Awarded grants

  • 2020

    Ten academics, who fled threatening situations in their homeland, are set to continue their scientific careers in the Netherlands. Their appointments will be funded by the second round of a pilot programme launched in 2018 called ‘Hestia – Impulse for Refugees in Science’. A total of 47 admissible research proposals ten submitted. Ten of these have now been awarded funding. Eight of the nine refugees appointed are men and two are women. Eight of the project leaders/main applicants are women and two men. A total budget of just over 1 million euros was available for this round.


    Civilian agency of local elites in the emerging post-rebel order in Eastern Ghouta, Damascus.

    Applicant: dr. Katharine Fortin
    Candidate: Mohammad Kanfash MA
    Instelling: Utrecht University

    The project examines the role of local civilian elites and how their (active) engagement with the agents of the Syrian state enhances the performance of the state institutions and shape its actions. It aims to understand their impact and influence on the return process to areas previously held by rebels.

    Expectations, needs and values of refugee patients. Shared decision making and refugee patients in Dutch health care

    Applicant: dr. Dorothea Touwen
    Candidate: Rima Alkirawan MSc
    Institution: LUMC

    Refugees often expect other things than Dutch physicians are used to. In order to provide good care it is necessary to agree about wishes and possibilities. This project studies needs and expectations of refugees. Our results will help physicians to provide good care for refugee patients.

    Controlling greenhouse aphids with entomopathogenic fungi: what roles do aphid endosymbionts play?

    Applicant: dr. ir. Bart Pannebakker
    Candidate: Zilal Suleiman Alkadour MSc
    Institution: Wageningen University

    Aphids are serious and persistent pests in greenhouse crops. Aphids can be controlled without pesticides by using natural enemies such as fungi. These fungi are not always effective against aphids, possibly through protecting from micro-organisms. We will search for effective fungi and investigate the protective role of such micro-organisms.

    Assessing the Contribution of International Law to Repairing Harm –Identifying relationships between JustSatisfaction Awards at the European Court, Turkish legislation of reparations and victims’ perceptions of redress

    Applicant: prof. dr. Rianne Letschert
    Candidate: Fikret Demircivi MA
    Institution: NSCR

    After mass atrocities and state repression, reparative measures to repair the harm of victims may be awarded. This project examines how victims in Turkey perceive the impact of their right to reparations, and what role the reparations awarded by the European Court of Human Rights, play in in this impact.

    The sound of flow: High-resolution brain tumour vascular signature mapping with mutually informed MRI and intraoperative 𝜇Doppler ultrasound.

    Applicant: prof. dr. M. Smits
    Candidate: Ahmad Alafandi M.D.
    Institution: Erasmus MC

    This project – embedded in the clinical-technological research environment of the Medical Delta – aims to improve the non-invasive diagnosis of brain tumours. We combine a recently developed technology, 𝜇Doppler ultrasound, with MRI to determine the tumour type more accurately and to eventually improve brain tumour patient management and outcome.

    Whistleblowing as Private Law Enforcement: Strengthening Public Health, Privacy and Anticorruption

    Applicant: dr. V. (Vigjilenca) Abazi
    Candidate: Arif Aksu MSc
    Institution: Maastricht University

    Whistleblowing provides an urgently needed tool for accountability. To strengthen the rule of law in society we can no longer rely only on existing institutional checks and balances. This project advances knowledge on how whistleblowing can be used to improve law enforcement in public health, privacy protection and anticorruption.

    Epigenetics of clustered protocadherins, the brain’s neuronal address codes

    Applicant: dr. L. (Lucia) Clemens-Daxinger
    Candidate: Serkan Dogan PhD
    Institution: LUMC

    Genetic errors in epigenetic “reader”, “writer” and “eraser” proteins can lead to developmental disease. The researchers will investigate how changes in chemical tags of the DNA and its associated histone proteins influence regulation of the neuronal address codes for the brain.

