Vici grants for TU/e research projects

Two research projects linked to Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have received Vici grants from NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), each with a value of 1.5 million euros. The group led by Luc Brunsveld (department of Biomedical Engineering) receives the funds for research into complex cell systems using protein assemble. Part-time professor Bert Zwart (Mathematics and Computer Science) receives the same amount for his research into probability models, for which three TU/e doctoral candidates hope to gain their PhDs.

Luc Brunsveld aims to increase understanding of the complexity of cell structures with his research entitled Synthetic Supramolecular Signalling Systems. He intends to do this together with his team by studying the structure and clustering of proteins to allow them to be modeled. “We understand these proteins when they are isolated, but research into protein assembly is still at any early stage. We’re going to work on that.”

At a later stage Brunsveld believes the protein models could be used as tools for cell and synthetic biology, says Brunsveld. This knowledge could add new characteristics to cells like these. For example he refers to therapeutic T-cells used in cancer research. “It would be fantastic if we could give these cells a supramolecular safety element to make this therapy better and more reliable”, says Brunsveld. 

Inspired by nature
With this research Brunsveld is building a bridge between supramolecular chemistry and chemical biology. “The discipline of supramolecular chemistry is inspired by nature. We’ve now reached the stage at which we can also influence and manipulate nature.” The grant that we have required will provide funding for three PhD candidates, two postdocs and the required research equipment.

Rare events
A Vici grant worth 1.5 million euro also goes to TU/e part-time professor of Stochastic Operations Bert Zwart. Together with three PhD candidates, he is developing techniques to increased understanding of rare events such as power failures, floods and financial crises. This research, entitled ‘Rare Events: Asymptotics, Algorithms, Applications’, may help to prevent these events in the future.

Five years
For their analyses the researchers use special distributions, in which the chance of events decline non-exponentially over time. Zwart and his team translate these events into robust algorithms to perform estimates, calculations and simulations. The research program, carried out at the CWI (National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science in Amsterdam) has a duration of five years, the same as other Vici research programs. The three PhD candidates from TU/e will also be based in Amsterdam.

36 Vici grants
The Vici grants from the NWO are awarded annually, and are among the largest scientific grants in the Netherlands to be awarded on an individual basis. A total of 216 applications were received this year, of which 132 were invited to submit their proposals. Grants were finally awarded to 36 researchers, which represents 17 percent of the total number of applications. The criteria on which the applications were assessed included the quality of the research, their innovative character and the scientific impact of the research.