August 28, 2023

Veni grants for six UvA’s Faculty of Science researchers

The Dutch Science Council (NWO) has awarded Veni grants of up to 280,000 euro per project to promising UvA’s Faculty of Science researchers at Amsterdam Science Park. The funding will enable the laureates to further develop their research ideas over the next 3 years.

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.

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.

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