NWO awards 31 grants in Investment Subsidy NWO Medium programme

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded 31 grants in the Investment Subsidy NWO Medium programme for the acquisition of equipment, the setting up of data collections and the production of software and bibliographies. The total investment amounts to 10 million euro.

For their work, many researchers are dependent on large equipment, data collections and new software. That is true for the natural and technical sciences but also for the arts and social sciences. With Investment Subsidy NWO Medium, NWO funds large facilities that are often too expensive for individual research groups. These facilities are necessary to safeguard the position of Dutch research. Investment Subsidy NWO Medium enables scientists from throughout the Netherlands to make use of highly advanced and extensive research facilities.

NWO received a total of 79 applications for this funding round of Investment Subsidy NWO Medium. The applications have been assessed by scientists from the Netherlands and other countries. Ultimately, 31 proposals were selected for funding. These fall within six NWO scientific domains: ALW, CW, GW, MaGW, EW, and ZonMw. Physics and Technology Foundation STW make funds for investments available via other grant programmes.

Many of the large pieces of equipment yield immediate advantages for Dutch society. For example, NWO is now investing in a databank on criminal behaviour that makes it possible to search for the causes of criminality. And with the help of new ultrasound equipment, researchers can image how cardiovascular diseases develop and how these can be treated effectively.

Encouraging investment

With Investment Subsidy NWO Medium, NWO seeks to encourage and support investments in research infrastructure. NWO pays a maximum of 75% of each grant. The university or institute makes a minimum contribution of 25%. NWO's contribution ranges from 110,000 to 900,000 euro. For investments with an NWO contribution above 900,000 euro, researchers can submit an application within the Investment Subsidy NWO Large programme.

List of projects funded

An alphabetical list of the researchers whose proposals have been funded with an indicative title of the research project is given below.

UV laser system for resonant Raman spectroscopy
Dr F. (Freek) Ariese (m), Laser Centre VU - Biomolecular Analysis & Spectroscopy
A flexible laser system shall be constructed with a very broad range of excitation wavelengths (210-495 nm). This shall be used for resonant Raman studies on, for example, redox proteins, ligand-receptor interactions and nucleotide derivates. The picosecond timescale is ideal for fluorescence suppression and for examining deeper layers in biomedical tissues.

Criminal career development and adult life success
Dr A.A.J. (Arjan) Blokland (m), NSCR - Criminology
Criminal behaviour is often associated with problems in other areas of life such as unemployment, divorce and health problems. Is criminality a cause or a consequence of these problems? And what can be done to prevent these problems from being passed on to the next generation?

Linking historical lives (LinkedLives): a database with 150 years of life courses of kinship
Dr H.A.J. Bras (f), VU University Amsterdam
This project shall lead to a database in which biographical data about brothers and sisters from 1850 to date shall become available. Important sociohistorical questions in the area of social mobility and demography (for example: how was the life course influenced by circumstances of birth, such as position in the family, age or gender?) can be investigated with this database.

A high performance detector for a Small Angle X-ray Scattering synchrotron radiation beam line
Dr W. Bras, ESRF - Dutch-Belgian beam lines
Time-resolved Small Angle X-ray Scattering measurements provide information about the change of structures with dimensions between 1 and 150 nanometres. This makes the technique suitable for studying an immense diversity of biological and synthetic materials. The research subjects shall cover polymer processing experiments for example, but also colloids, protein solutions, skin and metal alloys.

Automated force spectroscope for measuring the interactions in supramolecular structures
Prof. M.A. (Martien) Cohen Stuart (m), Wageningen University and Research Centre - Physical Chemistry and Physical Chemistry and Colloid Studies
The characteristics of supramolecular systems (for example, core-shell particles in paint, networks in gels), are determined by molecular interactions. With the force spectroscope (ForceRobot) various interactions shall be measured: for example, bridge forming and capillary forces, attractions between polymers with opposite electrical charges and the forces to pull polymer chains out of structures and networks.

