Veni grants for nine UvA researchers

Nine promising young UvA researchers have received Veni grants from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The recipients can use the grants - up to a maximum of 280,000 per researcher - to further develop their research ideas over the next three years.

The structure under which the grants are being issued is slightly different than usual this year. Today’s awards relate to part of ’Veni round 2021’, from the science domain Exact and Natural Sciences. A decision will be made in 2022 on the allocations in the ’Social Sciences and Humanities’ and ’Applied and Engineering Sciences’.

The UvA recipients

  • Dr Fabian Eisenreich (Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences): Shining light on green chemistry
    Sustainable technologies are key to reduce our future environmental footprint. In terms of green chemistry, the top priority is the development of efficient methods for performing chemical reactions in pure water. Eisenreich will use tailor-made nanoreactors to conduct valuable chemical transformations in aqueous solutions with the power of (sun)light.

  • Dr Giulia Giubertoni (Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences): Understanding the molecular origin of collagen’s mechanical failure in osteogenesis imperfecta
    Osteogenesis imperfecta is a life-changing, occasionally lethal, disease caused by mutations in the genes encoding collagen, the main building block of all human connective tissues such as bones. Giubertoni will investigate the molecular origin of this disease and identify the molecular properties determining the success or failure of collagen biomaterials.
  • Dr Jonas Groschwitz (Institute for Logic, Language and Computation): Helping computers say what they mean to say
    When a computer talks to us, for example when answering a question, it must translate that answer from its inner computer representation to fluent human language. This project combines linguistics and state-of-the-art machine learning to create a language generation system in which the output text expresses exactly what the computer meant to say.

  • Dr Eric Nalisnick (Informatics Institute): Continual Learning under Human Guidance
    Artificial intelligence (AI) systems need to adapt to new scenarios. Yet, we must ensure that the new behaviours and skills that they acquire are safe. Nalisnick will develop AI techniques that allow autonomous systems to adapt but to do so cautiously, under the guidance of a human.

  • Dr Vlad Niculae (Informatics Institute):Intelligent interactive natural language systems you can trust and control
    Artificial intelligence agents are seemingly approaching human performance in natural language tasks like automatic translation and dialogue. However, deployed in the wild, such systems are out of control, learning to produce harmful language even unprompted. Using recent machine learning breakthroughs, Niculae rethinks language generation for trustworthiness and controllability.

  • Dr Koen Prange (Amsterdam UMC, locatie AMC): Epigenetic control of inflammatory macrophage activation
    Macrophages are a diverse set of immune cells fighting against a wide variety of pathogens and clearing debris. Prange will investigate how macrophages control this diversity via epigenetic processes. These processes determine which genes will be turned on and off and thusly how the cell will react to external stimuli.

  • Dr Jan van Roestel (Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy): The life and death of white dwarf binary stars
    Double white dwarf stars are a rare but important type of binary star. They are potential supernova progenitors, some merge to form massive rotating white dwarfs, and they also emit gravitational wave radiation. Van Roestel will combine data from the Dutch BlackGEM telescope with multiple other telescope surveys and use novel machine learning methods to uncover the population of short-period eclipsing white dwarf binary stars across the entire sky. By comparing the observed population and characteristics with binary population synthesis models, I will determine how these double white dwarfs end their life.

  • Dr Jamie Townsend (Informatics Institute): Neural networks for efficient storage and communication of information
    The brain is an extremely efficient system for storing and communicating information. Townsend will study the use of artificial neural networks, inspired by the mechanisms in the brain, for data compression, enabling faster internet communication and more efficient storage of computer files.

  • Dr Jeroen Zuiddam (Korteweg-de Vries Institute for Mathematics): Structure and Applications of Asymptotic Spectra
    Strassen’s theory of asymptotic spectra aims to understand problems of asymptotic nature in mathematics, computer science and physics, and in particular the problem of fast matrix multiplication. Zuiddam’s research develops novels directions in the study of structural aspects and applications of this theory.