Vidi grants for research on cells, magnetism, biogas and more

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded ten Nijmegen researchers Vidi funding of up to 800,000 euros. This will allow them to develop their own innovative line of research and set up a research group over the next five years.

Vidi is aimed at experienced researchers who have already conducted successful research for several years after obtaining their PhD. Together with the Veni and Vici grants, Vidi is part of the NWO Talent Programme. A total of 551 researchers submitted a research project proposal for funding in this Vidi round. Of these, 97 were honoured this time, including the ten projects below from Radboud University and Radboudumc.

How do cells turn their noise up or down?

Maike Hansen, Radboud University

Cells in our body can be seen as a mini-factory, where there is an assembly line that creates proteins as a final product. The amount of protein each cell makes can vary drastically between even genetically identical cells, this is called noise. Individual steps in this assembly can turn up or down the protein noise. For instance, increasing noise is a phenomenon associated with antibiotic resistance in bacteria or diseases such as HIV and cancer. This project determines how cells can regulate noise, which will improve the understanding of how defects in noise-regulation can result in disease.

Challenging the limits of magnetism by fluctuations

Johan Mentink, Radboud University

What is the ultimately fast and energy-efficient way to write magnetic bits at the nanoscale? This research will explore and challenge the fundamental limits for the control of magnetism, by harnessing the classical and quantum fluctuations of magnets, often considered a nuisance and hindrance, but possibly the key for a new paradigm in magnetic data storage.

New Foundations for Model Learning

Jurriaan Rot, Radboud University

The aim of model learning is to find a precise description of a software or hardware system, by systematically interacting with it and trying out how it responds. Model learning techniques are very useful to improve the quality of systems. For instance, these techniques has been succesful in finding bugs in implementations of internet protocols. However, due to scalability issues, model learning not yet reached its full potential. This project alleviates these issues by developing new techniques and foundations for model learning.

Investigating RNA-metabolite interactions with bespoke chemical tools

Willem Velema, Radboud University

RNA is a versatile biomolecule that is implicated in virtually every process in the cell and is an important player in many diseases. In this program the researchers will study how RNA interacts with small molecules in the cell, so called metabolites. It is believed that the function of RNA is controlled by these metabolites, but to what extent this happens and the mechanisms involved remain unclear. Using state-of-the-art chemical tools, the researchers will demonstrate the biological significance of RNA-metabolite interactions.

Biogas to bioenergy: harnessing the power of microorganisms

Cornelia Welte, Radboud University

Biogas contains methane which is an energy source but also a powerful greenhouse gas, contributing to climate change. In this project, microorganisms that eat methane and use this to produce electricity are going to be investigated. To achieve this, the researchers will grow these microbes in the laboratory and will shed light on their mechanisms of how they make electricity. This will contribute to possibly improve their electricity generating capabilities.

Biopsychology-informed characterization of antisocial individuals

Inti Brazil, Radboud University/Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour

Current approaches to diagnosing antisocial personality profiles provide insufficient insights into the biological and psychological factors that contribute to the onset and maintenance of antisocial behavior. In this project, a new approach will be developed that can help determine which combinations of biological and psychological factors can be used to best describe the individual. It is expected that this approach will lead to a novel way of measuring and thinking about individual differences, and to improving clinical assessment in (forensic) psychiatric settings.

Fusing the body with technology

Luke Miller, Radboud University/Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour

People are very skilled at using tools. This ability sets them apart from other animals and has led to the suggestion that the human brain sees tools as an extension of the body. The researchers will study the fusion of body and tools in the brain using behavioral modeling and neuroimaging techniques.

Strengthening depression treatment through exercise

Janna Vrijsen, Radboudumc/Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour

Depression is a prevalent and severe mental illness. The most established psychological interventions are only effective for 40% of patients. Combining two treatments may enhance outcomes. Although effective, adding antidepressant medication to psychotherapy is costly and does not always map on to patient’s preferences. Exercise has emerged as a viable alternative augmentation strategy, yet questions about how, when, and for whom remain unanswered? The researchers will test how exercise enhances the effect of psychotherapy to help more depressed patients. They aim to provide insight into how exercise improves mood as well as the learning of new skills during psychotherapy sessions.

Strengths in ADHD: Looking at it from a different angle

Martine Hoogman, Radboudumc/Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour

ADHD is also associated with strengths, but before we can use these at school, at work or in clinical care, we need to learn much more about them, because our current understanding of strengths is still limited. In this project we will investigate how others (teachers, employers) see strengths in ADHD to go beyond the self-reported strengths in ADHD, which neurobiological factors are related to these strengths to better understand them, and how environmental factors play a role in strengths in ADHD. This work will contribute to a more balanced picture of ADHD facilitating a more inclusive approach to ADHD.

Using sugars for blood cell transfusions and treatment of blood cancer

Anna Marneth, Radboudumc

Sugars are indispensable for the cells in our blood. Sugars do not only provide energy to cells, but also play an important role in receiving growth signals. This project will elucidate how sugars can be used to stimulate growth of blood cells in the laboratory, for transfusion purposes. Additionally, it will show whether reduction of specific sugars inhibits the growth of blood cancer cells.