Vici 2011

This year 236 researchers wrote a brief preproposal for a Vici grant and 94 researchers were invited to elaborate their proposals. Thirty-one researchers have now received a Vici, an award rate of 13 percent. The percentage of good proposals was, however, much higher. This means that as a result of limited funding, NWO had to reject very good researchers.

Dynamic choices and games 
Prof. J.H. (Jaap) Abbring (m) Tilburg University - Econometrics and Operations Research 
Dynamic choice and game models are indispensable for studying social security and unemployment, peer effects on adolescent risky behaviour, competition policy and innovation, and many other problems. This project will develop methods that facilitate the broad and effective application of these models.

The apathetic brain 
Prof. A. (André) Aleman (m) University of Groningen/University Medical Center Groningen 
Apathy or the lack of initiative or interest in working or undertaking hobbies or other activities is an important symptom of schizophrenia. In this project it will be investigated which brain circuits are disrupted in apathy and whether magnetic brain stimulation can help to cure it.

The origin of patterns 
Prof. G.J.B. (Jan Bouwe) van den Berg (m) VU University Amsterdam - Mathematics 
In many physical and biological systems you can see clear patterns, such as fingerprints and zebra stripes, but also chaotic behaviour, such as turbulence or cardiac arrhythmias. This research will combine geometric techniques with computer simulations to develop a mathematical understanding of such pattern formation and complex dynamics.

Unravelling the complexity of ALS 
Prof. L.H. (Leonard) van den Berg (m) University Medical Center Utrecht - Neurology 
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a deadly disease of the nerves that control the muscles. The DNA, living environment and lifestyle of people with ALS will be compared with those of healthy people in order to determine the cause of ALS.

Shooting at the bone marrow 
Dr M.L. (Monique) den Boer (f) Erasmus MC – Paediatric Oncology
Blood cancer develops in the bone marrow inside the bones. This also contains cells that feed the cancer cells and allow these to grow. The researchers want to demonstrate that the treatments can be made more specific by selectively killing not just the cancer cells but also the feeder cells.

Mechanical squid for brain stem surgery 
Dr P. (Paul) Breedveld (m) Delft University of Technology – Biomedical Technology 
During complex keyhole operations there is a need for branched, flexible instruments that can be manoeuvred past organs. In this study new working principles and control methods for these ‘mechanical squids’ will be devised and tested. New instruments for brain stem surgery will be developed as well.

Communication and conflict in Africa’s mobile margins 
Prof. (Mirjam) de Bruijn (f) Leiden University - Institute for History / African Studies Centre 
The introduction of new information and communication technology (mobile telephony and social media) is expected to change the African social fabric under duress. This research questions the relation between reconnecting dispersed people, identity dynamics, generation and gender in post-conflict societies.

Radical approach to catalysis 
Dr B. (Bas) de Bruin (m) University of Amsterdam - HIMS (HomKat) 
Very interesting chemical conversions are possible with the help of radical-type reactions. Yet aren’t radicals too reactive for selective reactions? In principle, that is not the case: many biological processes proceed via extremely selective radical-type reactions. In this bio-inspired Vici project scientists will try to realise selective catalytic radical-type reactions using synthetic catalysts.

Incentives to take risks 
Prof. I. (Ingolf) Dittmann (m) Erasmus University Rotterdam - Finance Group 
Top managers receive royal remuneration packages that must give them enough incentives to take risks. The researchers will analyse the connection between these remuneration packages and the risks that are actually taken. The jealousy of ordinary employees will also be taken into account.

Everyday conversations with foreigners 
Dr M.T.C. (Mirjam) Ernestus (f) Radboud University Nijmegen - Centre for Language Studies 
During informal conversations, native speakers only half pronounce many words (for example ‘mo’ for ‘moment’). Foreign language learners experience considerable difficulty with that. How do they learn these reduced pronunciation variants? I will investigate this using Dutch and Spanish people who learn French or English.