A new-generation Thermal Ionisation Multi-collector Mass Spectrometer (TIMS) for earth, life and environmental sciences
Prof. G.R. (Gareth) Davies (m), VU University Amsterdam - Earth and Life Sciences
For the past 60 years, TIMS has been the standard instrument for dating minerals and rocks and for determining how these were formed. The commissioning of a new-generation TIMS, fitted with several highly sensitive detectors (ion counters), will enable groundbreaking research in archaeology, ecology and forensic science. The improved precision and sensitivity of this new TIMS shall further be used to study the complex feedback processes between the earth's core, the earth's crust, the atmosphere and the biosphere.

The national food consumption reference file
Prof. E.J.M. (Edith) Feskens (f), Wageningen University and Research Centre - Human Nutrition and Epidemiology
This project aims to collect data for the setting up of a reference file that over the coming 10 to 15 years can be used as a gold standard for studies in which food consumption is measured. Researchers will be able to use the reference file to develop new nutrition questionnaires and to validate and calibrate the food consumption data collected. This file shall make a substantial contribution to the quality of nutrition and health research in the Netherlands.

The measurement of mechanotransduction in living cells with Atomic Force and a Confocal Microscope
Prof. C. G. (Carl) Figdor (m), Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre
Mechanotransduction is the biological process in cells that describes how a cell responds to its immediate environment when forces are exerted on it. In medical science this plays a role in tissue technology, in cancer metastasing or in the immune system. Using an Atomic Force Microscope these forces can be measured on a single living cell by bringing this into contact with another cell or a surface that the cell interacts with, in a controlled manner. The confocal microscope can then be used to give high-resolution images of the resulting processes in living cells. With these techniques we ultimately hope to gain an understanding of the molecular processes that enable cells to explore their environment.

Virtual research into normal and aberrant behaviour
Dr E. (Elia) Formisano (m), Maastricht University - Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences
Psychology and brain research is mostly conducted under simplified laboratory settings. The combination of computer-generated virtual reality environments with brain imaging enables subjects' behaviour and brain activity to be studied in situations that approximate 'real life'. The new laboratory will be employed in several domains of cognitive neurosciences, psychopathology and forensic psychology.

Laser interferometer set-up for in vivo cochlear-mechanical measurements
Dr M.L. (Marcel) van der Heijden (m), Erasmus MC - Neurosciences
Our inner ear is a complex and vulnerable system, the functioning of which is still only partly understood. An interferometer can be used to measure very small vibrations (to a millionth of a millimetre) that play a role in the ear. A detailed understanding of the functioning of the inner ear could lead to improvements in hearing aids and prostheses.

Biblia Sacra II
Prof. A.A. den Hollander (m), VU University Amsterdam
The already successful Biblia Sacra I, a database with details about Bibles produced in the Netherlands between 1477 and 1553, will now have a sequel. Biblia Sacra II intends to expand the database with data about Dutch Bibles up until 1800. With this expansion, Biblical researchers and (art) historians shall gain the possibility of acquiring a quick and thorough understanding of the development of Bibles, Biblical iconography and many other questions.

Measuring nano-scale signals in normal and malignant blood (stem) cells
Peter L. Hordijk (m), Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam
Biochemical analyses of stem cells are often impossible because these cells only occur in very limited quantities. A new technique, based on unravelling the cell contents in glass capillary tubes with a volume of just 400 nanolitre, now makes it possible to measure specific signals in small quantities (<1000) of stem cells or other rare cells.

Optical bank for mid-infrared instrument MATISSE
Dr W.J. (Walter) Jaffe (m), Leiden University - Astronomy
The applicants are focussing on the design and construction of a cooled optical bank for the mid-infrared instrument MATISSE for the Very Large Telescope (VLT) Interferometer of the European Southern Observatory. With MATISSE, it will be possible to perform unique mid-infrared studies of, for example, planets around other stars, matter around black holes and spectroscopy and imaging of molecular discs around young stars.

