24 researchers who have recently received their PhDs can do their research at foreign research institutes thanks to a Rubicon grant from NWO. The Rubicon programme gives young, highly promising researchers the opportunity to gain international research experience.

They investigate, amongst others, why the gender pay gap has stopped decreasing and the effect of synthetic chemicals on biodiversity. Another researcher tests whether social-cognitive processes, defender-/victim characteristics and norms contribute to successful defending against bullying.

Read the full news article on the NWO website.

The following projects will contribute to medical science and healthcare innovation:

Fishing for the causes of neurodegeneration

D.E.M. de Bakker MSc (Dennis), Utrecht University -> Germany -> Leibniz Institute on Ageing, Jena -> 24 months

Biologists will study neurodegeneration in killifish, the only species known to lose neurons with ageing like humans. Through comparing, cutting and pasting in fish DNA, the researchers hope to identify how variations in DNA cause neurodegeneration in fish and humans.

Manipulating how bone becomes hard

Dr. S.J.P. Callens (Sebastien), TU Delft -> United Kingdom -> Imperial College London -> 24 months

It is still not entirely clear how bone mineralization depends on environmental factors. The researcher will use advanced techniques to study the role of geometry on this process, and how this could be leveraged to spatiotemporally manipulate mineralization in biomaterials.

The effect of dorsal root ganglion stimulation on the firing pattern of nerve cells in the spinal cord and treatment of neuropathic pain

Dr. G. Franken (Glenn), Maastricht University Medical Centre (MUMC+) -> United Kingdom -> King’s College London -> 12 months

The Netherlands Chronic neuropathic pain is often induced by a disturbed firing pattern of the nerve cells in the spinal cord, which therefore constantly send pain signals to the brain. We will investigate if electrical stimulation of the dorsal root ganglion can decrease this disturbed firing pattern and treat chronic neuropathic pain.

How does the brain predict the future from the past?

M. Fritsche PhD (Mats), Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour -> United Kingdom -> Oxford University -> 24 months

When making decisions, the brain not only relies on information from the senses, but also on its own predictions. Here, the researchers will measure and manipulate the neurotransmitter dopamine in mice to understand how the brain forms such predictions.

Does the wonder drug fulfill its promises in diabetics with heart failure?

E.L. Fu BSc (Edouard), Leiden University Medical Center -> United States of America, Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Department of Medicine, Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics -> 24 months

SGLT2 inhibitors are a breakthrough in the treatment of diabetes and heart failure. The first investigations do not paint the whole picture. Therefore, the researcher will use big data to investigate how effective and safe these medications are in practice.

In or out of touch with yourself: basic mechanisms of self-other-distinction

Dr. R Kaldewaij (Reinoud), Radboud University -> Sweden -> Centre for Social and Affective Neuroscience, Linköping University -> 24 months

How does touch help us with experiencing our body as our own? Using brain and spinal cord imaging, this study investigates the difference between being touched by ourselves and by someone else - and how ketamine changes this.

Uncovering the logistics of molecular traffic in the human brain during health and disease

Dr. F.W. Lindhout (Feline), University of Utrecht -> United Kingdom -> MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB), Cambridge -> 24 months

Perturbed logistics of molecular traffic in brain cells cause neurological disease. Today’s scientific insights on these processes mainly come from animal research, but is this translatable to humans? Scientists will now investigate this timely question using human lab-grown brain tissues.

Boosting De novo NAD+ synthesis to promote hepatic health

Dr. Y.J. Liu (Yasmine), University of Amsterdam -> Switzerland -> Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) -> 24 months

Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+ ) is vital to hepatic health, but itslevels decline in fatty liver diseases. The researchers discovered that inhibiting ACMSD boosts NAD+ biosynthesis in the liver. They will investigate whether inhibiting ACMSD can manage these diseases.

Controlling cell fate decisions in homeostasis and disease

Dr. K. Lõhmussaar (Kadi), Hubrecht Institute (KNAW), University of Utrecht -> Denmark -> University of Copenhagen, Biotech Research & Innovation Centre (BRIC) -> 24 months

During intestinal injury, surviving cells acquire a fetal-like identity to repair the damage. In order to understand how to improve tissue regeneration, the researchers are interested to study how the faith of a cell is decided in this process.

How to silence an X chromosome?

J.C.K. Man PhD (Joyce), Amsterdam UMC (AMC location) -> Germany -> European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg -> 24 months

How female cells shut down one of their two X chromosomes has been a mystery for decades. Researchers have identified a key player in X-chromosome inactivation called SPEN. This project will elucidate SPEN’s mechanism of action in X chromosome-wide silencing.

Energy-burning fat cells originating from smooth muscle cells

Dr. J.M.E. Tan (Jospehine), University of Amsterdam -> United States -> Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania -> 24 months

There are two types of fat cells: those storing energy and those burning energy. Generating more “energyburning” fat cells can aid the fight against obesity. The researcher will study mechanisms through which smooth muscle cells transition into energy-burning fat cells.

Melancholy moods: ancient and medieval predecessors of depression

Dr. R.W. Vinkesteijn (Robert), Leiden University -> Germany -> Humboldt-Universität, Berlin -> 18 months

Depression is not merely a contemporary problem. Ancient and medieval philosophers and scientists extensively studied its predecessor, melancholia. What can we learn from their studies in order to find better ways of dealing with our contemporary problem?

Resetting the heart's nervous system

V.Y.H. van Weperen MD (Valerie), Utrecht University -> United States of America -> University of California, Los Angeles, Cardiac Arrhythmia Center -> 24 months

Heart disease disturbs the heart's nervous system, which predisposes to dangerous heart rhythms. This study will explore how, in heart diseases not due to blocked arteries, nervous system disturbances contribute to these dangerous rhythms and how this can be treated.

Out of my phase! Protein aggregation in ALS pathogenesis

Dr. V.I. Wiersma (Vera), Amsterdam UMC (AMC location) -> Switzerland -> University of Zurich -> 24 months

Cells dynamically concentrate proteins in liquid droplets. These droplets are handy, but possibly also risky, as they can change into solid protein clumps. The researcher studies the liquid-to-solid phase transition of the ALS-protein TDP-43 in cultured human brain cells.

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