Nine young WUR researchers win Veni grants

July 17, 2019

Nine scientists from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) have received Veni grants of up to 250.000 euros from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). This allows them to further develop their research in the next three years.

The Veni grants are awarded annually by the NWO to outstanding researchers who have just finished their PhDs. They are selected on the basis of the following criteria: quality of the researcher, innovative character of their research, expected scientific impact and possibilities for knowledge validation.

A total of 1151 researchers submitted research proposals to the NWO. 166 of them were awarded a grant, including these nine WUR scientists:

The wisdom of plants: Blocking pathogen’s emergency exit to restore antimicrobial efficiency

Carla Araya-Cloutier

Bacteria can survive antibiotics by pumping them out of their cells using efflux pumps. Stressed plants produce compounds that block these efflux pumps. To restore antibiotics’ efficiency, researchers will propose novel efflux pump blockers from stressed plants, and study their operation with the aid of innovative computer modelling tools.

Booming or blooming? The future of lakes in a changing world

Annette Janssen

Algal blooms turn lakes into toxic soups. Why are we unable to prevent them? This research studies the interaction between society and environment to find new solutions to prevent algal blooms. These solutions will help us to restore our lakes back to a healthy environment.

Tuning the test to the target

Gert Salentijn

When it comes to food safety or clinical testing, measuring is key. Ideally, you can perform such measurements anywhere by yourself. But would you know what to measure, and how? The researcher will develop ‘smart’ test strips that auto-tune to the tested sample, to obtain a reliable result.

Like a fish in water

Lysanne Snijders

Many wild animals see their environment continuously change, so also fish that live in rainforest streams. How do they find their food? The researcher will use field experiments to test which individual and social characteristics play a key role.

Understanding the barriers of genetic exchange in hybrid plants

Charles Underwood

Cultivated crops can be improved by hybridisation with related wild species. Hybrids between tomato and wild relatives are possible, but the exchange of genetic material between the two species is suppressed. This research aims to understand the barriers between plant species, and may lead to innovative breeding approaches.

Building sustainable C1-routes in a bacterium

Nico Claassens

Methanol and other ‘1-carbon molecules’ are ideal sources for the production of biochemicals and biofuels. Unfortunately, microorganisms suitable for biotechnological production, such as Escherichia coli, cannot grow on these sources. The researcher will engineer possible genetic mutations in E. coli for eating onecarbon substrates, and learn which mutations are important.

The human side of environmental computer modelling

Lieke Melsen

Give different people the same recipe, the final dish will taste different. This is also true for computer models used for environmental predictions, like river discharge in response to climate change; different modellers will obtain different results. The researcher aims to quantify the effect of the human-factor in environmental modelling.

What determines the resilience of tropical forests to drought and fire?

Masha van der Sande

Tropical forests are important for climate change mitigation because they take carbon from the atmosphere. This research will investigate how plant characteristics help forests survive droughts and fires. The results will help to develop effective forest management strategies, and safeguard the important role of forests in reducing climate change.

The host-parasite supergenome: an untapped source for disease resistances

Mark Sterken

Currently, plant breeders consider disease resistance as the product of a simple gene-for-gene interaction between host and parasite. This view results in using a critically narrow genetic basis for resistance breeding in current cultivars. The superorganism concept assumes a complex, gradual co-evolution of genetic networks to uncover new disease resistances.