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Twelve refugee academics at work in the Netherlands

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Twelve academics who’ve fled their home countries due to war or other life-threatening situations, are granted support from the NWO to work on scientific research in the Netherlands for a year. Four of them are welcome in Utrecht.

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Last May, research financier NWO made 750,000 euros available to refugee academics who wished to continue their careers in the Netherlands. They were eligible for a grant if they had at least a Master’s degree and a Dutch resident permit.

Interested parties were to report to the NWO, after which universities and other institutions would look at the applications to see which refugees would be a good fit for current projects as either junior or senior researchers.

The institutions filed a total of 41 applications, of which 12 were accepted. Four researchers will work for the UU. They will work for research projects on the consequences of deforestation in the Amazon area near the Surinamese coast; on nanoparticles that help fight tumours; on the involvement of students in the Syrian war; and on the relation between children’s social status and their achievements at school. See box for more information.

The grants are part of the pilot ‘Refugees in science’, developed by NWO in collaboration with The Young Academy, The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and UAF, the foundation for refugee students.

The four UU projects: 

*Modelling the changing sediment yield of the Amazon for the next 100 years and the impact on the Surinamese coast

Applicant: Prof. dr. Steven de Jong
Institution: Utrecht University & Anton de Kom University, Surinam
Candidate: Safaa Naffaa

Climate change and deforestation will influence the flow of sediment from the Amazon, with possibly serious consequences for the low-lying coast of Surinam. Our model will provide insight into how sediment flow is changing, and that knowledge will help us develop sustainable control plans and to better protect the coast.

*TRITON: Targeting mRNA for ImmunoTherapy in ONcology

Applicant: Prof. dr. Raymond Schiffelers
Institution: UMC Utrecht
Candidate: Khalid Aldakkak

Immunotherapy for cancer is promising but expensive. In this project, researchers will create affordable nanoparticles that will be injected locally into the tumour, to provoke an attack by the immune system there.

*Weaponising Students: Mobilising and militarising the National Union of Syrian Students
Applicant: Dr. Uğur Ümit Üngör
Institution: Utrecht University
Candidate: Ali Aljasem

Students are often known for their activism, but how can students get involved in a civil war? This project studies the involvement of Syrian students as paramilitary forces in the Syrian conflict, especially in the rebellious college city of Aleppo, with an analysis of mobilisation and use of violence.

*The interplay between cognitive ability and social origin in explaining educational attainment: do twins and non-twin siblings differ?

Applicant: Prof. dr. Ineke Maas
Institution: Utrecht University
Candidate: Dr. V.M. Barsegyan
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