New imaging techniques for preclinical cardiovascular research
Dr B.J.A. (Ben) Janssen, Maastricht University - CARIM, Pharmacology & Toxicology
Imaging techniques play an increasingly important role in research into the aetiology and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. The ultrasound equipment funded shall enable the researchers to non-invasively image the molecular disease processes that cause cardiovascular diseases and to assess the effectiveness of new treatments, within the context of preclinical models.
Automated high-resolution confocal microscopy for the systematic functional analysis of neuronal disease-related genes
Dr R.E. van Kesteren (m), VU University Amsterdam

Automated microscopy systems often lack the optical resolution to render small subcellular structures such as neuronal synapses clearly visible. In this project we shall use the latest automated confocal microscopy techniques to carry out cellular screens with a high optical resolution. These techniques shall be used to carry out systematic research into genes and proteins that play a role in synaptic disorders, neurodegenerative diseases and the regeneration of damaged nerve cells. The investment ties in with the recent implementation of a cellular screening facility within the Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam, in which now all screening stages from cell culture to analysis can be performed automatically on a large scale.

Amnis image stream cytometer
Prof. G (Georg) Kraal, VU University Medical Center - Molecular Cell Biology and immunology
What sets the Amnis cytometer apart from conventional flow analysis is that for individual cells, such as white blood cells, not just the proteins present can be determined but also their location in the cell and whether this changes in the case of certain diseases or upon the cell being activated. This is possible because a photo of each cell is taken and analysed. As this can be carried out for a large number of cells at once, the technique offers unprecedented opportunities for studying differentiation processes in lymphocytes and other cells.

Measurement of DNA damage
Dr P.M. (Przemek) Krawczyk (m), Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam - Cell biology and histology
This project shall develop a high-throughput instrument for the micro-scale induction of specific types of DNA damage in parts of the nucleus. This innovative equipment makes it possible to simultaneously treat thousands of cells, follow the response in individual cells with the integrated microscope, and then analyse the results in detail. The device shall contribute to the unravelling of many molecular and cellular DNA repair processes and yield fundamental knowledge about repair errors that contribute to the process of malignant cell transformation, an undesired side effect of cancer therapy.

Changes to brain cells during psychiatric and neurological disorders
S. (Steven) Kushner (m), Erasmus University Medical Center - Psychiatry
The researchers want to map the structure of brain cells using a computer-guided, fully-automated microscope. During this they shall focus on disorders that lead to a learning disability or to a psychiatric disorder. They shall also examine how brain cells respond to various medications so that new or improved treatments can be developed.

Development of prototype hybrid correlator boards based on FPGAs
Dr H.J. (Huib Jan) van Langevelde (m), JIVE - Astronomy
The applicants shall focus on the development of prototype hybrid correlator boards based on chips consisting of programmable logic components (FPGAs). The correlator to be developed will make it possible to allow more radio telescopes with a greater bandwidth to function as a virtual telescope that is just as large as the distance between the separate telescopes. This will allow smaller details in the universe to be distinguished with a greater sensitivity than is currently possible.

Using lasers to spy on and manipulate living brain cells
H. (Huib) Mansvelder (m), VU University Amsterdam
Communication between brain cells forms the basis for our thinking, learning and memory. How contact points, synapses, in the living brain function and which rules determine changes in these is not clear. Infrared lasers and non-linear optical techniques can be used to study and manipulate individual synapses. This approach can be used to clarify the working mechanisms of healthy and sick brains.

Political mashup
Dr M.J. Marx (m), University of Amsterdam
Marx's project aims to collate an enormous quantity of political data such as reports of Dutch parliamentary sessions and political biographies. Many publicly interesting questions such as who influences who - for example whether a discussion first develops in the press or within political circles - can be rendered visible with this new infrastructure.

Multi-area ensemble recording systems for investigating neural substrates of cognition
Prof. C.M.A. (Cyriel) Pennartz (m), University of Amsterdam - Swammerdam Institute
Although cognitive processes such as memory, attention and perception are dependent on the electrical activity of large groups of brain cells, the majority of measurement techniques are limited to the activity of just one or a few cells. Using 'ensemble' measurement equipment it is now possible to gain insight into how the cooperation between brain cells and regions of the brain arises during cognitive processes.

