Raffaella Mulas, Susie Protschky, and Makoto Takahashi receive VU Startpremie

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Mathematician Raffaella Mulas, political historian Susie Protschky, and geographer Makoto Takahashi each receive a VU Startpremie. With this support, they can further develop their talents and position Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam as an attractive employer for international newcomers.

Raffaella Mulas

Assistant professor in Mathematics, Raffaella Mulas , conducts research in an emerging field of mathematics known as "hypergraphs," which has implications in physics, network science, computer science, chemistry, and biology. Hypergraphs are generalizations of graphs that allow for the encoding of non-pairwise interactions between entities. They can model phenomena such as group dynamics on social media, catalysis in chemical reactions, and contagion processes in epidemiology. While much of her work is in pure mathematics, many of Mulas’ projects involve collaborations with computer scientists, physicists, and biologists. For example, she has generalized various mathematical tools, from spectral graph theory to hypergraphs. In collaboration with biologists, she has applied these tools to genetic expression networks.

With the VU Startpremie, Mulas plans to establish an international exchange program with the VU’s mathematics department and the Alfréd Rényi Institute of Mathematics in Budapest. She also intends to organize an international conference at VU Amsterdam dedicated to modern developments in (hyper)graph theory.

Susie Protschky

Professor of Global Political History, Susie Protschky , conducts research at the intersection of war history, colonial history, and the history of images and their origins, meanings, and impacts. She emphasizes global developments in history, art, media, and communication. Protschky is strengthening collaborations with Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) in Yogyakarta, colleagues from other Indonesian institutions, and international experts in the fields of Indonesia, the Netherlands, Australia, and photography. She also plays a role in the newly established "History, Memory and Decolonial Futures Research Collective (2023)," which aims to connect historians, artists, and activists in Australia, Indonesia, and the Netherlands.

With the VU Startpremie, she will organize workshops that will form the basis for new programs focused on funding schemes from NWO and ERC over the next 2-3 years. She will also support a doctoral candidate in completing her Australian project, "Decolonisation and photography in Southeast Asia: Histories and legacies."

Makoto Takahashi

Assistant professor in Transdisciplinary STS (Science, Technology, and Society), Makoto Takahashi uses art as a means of science communication and crises of public trust. His recent work explores the role of art in promoting dialogue about controversial technologies. He is the curator of the traveling exhibition "Picturing the Invisible," which has been shown in several locations. "Picturing the Invisible" examines the legacy of the earthquake and nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011. It brings together nine acclaimed artists working with film in the affected areas at the time. The exhibition combines their works with essays commissioned from policymakers (e.g., former British Ambassador to Japan, Sir David Warren), activists (e.g., renowned environmental activist Aileen Mioko Smith), and academics (e.g., Prof. Sheila Jasanoff and emeritus professor Brian Wynne) to contextualize it within a broader social and political context.

With the VU Startpremie, Takahashi plans to bring the exhibition "Picturing the Invisible" to Amsterdam in July 2024 and expand it in conjunction with the 4S/EASST conference organized by VU Amsterdam. This will engage a broad audience with VU’s research community. He will also study how the public interacts with the exhibition and the challenges of "art-based public engagement." Additionally, he intends to publish about the exhibition.

VU Startpremie

The VU Startpremie is a funding initiative to connect top scientific talent to VU Amsterdam. The grant is intended to provide additional support to international newcomers in further developing their talent and to position VU as an attractive employer for this target group. The VU Startpremie amounts to ¤30,000 per laureate and can be used at the laureate’s discretion, such as for appointing a (student) assistant, a PhD candidate, acquiring databases, attending training or symposiums, etc. A maximum of three Startpremies are awarded each year.