    External Financial Governance: Migration Management and Solidarity with Non-EU Countries through EU Funding

    Applicant: dr. Evangelia (Lilian) Tsourdi
    Candidate: Nasrat Sayed MSc
    Institution: Maastricht University

    Responsibility sharing remains elusive in the global refugee protection regime, while EU funding is increasingly used to pursue migration management objectives in non-EU countries. Using an original combination of legal and empirical analysis, this project examines why, advances knowledge on governance and global responsibility sharing, and formulates proposals for reform.

    From archive to network: Syrian music in the Jaap Kunst audio collection and beyond

    Applicant: dr. Hannah Bosma
    Candidate: Maksim Abdul Latif MA
    Institution: Universiteit van Amsterdam

    Syrian traditional music is endagered and in diaspora, due to wars, oppression and Westernization. Where and how is it preserved? This project conceives a network archive to map, archive, analyse and show how some rare Syrian recordings are connected with other musical phenomena within the dispersed Syrian music culture.

    Balancing your way in: How recently arrived Eritrean refugees navigate contrasting constructions of ‘the good migrant’ in the Netherlands and Germany

    Applicant: Prof. H. (Huib) Ernste
    Candidate: Dawit Tesfay Haile MSc
    Institution: Radboud Universiteit

    This qualitative research project focuses on the everyday challenges of Eritrean refugees in the Netherlands and Germany. It gains detailed insight into how they simultaneously deal with 1) the expectations/moral pressures of migration policies, and 2) the expectations/moral pressures deriving from their social networks and diaspora communities.

  • 2019, round 1

    In January 2019, twelve academics, who have left their fatherland due to a threatening situation, have received a one-year appointment to continue their scientific career in the Netherlands. Ten of the refugees appointed are men, and two are women. A total budget of 750,000 euros was available for the pilot.

    This additional funding can be used by the project leaders concerned to appoint a researcher with refugee status to a current project for a period of one year. The pilot has been developed in consultation with The Young Academy, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and Foundation for Refugee Students UAF. A total of 41 admissible research proposals were submitted, and 12 of these have now been awarded funding. That is an award rate of about 29%. Ten of the refugees appointed are men, and two are women. Seven of the project leaders awarded funding are women and five men. A total budget of 750,000 euros was available for the pilot.


    Modelling the changing sediment yield of the Amazon for the next 100 years and the impact on the Surinamese coast
    Applicant: Prof. Steven de Jong
    Institution: Utrecht University & Anton de Kom University of Suriname
    Candidate: Safaa Naffaa MSc

    Climate change and deforestation will change the Amazon River discharge and sediment supply with potentially large consequences for the low-lying coast of Suriname. Our model forecasts will help predict future impacts on sediment delivery and coastal evolution. Such knowledge is urgently needed to protect the coasts and develop mitigation measures.

    Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of carotid plaques for tailored treatment of stroke patients
    Applicant: Prof. Eline Kooi
    Institution: CARIM, Maastricht University Medical Center+
    Candidate: Mohamed Kassem MD

    MRI can visualise details within an atherosclerotic plaque to improve identification of patients with an increased risk for stroke. In this project, we will investigate whether advanced MRI techniques can be used to improve the selection of patients who will benefit from surgery to reduce stroke risk.

    TRITON: Targeting mRNA for ImmunoTherapy in ONcology
    Applicant: Prof. Raymond Schiffelers
    Institution: University Medical Center Utrecht
    Candidate: Khalid Aldakkak MSc

    Immunotherapy of cancer is promising but expensive. In this project, the researchers will develop nanoparticles that can be injected locally into the tumor to mount an antitumor response.

    Imperial ideology and architectural heritage: Damascus under the Mamluk Sultans (1260-1516 AD)
    Applicant: Dr Gabrielle van den Berg
    Institution: Leiden University
    Candidate: Dr Ghazwan Yaghi

    This project investigates the interrelationship between imperial ideology and architecture in the city of Damascus during the Mamluk sultanate (13th-15th centuries). It does so by analysing six monumental buildings erected by members of the Mamluk political-military elites and identifying the representations of rulership these elites tried to convey through architecture.

