Seven researchers in physics and chemistry to receive funding in final START-UP round

31 July 2019

The Dutch Research Council (NWO) has awarded nearly three million euros to seven recently appointed researchers in physics and chemistry through the START-UP programme. The topics range from research into developing transparent materials for electronics to investigating the hot matter formed during the Big Bang. The START-UP programme is part of the Physics and Chemistry Sector Plan. In this fourth START-UP round, 28 proposals were submitted. The committee invited 18 candidates for an interview, seven of which have been awarded START-UP funding. This was the final round of the NWO START-UP programme.

Awarded projects

Influencing spin polarisation in two-dimensional systems.
Marcos Guimarães (University of Groningen)
Symmetry is present everywhere and determines the properties of materials. The researchers will adjust the symmetry of two-dimensional materials and, with the help of a laser, will measure the subsequent change in their magnetic properties. Their findings will contribute to the development of new electronics based on magnetism.

Disentangling the ultrafast mechanism of electron-induced damage
Daniel Horke (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Free electrons, such as those produced by ionising radiation from outer space, may cause considerable damage to biological materials such as DNA. Using advanced laser technology, the researchers will follow the electrons in real time as they interact with biomolecules, with the aim of further unravelling the mechanism of formation damage.

Surfaces with adaptability for fluid transfer and chemical communication
Danqing Liu (Eindhoven University of Technology)
All organisms contain surfaces which are able to transport substances and carry out chemical reactions. The researchers will develop synthetic surfaces that can secrete and absorb fluid from their environment. The researchers will investigate how such a system can be controlled by light or an electric field. These types of surfaces can be used to exchange chemical information and administer medications.

Biomolecules for measuring the degree of acidity using diagnostic ultrasound
David Maresca (Delft University of Technology)
The researchers will develop a biosensor at the nanoscale to map out biological processes using ultrasound. This makes it possible to observe the regulation of acidity, for example. The ultrasound biosensor consists of protein in gaseous state and is inspired by a green, fluorescent bacterium that occurs in nature. Using this nanotechnology, the researchers can observe inflammation in the vascular system, among other things.

Bridging the gap for p-type transparent materials
Monica Morales-Masis (University of Twente)
Completely transparent electronics and even more efficient solar cells are coming soon! But to manufacture them, we need new transparent materials with the same characteristics as traditional semiconductors such as silicon. In this project, the researchers will investigate how they can develop one of these new materials: a transparent p-type semiconductor.

How quark-gluon plasma works
Marta Verweij (University of Utrecht)
Just after the Big Bang, the temperature was so high that material melted into a particle soup. This type of material is produced in particle accelerators by colliding nuclei with each other. The researchers will use particles with the highest energy to discover the structure of this hot matter.

Mapping out heart damage from radiation
Sebastian Weingärtner (Delft University of Technology)
Radiation is often used in cancer treatments, but may also lead to heart damage. The researchers will develop new quantitative methods for using MRI to map out the electrical properties of the hearts of patients who have been exposed to radiation. This makes it possible to detect damage to heart tissue earlier on and to better treat the side effects of radiation therapy.

End of START-UP programme

With the award of this funding round, the NWO START-UP programme has come to an end. The report "Wissels om" (Switching tracks, report is in Dutch only) from the Van Rijn Committee was recently published. In response, the letter to parliament (Dutch only) by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) states that the sector plan funds allocated through NWO (including the funds for START-UP) will be transferred to direct government funding. This means that after 2020, the Dutch Research Council will no longer have access to this funding and will, therefore, terminate this programme from the start of 2020 and will not launch a new funding round. How this funding will be allocated through direct government funding in the future is not yet clear. The OCW Ministry, universities and the sectorplancommissie bèta-techniek are currently holding talks. For questions and comments about the NWO START-UP programme, please contact Shashini Munshi (s.munshi@nwo.nl, +31 70 349 4259) or Tanja Kulkens (t.kulkens@nwo.nl, +31 70 344 0769).

Source: NWO