New antibiotics against scary bacteria 
Dr L.W. (Leendert) Hamoen (m) University of Amsterdam 
A growing number of pathogenic bacteria are becoming resistant but the number of effective antibiotics is running out. Inhibiting the cell division of harmful bacteria would be a breakthrough in this respect. The researchers will therefore investigate how bacterial cells divide, as this will enable the development of a new generation of antibiotics.

Extreme phenomena in soft materials 
Prof. (Martin) van Hecke (m) Leiden University – Condensed materials 
Foam and sand are soft materials that can lose their overall mechanical strength. In this research the extreme phenomena that these materials exhibit will be unravelled, such as shockwaves, non-linearity and fracture. This will lead to a new understanding of their mechanics.

Are women always less criminal? 
Dr M.P.C. (Manon) van der Heijden (f) Leiden University - History 
Do women always and everywhere commit less crime than men? This research reveals that this static image does not add up and it establishes a link between the public roles of men and women and their contribution to criminality in Europe between 1600 and 1900.

Does depression really exist? 
Prof. P. (Peter) de Jonge (m) University of Groningen - Psychiatry 
Depression is the disease with the largest disease burden. But does depression really exist? Or is it just a combination of symptoms devised by psychiatrists? The researchers will determine whether or not this is the case based on the degree of association between mood-related complaints in the population.

Controlling life processes with light 
Dr J.T.M. (John) Kennis (m) VU University Amsterdam- Biophysics 
One of the biggest challenges in biology is being able to use light to control life processes in cells and organs with the aim of gaining a better understanding of how these progress and being able to intervene where desired. The researchers will develop, study and improve the molecular ‘tools’ that will make it possible to control such processes.

An extra dimension to inheritance 
Prof. R.F. (René) Ketting (m) Utrecht University / Hubrecht Institute
Each embryo receives DNA from the father and from the mother. In addition to this the new individual also receives information about how exactly this DNA should be used. The biochemists will investigate the mechanisms underlying this fascinating extra dimension of inheritance.

Ultrafast 3D ultrasonography 
Dr C.L. (Chris) de Korte (m) Radboud University Medical Centre Nijmegen – Clinical Physics Laboratory 
Thanks to a new scanning method, ultrasonography images can be recorded 100 times faster than is currently possible. This will allow the shape and functioning of the heart to be imaged more accurately, and will improve the detection of dangerous constrictions in the blood vessels.

Cultural differences in the brain 
Prof. A.C. (Lydia) Krabbendam (f) VU University Amsterdam- Faculty of Psychology and Education 
Cultures differ with respect to how people interact with each other. Are these differences visible in the brain? Using an MRI scanner, psychologists will examine which areas of the brain are active when people from the Turkish, Chinese or Dutch cultures perform social tasks.

Understanding virus replication is key to design antiviral drugs 
Dr F. (Frank) van Kuppeveld (m) Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre - Medical Microbiology 
Viruses rely on the metabolism of their host cell for efficient replication. This project aims to identify host factors essential for replication of enteroviruses, and to develop inhibitors of these host factors to treat infections caused by these important human pathogens.

Share and share alike 
Dr S.M.A. (Susanne) Lens (f) University Medical Center Utrecht – Medical Oncology 
The distribution of packages of genetic material (the chromosomes) often goes wrong in dividing cancer cells. The researchers will unravel the functioning of a molecular machine which ensures that these packages are distributed fairly in healthy cells.

Scent and culture 
Dr A. (Asifa) Majid (f) Max Planck Institute Nijmegen 
Scientists have long thought that the human sense of smell is weak. However, innovative new research has revealed that some languages have an extensive vocabulary for various scents. This project will investigate the cultural variation in language and cognition with respect to scent.

