In late July it was announced that no less than six young Wageningen plant scientists had been awarded a so-called Veni subsidy by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). This new record is excellent recognition of the talent on hand within the plant science groups in Wageningen. The Veni subsidies are aimed at enabling talented scientists who recently achieved their doctoral degree to carry out innovative research for a period of three years.
According to Ernst van den Ende, director of plant research at Wageningen UR, the subsidies serve as a hallmark. “Winning an NWO subsidy is a clear recognition of talent. The subsidies acknowledge talent and stimulate scientists to develop further.”
At Wageningen UR talented scientists are seen as being of major scientific importance and as a source of future innovations. “Current innovations can almost always be traced back to scientific knowledge developed in the past by academic top talents,” Van der Ende explains. “There are countless examples; from new technologies for sustainable cultivation in greenhouses based on scientific knowledge of plant physiology to extra tasty tomatoes due to insights into the genetic and biochemical backgrounds of flavour and flavourings. It is safe to assume that the young top talents who have just received the Veni subsidies will have an impact on science and on the future quality of life.”
This is what appeals to Eveline Verhulst, one of the subsidy recipients. “In the coming years I hope to make a major contribution to our knowledge of how bacteria can manipulate the gender of insects. The Veni subsidy provides me with an opportunity to establish this line of research and strengthen my position as a scientist. Of course it isn’t easy to predict which innovations it might lead to but I can imagine, for example, that the organic control of harmful insects could be improved in the future based on my research. In organic pest control, only the females are useful. Manipulating the gender of useful insects could result in more females which could make organic control even more effective.”The six talented Wageningen plant scientists who received the Veni subsidy are:
- Marian Bemer, Laboratory for Molecular Biology, is studying how, where and why protein in the organs of flowers collaborate in flower formation.
- Klaas Bouwmeester, Laboratory of Phytopathology, is working on increasing the resistance of capsicum and tomato plants to various plant diseases.
- Colette Broekgaarden, Laboratory of Plant Breeding, is studying how plant-eating insects have been able to manipulate the defence mechanisms of plants to their own benefit.
- Mireille van Damme, Laboratory of Phytopathology, aims to make plants more resistant to fungal infections by adjusting small RNA populations in plants.
- Eveline Verhulst, Laboratory of Genetics, wants to use a bacteria that determines the gender of the offspring of the ichneumon wasp to manipulate the reproduction of useful and harmful insects.
- Niels Verhulst, Laboratory of Entomology, is studying which mosquitoes bite both humans and apes and thus transfer diseases between the two.