to immigrant integration in predominantly secular societies. Previous research on the relationship between religiosity and immigrant integration has yielded inconclusive results but was limited to religious practices and the subjective importance of religion. Differences in how individuals reason about religion have not yet been systematically considered. Fleischmann’s project examines literal vs. symbolic approaches to religion as additional explanation of immigrant integration and aims to explain individual and group differences in religious reasoning between three religious minority groups in the Netherlands.

  • Dr Lotte Haverman (Amsterdam UMC, location AMC): Mitigating health inequity by creating inclusive Patient Reported Outcome Measures
    Patient centered care is increasingly acknowledged as fundamental to effective health care delivery. To fully understand what is important to patients, questionnaires can be used. The answers provide direct feedback for discussion in the examination room, which, among other benefits, improves quality of life. Patients with low literacy or multiple disabilities and those who do not speak or understand Dutch, are unable to complete the questionnaires. This leads to increased health care inequity. Haverman’s research focuses on developing questionnaires that can be completed by all patients, so that everyone can benefit from optimal care.

  • Dr Janet MacNeil Vroomen (Amsterdam UMC, location AMC): Aging in place: are the healthcare reforms working?
    European countries spend billions on long-term care for their aging population. Many have implemented reforms to keep future care affordable, often with a focus on staying at home longer. Yet nobody has evaluated if these reforms are actually reducing costs nor - even more importantly - if they work for the people receiving care and the family/friends who increasingly support them. MacNeil Vroomen’s research develops a method to evaluate aging in place, compare countries and recommend to countries which reforms work best for all involved.

  • Dr Edwin van der Pol (Amsterdam UMC, location AMC): Intercept 1000-fold more minuscule messengers in blood to improve diagnosis
    Blood contains small messengers. These messengers contain relevant information, which are useful for early diagnosis of diseases such as cancer. These messengers, however, are hidden within the blood, which hampers their detection. To detect a sufficient number of messengers, a much faster search is essential. Therefore, in Van der Pol’s project the researchers will develop new technologies to detect these messengers 1,000-fold faster than currently possible. These ultrafast technologies will provide clinicians with a new source of information, thereby enabling earlier diagnosis of disease.

  • Dr Vincenzo Sorrentino (Amsterdam UMC, location AMC): Balancing Mitochondria and Protein Aggregation in Alzheimer’s disease
    During Alzheimer’s disease, mitochondria, the energy producing-units in the brain cells, produce less energy. This leads to altered protein homeostasis and the brain accumulates detrimental protein aggregates, resulting in time in memory loss and cognitive deficiency. Nowadays neurodegeneration research mainly focuses on deleting aggregates by means of antibodies, which is only possible in late states of the disease. In Sorrentino’s project, the researchers instead want to identify how healthy mitochondria can fight toxic protein aggregates, with the aim to reverse early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

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