Peptide synthesis: an essential technique for chemical biology
Dr D.T.S. (Dirk) Rijkers (m), Utrecht University - Medicinal Chemistry & Chemical Biology
The automated fixed carrier synthesis of peptides, pieces of protein, is essential for obtaining well-defined and pure peptides, which can provide us with important insights into peptide-protein interactions that play a major role in chemical biology. The synthesiser will be used in various projects that shall study the molecular basis of diseases.

A new spin to molecular research
Prof. F.P.J.T. Rutjes (m), Radboud University Nijmegen - Institute for Molecules and Materials
Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is an important technique for the molecular characterisation of a wide range of materials. The funding from Investment Subsidy NWO Medium will be used to obtain a 500 MHz NMR device that is crucial for research into the synthesis and applications of functional building blocks in the areas of chemical biology, supramolecular chemistry, and chemistry in microfluidic systems

Extent and organisation of the Middle-Assyrian Empire
Prof. W.H. van Soldt (m), Leiden University
The Middle-Assyrian Empire (1250-1070 BC) was one of the principle powers in the Near East in the Late Bronze Age and in many aspects it was the immediate predecessor of the neo-Assyrian Empire, the first real imperium in world history. Despite the importance of this early state, relatively little is known about the power structures within the Empire. The recent discovery of a palace centre in the border area of the Assyrian Empire in Satu Qala (in North Iraq) offers the possibility of gaining more clarity via archaeological finds and a study of ancient manuscripts. A team of researchers from Leiden and Iraq shall start a systematic excavation of this important site in 2010.

Fluorescence biotyping device for biological test systems
Prof. H.P. (Herman) Spaink (m), Leiden University - Mathematics and Natural Sciences
A limitation of biological and pharmacological research is the speed with which a large group of organisms can be analysed for cellular details. Using a newly developed instrument (COPAS) images of test organisms such as zebra fish embryos and plant seeds can now be obtained very rapidly. This technology shall be used in various studies into the gene technology of plants, the study or organ development and disease models in which zebra fish are used to model diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis.

Data and tradition: The Hebrew Bible as a linguistic corpus and as a literary composition
Prof. E. Talstra (m), VU University Amsterdam
This project aims to enrich databases with Aramaic and Hebrew (Bible) texts. The aim is to link two important components of Biblical studies, namely linguistic consideration (word use, grammar, etc.) and the scientific interpretations of Biblical texts.

WIC-CorD: a Dutch Written Input for Children Corpus
Dr A.E.J.M. Tellings (f), Radboud University Nijmegen
This project aims to build up a lexicon of 5 million characters of Dutch written child language. The lexicon shall consist of about 20,000 distinct lemmas with references to derived language use, the frequency of word usage and other linguistic characteristics. Besides its use for scientific purposes (such as research into language use and language acquisition) this lexicon could also serve as a practical basic word list for primary education.

Using robots to investigate swarming behaviour
Dr K. (Karl) Tuyls (m), Maastricht University - Computer Science
The applicants are focussing on the use of a new self-learning algorithms (inspired by bees) for swarming behaviour in a collective of robots. They shall investigate how such algorithms can regulate efficient communication within the collective and how well a large collective can be coordinated by it during the performance of tasks, such as a search for food or the localisation of a threat.

Breathing proteins: rendering enzyme dynamics visible with NMR
Dr M. (Marcellus) Ubbink (m), Leiden University - Protein Chemistry
Enzymes, the biomolecules that speed up a lot of life processes, are dynamic; during the catalysis of chemical reactions they change shape thus influencing the end result. The improved spectrometer for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) shall be used to visualise these changes in shape so as to gain an understanding of how enzymes do their work.

Making optimal uses of graphics processors for calculations by studying the algorithms with a supercomputer
Dr A.A. (Lex) Wolters (m), Leiden University - Computer Science
This investment concerns the hardware for the construction of an energy-efficient supercomputer based on graphics processors (GPUs). The applicants shall use this supercomputer to study algorithms that will enable optimal use of graphics processors for calculations - especially N particle calculations - from various disciplines such as astrophysics, meteorology and mathematics.

Source:

Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)

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