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Veni grants for 16 Leiden researchers

Sixteen researchers at Leiden University are to receive a Veni grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). These awards offer promising young researchers the opportunity to further develop their own ideas over a period of three years.

Read more about the research of our scientists who have been awarded a grant: 

Women as diplomatic news-gatherers in the Ottoman Empire

Rosanne Baars (Institute for History)

Women have been essential in premodern diplomacy as gatherers of political intelligence. Yet, they have not received much scholarly attention, because they did not often feature on the official pay lists of embassy staff. This project, based on a wide array of exceptional and understudied diplomatic source material, studies the authority of women as diplomatic news-gatherers in eighteenth-century Istanbul, one of the most important political and commercial cities at the time. It will demonstrate that Ottoman Levantine women, gathering vital news in Ottoman harems, played a key role in premodern Eurasian diplomacy.

Listening to the silence: silence and lack of voices as empowerment in Dutch colonial memorial culture in the 21st century

Gerlov van Engelenhoven (Centre for the Arts in Society)

In current Dutch debates about processing the colonial past, voice is often used as a metaphor for empowerment ('we must raise our voices'). Silence, by contrast, often figures as voice’s negative counterpart, signifying a loss or lack of power ('we must break the silence'). Yet silence is expressive: sometimes it even speaks louder than words, for example in silent protests and vigils. This research project is an investigation of the empowering potential of silence, conducted in direct collaboration with postcolonial activists, curators and artists. How can society learn to listen to silence?

From alarm to action: the uncertain path of warnings in world politics

Nikki Ikani (Institute of Security and Global Affairs)

The European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are organizations that are meant to keep Europe safe. One of their duties is to issue warnings about threats that could disrupt world politics and endanger citizens, such as potential attacks or wars.
However, we often see that important warnings sent by EU and NATO officials to their superiors are disregarded, ignored, or dismissed. Why?
How do these kinds of warnings 'travel' through the EU and NATO and what makes this process so difficult? This research aims to find out in order to improve these processes.

The adaptive brain: how do we control our behaviour and why does it sometimes go wrong?

Bryant Jongkees (Psychology)

People are generally good at adjusting their behaviour when necessary. Still, this adjustment sometimes fails and leads to distractibility and impulsivity, as in people with ADHD. The researcher will use advanced computer models to investigate how control over behaviour works in the brain and why this can go wrong in ADHD. The research will look closely at differences between individuals and the impact of medication. The results will give more insight into where different traits of ADHD come from and where interventions should be aimed at to reduce distractibility and impulsivity.

The economic consequences of new genetic tests

Richard Karlsson Linnér (Institute of Tax Law and Economics)

New genetic tests have the power to unlock sensitive information about a person’s health and disease risk. Millions of people worldwide have already bought an at-home genetic test. Fears of genetic discrimination or other exploitation of genetic information motivate government intervention, but more research is needed to guide the design of legislation. This research develops a method to investigate how well new genetic tests are expected to predict disease and the potential economic consequences thereof. The results could support evidence-based policymaking to let society benefit from this emerging technology, while safeguarding against the potential dangers of misuse.

Why autocratising regimes are liberalising their immigration policies

Katharina Natter (Institute of Political Science)

Against theoretical expectations and common sense, autocratizing leaders - known for their nationalist agendas and human rights violations - do not always restrict immigration. In Morocco, Uganda, Brazil and Turkey, immigration policies have been liberalized amidst autocratisation. This project investigates this puzzling phenomenon. It analyses liberalising reforms in all 31 autocratising countries worldwide and then zooms into the fascinating cases of Brazil and Turkey. By identifying the drivers behind liberalising reforms and examining how they relate to autocratising leaders’ survival strategies, this project innovates theory-building in political science and offers urgent lessons for more effective, transnational advocacy on migrant rights.

Medicine on a leash. Medical regulation and the scepticism of patients in Late Medieval England

Patrick Outhwaite (Centre for the Arts in Society)

Scepticism of patients towards medical science is not a modern phenomenon. In late-medieval England, many patients had little faith in professional medicine, and increasingly turned to unauthorized and unqualified healers. Yet attempts at regulation did not help to regain the lost confidence of disaffected patients. This project investigates the causes of patient scepticism in late-medieval England and the ways in which legislators attempted to regain their trust. I will do so by examining previously unstudied medieval manuscripts in tandem with source materials often overlooked in the history of medicine, such as literature and legal documents.

Climate change response in weak rule-of-law environments: protecting land rights of the most vulnerable

Bernardo Ribeiro de Almeida (Leiden University College)

In response to climate change (CC) countries take increasingly invasive mitigation and adaptation measures, which have serious impacts on the land rights of vulnerable people. Taking Mozambique and South Sudan as case studies, this socio-legal research aims to analyse and explain the implementation of such CC response laws and policies in developing countries with a weak rule-of-law environment. The knowledge it aims to produce is crucial to both ensure CC responses are effective and prevent them becoming another source of social injustices.

