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ERC Consolidator Grants for four Leiden researchers

The European Research Council has awarded ERC Consolidator Grants to four researchers from Leiden. These grants of up to 2m euros will enable them to continue and expand their research.

The European Research Council has awarded over 600m euros to 301 researchers throughout Europe. The Consolidator Grant is for promising researchers with seven to twelve years of experience since the completion of their PhD. They can use this grant of up to 2m euros to fund a team of researchers and supporting staff over a period of five years.

The four Leiden Consolidator Grants go to:

Nadine Akkerman – Faculty of Humanities

When we read a text, we think we know who wrote it, but in the early modern period, manuscript production was often a collaborative or ‘socialised’ enterprise involving secretaries and scribes who physically wrote what the author dictated. By learning how to distinguish between the authorial and the scribal voice, Nadine Akkerman’s FEATHERS project will restore the voices of those whose words were mediated, whether they were a monarch dictating to a secretary or a milkmaid talking to a court official.

Read more on Nadine Akkerman's project

Luca Giomi – Faculty of Science

Water is either solid, or liquid, but some materials can be somewhere in between. For instance, liquid crystals in LCD screens behave this way, but so do – as has recently been discovered – some biological tissues. Theoretical physicist Luca Giomi from the Lorentz Institute of the Leiden Institute of Physics (LION) will use the ERC Consolidator grant to investigate this ‘hexatic’ phase of tissues. This phase, named after the honeycomb-like hexagonal pattern of the cells, probably occurs in developing embryos and during wound healing. It might play a role in cancer metastasis as clumps of cells travel through the body. Giomi wants to develop a physical theory for the flow of these half-liquid tissues, in order to understand such biological processes.

Read more on Luca Giomi's project

Sander van Kasteren – Faculty of Science

Vaccines may just be the most successful class of medicines, but although they have been in use for 300 years, questions remain about how exactly they work. One such question relates to the speed at which vaccines are processed in the body and the effect that this has. The problem is that we do not yet have a good method of mapping these speeds. In his ERC research, Sander van Kasteren wants to measure these speeds by creating targeted chemical reactions in and on immune cells. He hopes to gain a new understanding to help improve vaccines, in particular vaccines that can be used on people who are already ill (for instance with a chronic viral infection or cancer).

Read more on Sander van Kasteren's project

Francesco Ragazzi – Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Governments, private security companies and social media platforms are increasingly using technologies of computer vision, such as facial recognition. Vision, understood as the capacity not only to see but also to make sense of what is seen, is increasingly being delegated to autonomous computer systems which influence how human operators determine suspicious behaviour. How do these technologies impact the decisions of governmental and private sector actors? And what about the fundamental rights of those who are targeted? In his project, Francesco Ragazzi will investigate the theoretical, empirical and political implications of the development of computer vision in the field of security, working at the intersection of security studies, science and technology studies, and visual ethnography. This will provide a new understanding of the workings of computer vision technologies used in social media content moderation of extremist content, in ‘smart’ Closed Circuit Television Vision (CCTV) cameras or lie detectors, thus contributing to the ethical and political debates in the public sphere.

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