Innovative research at TU/e rewarded with four Vidi grants

November 4, 2020

The NWO grants will enable the researchers to set up their own research group over the next five years.

Andreas Huelsing, Liesbeth Janssen, Adrie Mackus and Laura Sanità (from top left to bottom right)
Andreas Huelsing, Liesbeth Janssen, Adrie Mackus and Laura Sanità (from top left to bottom right)

Four talented researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have been awarded a Vidi grant from the Dutch Research Council to further develop their innovative research. Andreas Hülsing, Liesbeth Janssen, Adrie Mackus and Laura Sanità receive the grant for their research into future-proof cryptography, understanding the enigmatic phenomenon of glass formation, building nanoelectronics from the bottom-up and quickly solving optimization problems in, for example, data tranfers. The Vidi grant is worth 800,000 euros. 

Future-proof cryptography

Andreas Hülsing focuses on making cryptography future-proof. It is known that quantum computers will break all cryptography used on the Internet today. However, quantum computers also require us to change the way we determine if a cryptographic scheme is secure.

Hülsing and his team will develop new ways to select secure cryptographic schemes for a world with quantum computers. One of the cryptographic schemes he developed was recently selected as a new standard for cryptographic protection by US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Two further schemes have been selected as candidate standards.

Andreas Hülsing is assistant professor in the Coding Theory and Cryptology group at the department of Mathematics and Computer Science. He obtained his PhD in 2013 at the Technical University of Darmstadt, after which he started as a postdoc at TU/e in the same year. More about Hülsing's research on post-quantum crytography can be found in this article.

Unravelling glass formation

Using advanced machine-learning methods, Liesbeth Janssen and her team will develop a new theory of glass formation. Glass has been used for centuries and continues to find many new industrial applications, but remains poorly understood. Glass is deemed to be a special form of a solid. While the material feels hard, it lacks a regular crystalline structure. Physicists still cannot explain the transition from a liquid to this special solid form.

If Janssen succeeds in solving this mystery, numerous applications come within reach. Fast-working computer chips, for example, or recyclable plastic. The glass phase can even help us better understand asthma and cancer metastasis.

Liesbeth Janssen is associate professor in the Theory of Polymers and Soft matter group at the department of Applied Physics. She obtained her PhD cum laude from Radboud University in Nijmegen in 2012. After postdocs in Düsseldorf and New York, she joined TU/e in 2017. More information about her research can be found in this longread.

Building nanoelectronics from the bottom-up

The research of Adrie Mackus focuses on nanotechnology. The ultimate ambition in nanoscience is to synthesize materials from the bottom-up with atomic-level accuracy. However, so far the fabrication of nanoelectronics still relies completely on top-down processing by removing excessive material. Mackus and his team will develop new nanomanufacturing methods for bottom-up processing relying on a method known as Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD).

ALD builds up layers of atoms through alternating chemical reactions at a surface. By blocking those chemical reactions in specific areas, deposition of material only occurs where it is needed. As a result, there is no need for performing etching afterwards to remove unwanted material. This allows for the downscaling of electronics to the atomic level and a reduction of material waste.

Mackus conducts his research in the Plasma and Materials Processing  group within the department of Applied Physics. He studied and obtained his doctorate cum laude at TU/e. After a couple of years at Stanford University (USA), he has been working in Eindhoven again since 2016. He recently was awarded a large research grant from the European Union.

Fast methods for solving optimization problems

The research of Laura Sanità is focused on optimization problems. Think of fast data transfers on computer networks, time-effective scheduling for public transport, or efficient resource allocation. All of these are examples of optimization problems that arise in everyday life.

Many of these problems have an optimal solution that has to be found out of a finite number of possible solutions. A well-known example is the travelling salesman problem, where the shortest route has to be found between a number of cities without visiting any city more than once. Sanità and her colleagues use models from discrete mathematics to find solutions for such problems in a fast and reliable way.

Sanità works as associate professor in the Combinatorial Optimization group at the department of Mathematics and Computer Science. She obtained her PhD at Sapienza University in Rome in 2009. She then worked in Lausanne (Switzerland) and Waterloo (Canada) before joining TU/e in 2019.  

About Vidi

Vidi fellowships are aimed at experienced researchers who have carried out succesful research for a number of years after their PhDs. Together with the Veni and Vici scholarships, Vidi is part of the NWO Talent Programme. With this program the Dutch Research Council wants to stimulate curiosity-driven and innovative research.

A total of 503 researchers submitted an application for a Vidi grant this year, of which 81 have now been honoured. That amounts to an award rate of 16%.

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