Postdoc researcher Julius Huijts receives prestigious fellowship

September 18, 2022

"Ultracold electrons may let us see what happens in the gateways across the cell membrane"

Julius Huijts of the Coherence and Quantum Technology group of Eindhoven University of Technology has been selected for The Branco Weiss Fellowship, a program for outstanding postdoctoral researchers hosted by ETH Zurich. Huijts now enjoys up to five years of academic freedom to perform his interdisciplinary research at any institution in the world.

The Branco Weiss Fellowship – Society in Science has selected Julius Huijts as one of nine new fellows after an extended global recruitment campaign.

In his research, Huijts aims to develop a device that can make molecular movies of membrane proteins. He plans to deliver a proof of concept of a technique that may revolutionize the way proteins are studied. A unique source based on the ionization of laser-cooled atoms delivers flashes of ultracold electrons, which he will use to obtain high-resolution snapshots of the conformational change of the protein. Combined, these snapshots form a molecular movie. He will apply this technique to membrane proteins, the pumps and gates in our cell membranes that control all traffic into and out of our cells. This class of proteins constitutes 60 % of all drug targets, but despite their enormous importance they are relatively poorly understood. Being able to film these proteins on their native timescales will improve their understanding, advancing research in medicine and related areas.

More information about Julius Huijts:

The Branco Weiss Fellowship offers an opportunity for postdocs in all areas of the natural and social sciences as well as engineering who have conceived an original and independent research idea that falls outside the scope of large-scale research projects. This year’s new fellows come from a wide range of research fields including astronomy, biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, computer science, epigenetics, geophysics, medicine, neuroscience, physics, sciences of religions, and virology. They originate from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom and are currently working at institutions and universities in the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the USA.

“The quality of applications for the Branco Weiss Fellowships is always impressively high. After rigorous rounds of evaluation by experts and the final interviews nine new fellows were selected. We are looking forward to the exciting new projects which complement and expand the research topics of the Fellowship community”, says the fellowship’s member of the directorate Heidi Wunderli-Allenspach.

About The Branco Weiss Fellowship – Society in Science was founded in 2002 to provide a platform for researchers in the natural sciences and engineering who are aiming to extend their scientific work to cover specific social and cultural questions and perspectives. The fellowship was initiated and financed by the Swiss entrepreneur Dr. Branco Weiss, who died in 2010. It is hosted by ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich). Professors Angelika Steger, Heidi Wunderli-Allenspach and Josef Zeyer direct the fellowship program and are supported by prominent international scholars from a wide array of disciplines. To qualify for the prestigious grant, candidates must hold a PhD and provide evidence of outstanding scientific achievement.