Seven new principal investigators in physics and chemistry receive START-UP grants

17 July 2018

Via the START-UP programme, NWO has awarded almost 3 million euros to seven recently appointed principal investigators in physics and chemistry. The subjects they will investigate range from research into communication in brain cells to a study into the development of sustainable catalysis with gold. START-UP is a programme from the Physics and Chemistry sector plan.

START-UP is intended for recently appointed associate, assistant or full professors in physics and chemistry. With the START-UP grant, these researchers can elaborate creative, risky ideas within the focus areas of the Physics and Chemistry sector plan. The seven projects awarded funding cover the entire breadth of the focus areas within physics and chemistry.

A total of 19 proposals were submitted for this second round of START-UP. The selection committee invited 14 candidates for an interview, from which seven received the START-UP grant. The deadline for the next funding round is 4 October 2018. Details of the specific conditions to be met by those submitting proposals are listed in the call for proposals. NWO makes a maximum of 3 million euros available for each funding round of START-UP.

Projects awarded funding

Magnetic imaging of binary electron waves in 2D materials for the chips of the future
Toeno van der Sar (Delft University of Technology)
RRecently discovered, atom-thin crystals have caused considerable excitement in physics. Their electrons have new, binary properties that could lead to a completely different and faster computer architecture. This project will investigate these properties using a diamond mini-MRI scanner with an exceptionally high nanometre resolution.

The movement of microorganisms in mucous
Joost de Graaf (Utrecht University)
Mucous is vital for the protection of our airways, for example. We will develop numerical methods to understand how mucous influences the movement of microorganisms. These methods could lead to new medical insights.

Sustainable catalysis with gold: radical-based oxidations of C-H compounds with environmentally friendly oxidants
Johannes Klein (University of Groningen)
In this project, the researchers will develop new ways of modifying organic molecules. The aim is to find environmentally friendly alternatives for the functionalisation of C-H compounds in fossil fuels, pharmaceutical compounds and agrochemicals. With such alternatives, the researchers want to make a contribution to issues related to energy and health.

Towards imaging in living tissue at a resolution of 1 nanometre
Carlas Smith (Delft University of Technology)
The researcher proposes a new way of overcoming the diffraction limit, so that nanoscopy can be made available as a general tool for the imaging of living tissue. The technology is based on the formation of ultra-small points in time and space that penetrate deep into the tissue and reveal structures at a nanometre resolution.

High-resolution ‘single particle’ cryo-electron microscopy on membrane transporters
Cristina Paulino (University of Groningen)
This research focuses on developing a technologically advanced line of research to study a unique class of proteins that transport ions or molecules across biological membranes. The electron microscopy technique for which the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded in 2017 will be used for unravelling the molecular working mechanisms.

Microscopic geometry of space-time from a new perspective
Timothy Budd (Radboud University Nijmegen)
The microscopic quantum structure of space-time played an important role in the early development of our universe. This research combines recent mathematical methods with computer simulations to model the quantum geometry of space-time. This takes place at a randomly small scale where quantum fluctuations result in fractal properties.

Brain signals at the nanoscale
Daan Brinks (Delft University of Technology)
Brain signals start with electrical pulses in nanoscopically small parts of the cell: the synapses. The researcher will visualise those miniscule signals to discover how they lead to communication in brain cells and how that can go wrong. This might contribute to the treatment of brain diseases in the future.

Source: NWO