Choosing in a dynamic environment 
Prof. W.P. (Pieter) Medendorp (m) Radboud University Nijmegen - Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour 
Making the correct choices in an uncertain, variable environment is a complex problem. Researchers will investigate how different sensory, motor and cognitive systems work together in the control of perception and action in a dynamic environment.

The secret reactions of proteins 
Prof. J. (Jos) Oomens (m) FOM DIFFER / University of Amsterdam – HIMS 
Although protein sequencing is at present completely based on dissociation reactions in the mass spectrometer, the actual reaction mechanisms are not well understood. In this project they will be investigated using an innovative combination of mass spectrometry and infrared spectrometry.

Counting in cells 
Prof. A. (Alexander) van Oudenaarden (m) Utrecht University / Hubrecht Institute 
There are two important steps in the production of a protein: transcription during which the DNA code is copied into mRNA and translation in which the code in the mRNA molecule is used to produce a protein. This research project will focus on the development of new technology that will make it possible to accurately quantify the transcription and translation process in intact cells down to the resolution of a single molecule.

Nanoparticles in fluids and fluids in nanostructures 
Dr R. (René) van Roij (m) Utrecht University - Institute for Theoretical Physics 
Nanoparticles with dimensions of between one-thousandth and one-millionth of a millimetre can, if they are in a fluid such as brine, spontaneously arrange themselves in a regular structure such as a three-dimensional crystalline stack. The researchers will study the complex interaction between nanoparticles and fluid with the aim of being able to predict or explain the crystals formed. Liquids in porous materials will also be examined, as this is directly relevant for the generation of energy from fresh and salt water.

In search of Earth’s little sister 
Dr I.A.G. (Ignas) Snellen (m) Leiden University - Leiden Observatory 
Astronomers study planets around stars other than the Sun with the aim of discovering what gases their atmospheres are composed of. Are there other planets like Earth, and could life possibly exist there as well?

Ancient material 
Prof. R.J.M. (Raimond) Snellings (m) Utrecht University - Department of Physics and Astronomy, Institute for Subatomic Physics 
About ten microseconds after the Big Bang at a temperature of a billion degrees the universe underwent a phase transition. At that moment the fluid of quarks and gluons condensed into the material that surrounds us now (the protons and neutrons). At CERN, where hundreds of mini Big Bangs are currently created per second, this research project will investigate this type of ancient material and the associated phase transition.

How bacteria take up vitamins 
Dr D.J. (Dirk) Slotboom (m) University of Groningen - Biochemistry 
Just like people, many bacteria need vitamins in their diet. An interdisciplinary team of biologists, chemists and physicists will try to understand how vitamin uptake in pathogenic bacteria works at the molecular level. This research could lead to the development of new antibiotics.

Molecular origami 
Prof. S.J. (Sander) Tans (m) FOM AMOLF - Biophysics (AMOLF group leader) 
In our cells mysterious proteins help to ‘fold up’ new amino acid chains into a 3D functional protein. Folding errors by the so-called chaperones can result in conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. The secrets of this higher form of origami will be investigated by grabbing a single protein at its ends so that the folding process can be directly followed as small changes in length and force.

Fungus tricks its host 
Dr B.P.H.J. (Bart) Thomma (m) Wageningen University and Research Centre – Laboratory for Phytopathology 
Every organism has an immune system to recognise pathogens and to render these harmless. However, fungi still manage to infect plants, animals and humans. To do this they make use of a secret weapon that tricks the immune system of the host. The researchers will investigate exactly how this weapon works.

Fundamentals of non-parametric Bayesian statistics 
Prof. J.H. (Harry) van Zanten (m) Eindhoven University of Technology - Mathematics 
Bayesian statistics is being used on an increasingly larger scale in a range of complex statistical problems with very large numbers of unknown factors. At present we still have little or no fundamental understanding of the possibilities and limitations of this type of statistical procedure. In this project a theoretical framework will be developed that will make it possible to design optimal statistical procedures and to distinguish reliable procedures from unreliable ones.