Looking beyond the victim: the role of the environment in the sexual exploitation of minors and young adults

Ieke de Vries (Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology)

Every day, an estimated six million people worldwide are forced into sex against payment, mainly children and young adults. Sexual exploitation is highly prioritised on (inter)national policy agendas, yet knowledge gaps about the various risk factors for victimisation have impeded an effective approach for decades. Previous research foregrounds individual-level explanations for victimisation while the role of context remains unclear: Why, where, and when does someone become a victim? Using unique data about individuals and their contexts and innovative methods, this project develops new insights into victimisation risk and risk contagion, and new risk instruments to prevent and identify sexual exploitation.

Differential effects of acute and chronic stress on the immune system

Erin Faught (Institute of Biology)

It is generally accepted that stress, in particular the stress hormone cortisol, has a negative impact on our immune system, thereby causing an increased susceptibility to infectious diseases. However, my recent work suggests that brief periods of stress may actually have a beneficial effect on the immune system. Here I propose to investigate this discrepancy in detail, by studying what dictates the switch between the enhancing and suppressive effects of stress and what molecular mechanisms are involved. A better understanding of these processes may ultimately enable us to prevent or temper the negative effects of stress on our immunity.

New methods in arithmetic statistics

Peter Koymans (Mathematical Institute)

Statistics has taken a more and more prominent role in our world. Arithmetic statistics concerns the average or limiting behavior of arithmetic objects. With the help of computers, we have produced vast amounts of data for these arithmetic objects, which exhibit a lot of random behavior. It is however often already a non-trivial task to develop heuristics for the random behavior of arithmetic objects, let alone actually prove randomness. The researcher will rigorously prove some of the available heuristics in several important cases.

An unprecedented view into galaxy evolution and the nature of dark matter

Pavel Mancera Piña (Leiden Observatory)

The dark matter and angular momentum content of galaxies regulate how they form and evolve. The researcher will look at the motions of the gas and stars in galaxies in recent times and when the universe was younger, in order to give clues into the nature of the mysterious dark matter and the influence of angular momentum in galaxy evolution through cosmic time.

Engineering of efficient and precise Cas12c base editor for genome editing

Prarthana Mohanraju (LUMC)

Gene editing has unprecedented potential in the development of new therapies. However, if efficiency, precision, and safety do not improve, this potential cannot be realized. With this research, I will combine the ingenuity of microbial mechanisms with my background in synthetic biology and regenerative medicine to develop a platform of knowledge and methods for efficiently developing new gene modification technologies. Additionally, I will demonstrate the proof-of-concept by looking at the therapeutic application for the genetic muscle disease Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Ultimately, this project will allow us to tap into the boundless potential of gene editing.

Making oneself at home: How Salmonella hijacks the ubiquitin system to remodel its host cell endocytic architecture and dynamics

Virginie Stévenin (LUMC)

Intracellular bacteria, like Salmonella, are bacteria that enter, reside, and replicate inside the cells of their host. To achieve this, bacteria can hijack intracellular molecular signals to remodel the host cell organization and form a membrane-bound bacterial niche. Ubiquitin is a small protein that allows cells to control their organization. The project interrogates how bacteria manipulate the host ubiquitin signals to reshape their host cell organization. Hence, this research may reveal a new mechanism by which bacteria establish their intracellular replicative niche.

Time is crucial: multi-dimensional MRI for neurovascular imaging

Lena Václavů (LUMC)

Every organ, and especially our brain, depends on a constant blood supply. The rate of blood supply, (perfusion) can be interrupted, or delayed by diseases of the blood vessels. MRI scans are used to measure how well and fast the brain receives blood. Unfortunately these scans are rarely used because they take too long, and the scans don’t properly present the information that the doctors need. In this proposal a new and quicker version of perfusion MRI scans will be developed, helping doctors to see the rate (strength and speed) of their patient’s blood supply.

The interaction between chronic kidney disease and heart failure with preserved ejaculation fraction unravelled: a multi-modality imaging approach

Ilona Dekkers (LUMC)

This proposal aims to investigate the link between chronic kidney disease and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), a major subtype of heart failure affecting millions worldwide. Using state-of-the-art imaging technologies, such as cardiac perfusion-PET/CT and kidney perfusion-MRI, I will study the interplay and evaluate the biomarker potential of microvascular function in the heart and kidneys in patients at risk of HFpEF. Additionally, I will evaluate the reliability of MRI for measuring kidney microvasculature, and apply it in a population-based imaging cohort to understand the impact of renal flow on cardiac structure and function in the general population.

The Veni award is a personal scientific grant up to a maximum of 280,000 euros. The grant is part of the NWO Talent programme and is awarded to often young researchers who have recently obtained their PhD. 

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