    Weaponising Students: Mobilising and militarising the National Union of Syrian Students
    Applicant: Dr Uğur Ümit Üngör
    Institution: Utrecht University
    Candidate: Ali Aljasem MA

    Students are often known for their activism, but how can students get involved in a civil war? This project looks at the involvement of Syrian students as paramilitaries in the conflict in Syria, in particular in the rebellious university city Aleppo, through an analysis of mobilisation and the commission of violence.

    What causes impairments in emotional communication between native Dutch and refugees?
    Applicant: Dr Disa Sauter
    Institution: University of Amsterdam
    Candidate: Dr Shahira Sharaf

    This project looks at why emotional communication between native Dutch people and Arabic refugees is often difficult. The results will tell us about how attitudes towards refugees can affect how we understand how they feel, as well as showing the potential for learning through inter-group contact.

    Enacting the social contract: Civil disobedience in Armenia
    Applicant: Dr Robin Celikates
    Institution: University of Amsterdam
    Candidate: Hrayr Manukyan MA

    This research project is a case study of the Armenian Velvet Revolution, which came as a surprise to the international community and most academics. It establishes that the Armenian campaign of civil disobedience has a deeper significance than the dominant theoretical models of civil disobedience are able to grasp.

    High-tech battleships against rubber dinghies? The influence of lobby groups on EU military operation 'Sophia' against migrant smugglers
    Applicant: Dr Giselle Bosse
    Institution: Maastricht University
    Candidate: Name known to NWO

    Although it has no army, the EU deploys thousands of personnel for its own military operations abroad. This study provides new insights into how the EU decides on highly risky operations, presenting the first systematic study on unaccountable lobby groups’ influence on EU 'Sophia', the largest, most expensive operation to date. 

    Detection of vegetation droughts and their propagation over continents
    Applicant: Dr Ruud van der Ent
    Institution: Delft University of Technology
    Candidate: Fares Al Hasan MSc

    In this project, we investigate how the 2018 European summer drought was caused and how it could develop into such an extreme event. We study the role of the land surface and the vegetation in the intensification, persistence and spatial propagation of the drought.

    Nervous guts and their road to colorectal cancer
    Applicant: Dr Veerle Melotte
    Institution: Maastricht University Medical Center+
    Candidate: Musa Idris MSc.

    Components of the tumor-microenvironment play an important role in the development of colorectal cancer. In this project, we will create a 3D culture model to investigate the role of the enteric nervous system in colorectal carcinogenesis.

    FAIR share: ex vivo conservation of Zebrafish models
    Applicant: Prof. Caroline Klaver
    Institution: Erasmus MC
    Candidate: Dr Ijaz Qadeer Kahn, DVM

    Zebrafish can be used to model many medical issues in people. The growing number of zebrafish lines require improved methods for archiving these sustainably (deep freezing) and subsequently making these available for exchange with the global research community. The candidate is an expert on animal reproductive technology.

    The interplay between cognitive ability and social origin in explaining educational attainment: do twins and non-twin siblings differ?
    Applicant: Prof. Ineke Maas
    Institution: Utrecht University
    Candidate: Dr V.M. Barsegyan

    Children of high-status parents often do well in school, even with relatively low cognitive ability. This has been found in twin studies. In this project we will investigate whether this finding is applicable to the total population, which mainly consists of non-twin children.

  • 2019, round 2

    A total of 21 admissible research proposals were submitted. Nine of these have now been awarded funding. Seven of the ten refugees appointed are men and two are women. Five of the project leaders/main applicants are women and four men. A total budget of just over 1 million euros was available for the pilot. A third and final round of the ‘Hestia – Impulse for Refugees in Science’ pilot programme will be launched in the spring of 2020.


    The role of self-efficacy in predicting treatment outcome of childhood specific phobias: A clinical experimental study

    Applicant: Dr A.M. Klein
    Institution: Leiden university  
    Candidate: name applicant anonymised

    Summary: Anxiety disorders are common in childhood. Unfortunately, around 40% of children still suffer anxiety problems following treatment. Children’s self-confidence to deal with their anxiety, also referred to as self-efficacy, seems important in treatment success. This project investigates if increasing children’s’ self-efficacy can improve treatment for childhood anxiety disorders.

