Nils Kok awarded NWO Vidi grant

Nils Kok

Five scientists from Maastricht University have received a maximum amount of 800,000 euros each to develop an innovative line of research and to build up their own research group. They have received a Vidi Grant from the Talent Scheme of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The grants were announced on 19 May. The Talent Scheme consists of the Veni, Vidi and Vici grants.

The scientists are Ingrid Dijkgraaf (Faculty of Health, Medicine and Sciences, Biochemistry), Joris Hoeks (Faculty of Health, Medicine and Sciences, Human Biology), Nils Kok (School of Business and Economics, Finance), Federico De Martino (Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Cognitive Neuroscience) and Blanche Schroen (Faculty of Health, Medicine and Sciences, Cardiology). Their projects range from tackling climate change via real estate to the role of inflammatory proteins in atherosclerosis and sound processing in the human brain:

Climate change cannot be tackled without real estate
Dr N. (Nils) Kok, Finance
People use the most energy in homes, offices and shops. To change this we need to invest in buildings or change our behaviour, for example through smart technologies. The researchers will examine the most effective methods and the consequences of these for economic value.

Parasitisation during a gradual disease process: artherosclerosis
Dr I. (Ingrid) Dijkgraaf, Biochemistry
Artherosclerosis is a chronic disease in which the interaction between two inflammatory proteins plays a causative role. The researchers will study this interaction at the molecular level and try to break it with the help of a recently discovered tick protein.

Tinkering with the motors of the muscle
Dr J. (Joris) Hoeks, Human Biology 
In the muscles of type 2 diabetes patients the functioning of mitochondria, the energy suppliers of cells, is reduced. Improving the capacity of these mitochondria could therefore contribute to the treatment of diabetes. This research will study the new regulatory molecules that can influence the mitochondria in muscles.

Sound processing in the human brain
Dr F. (Federico) De Martino, Cognitive Neuroscience
To understand the sounds that are part and parcel of our everyday lives, the acoustic aspects of sounds (such as the frequencies) must be analysed. This project will investigate how acoustic information is processed within the different stages of sound processing of the human brain and how the interaction of these processes leads to sound perception.

Immune cells in the heart unmasked
Dr B.L.M., (Blanche) Schroen, CARIM, Department of Cardiology
Despite the presence of immune cells in healthy and diseased hearts, their contribution to the functioning and dysfunctioning of the heart muscle has received too little attention. The researchers have found that recently discovered, non-coding genes such as “mascRNA” control immune cell behaviour. It will be investigated whether mascRNA in immune cells contributes to heart failure.

Vidi is aimed at excellent researchers who have carried out successful research for a period of several years after gaining a PhD. They belong to the best ten to twenty percent in their discipline. With a Vidi grant they can carry out research for a period of five years. The researchers are free to choose their own research subject. With this approach NWO encourages curiosity-driven and innovative research.

NWO selects the Vidi laureates based on the quality of the researcher, the innovative character of the research, the expected scientific impact of the research proposal and the possibilities for knowledge utilisation. A total of 540 researchers submitted a proposal for a Vidi grant. NWO has awarded a Vidi grant to 88 researchers (30 of them women).

Talent Scheme
Vidi is one of the three funding instruments from the Talent Scheme. The other two funding instruments are Veni (for researchers who have recently gained their PhDs) and Vici (for highly experienced researchers). The aim of the Talent Scheme is to encourage innovation in scientific research. The Talent Scheme has been set up in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts and Sciences and the Dutch universities.

About NWO
With a budget of 625 million euros per year, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) is one of the biggest funding bodies for scientific research in the Netherlands. NWO promotes quality and innovation in science by selecting and funding the best research. It manages research institutes of national and international importance, contributes to strategic programming of scientific research in the Netherlands and brings science and society closer together. Research proposals are reviewed and selected by researchers of international repute. More than 5000 scientists can carry out research thanks to funding from NWO.

Source: Maastricht University, 19 May 2014

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