    Secondary Liability for International Crimes – Case Study of Syria

    Applicant: Prof. dr. mr. G.K. Sluiter
    Institution: Amsterdam University
    Candidate: Ahmad A Zien

    Summary: The Project explores the assistance to the commission of mass atrocities in the Syrian conflict and the potential of the law to hold those responsible to account. On the basis of the Syrian case study, recommendations for improving the accountability regime will be formulated.

    “Shabab Akwa” – “stronger youth”. Empowerment “PLUS” – empowerment of self-management and care seeking behaviour for refugee childrens’ stress-related health problems

    Applicant: Prof. dr M.E.T.C. van den Muijsenbergh
    Institution: Radboud UMC
    Candidate: Ghadeer Haj Bakri MD

    Summary: Refugee children suffer from health problems related to stress. Often their parents do not know what to do about these. Dutch healthcare does not meet their needs sufficiently. In this project a refugee-pediatrician studies these and what help would be best. Together with their parents she develops health promotion materials.

    The VEGFA-suppressed immune microenvironment and radiotherapy-sensitivity in esophageal adenocarcinomas.

    Applicant: Dr S.D. Derks
    Institution: Amsterdam UMC
    Candidate: Tesfay Mehari Godefa MSc
    Summary: Esophageal

    Adenocarcinoma is a deadly disease, which is at least partly the results of therapy resistance in early stage disease. In this project we further explore the immunosuppressive properties of a frequent amplified gene, VEGFA, and use this to develop more effective immunotherapy.

    Identifying malware families of IoT botnets by machine learning using their network behaviour

    Applicant: Dr. ing. C. Hernandez Ganan
    Institution: Technical University Delft

    Candidate: name applicant anonymised
    Summary: The Internet of Things (IoT) devices (cameras, routers, wearable and other embedded technologies) are quite attractive playgrounds for cyber attackers nowadays. This research will provide a machine learning methodology for identifying malware families of IoT botnets that will help to design effective countermeasures for detecting, preventing and mitigating them.

    The impact of parental genes on offspring health: nurture via nature

    Applicant: Prof. dr D.I. Boomsma
    Institution: VU
    Candidate: Hekmat Alrouh MD

    Summary: Children from low socioeconomic families are at higher risk of poor health. This could be due to growing up in poverty, to transmitted genetic liability, or both. This study uses a new “genetic nurture” design to explore how parents influence children’s health via genes and the environment.

    From short-term engagement to long-term integration of refugees

    Applicant: Prof. dr H. Ghorashi
    Institution: VU Amsterdam
    Candidate: Younes Younes

    Summary:  This project contributes to the growing demand of knowledge and solutions of the long-term integration of refugees. The most innovative part of this project is investigating the contributions of neighbourhood- and community initiatives (like Hoost in Amsterdam-East in 2016) in the integration of refugee participants in the Dutch labour market.

    Structuring Reproducibility in Deep Learning Research

    Applicant: Dr. J.C. van Gemert
    Institution: Technical university Delft
    Candidate: Burak Yildiz MSc

    Summary: Current Artificial Intelligence research is powered by deep learning. This Hestia proposal makes results of a current deep learning research project easier to reproduce, while developing a reproducibility workflow which is explicitly communicated to academics and industry. The candidate will become a practical deep learning expert with a promising future career.

    Diagnostics for diseases in Indonesian poultry production to support antimicrobial stewardship interventions

    Applicant: Prof. dr J.A. Wagenaar
    Institution: Utrecht University
    Candidate: Tagrid Dinar

    Summary: When antibiotics are used, bacteria become resistant and diseases untreatable which is considered a global threat. As bacteria transfer from animals to humans we should aim for restricted use of antibiotics in animals and humans. This project helps Indonesian farmers to keep their animals healthy by prevention instead using antibiotics.

    In the news | Nine refugee academics put their talent to work for Dutch science