Research into harmful proteins and crises in society

UU leads two gravity programmes

Research project by Beatrice de Graaf focuses on maintaining social cohesion during major crises. Photo: DUB

The so-called "Gravity Program" should keep the Netherlands among the "scientific world leaders", according to the Minister of Education, Robbert Dijkgraaf. Through this program, the ministry finances large-scale and interdisciplinary research that researchers cannot get off the ground on their own.

Tens of millions of euros are invested in each project for five to ten years. A committee from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) makes the selection. This year, seven projects have been awarded a grant.

As part of the Flow programme, Professor of Cellular Protein Chemistry Ineke Braakman will research the quality control system in cells of the human body. She will do so alongside colleagues from the universities of Twente, Groningen and Leiden. When that control system fails, harmful proteins can lead to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or cystic fibrosis. The programme, which also involves UU chemists Friedrich Förster, Stefan Rüdiger, Arnold Boersma en Peter van der Sluijs will receive 22,5 million euros.

Professor of International Relations, Beatrice de Graaf, leads a project called Adapt, which involves five universities. Professor of Social Psychology Kees van den Bos and Associate Professor of Public Management Scot Douglas are two other scientists from UU in the core team.

The consortium will receive 23 million euros to investigate how societies can cope with crises such as floods, pandemics and terrorist attacks. The project will delve into the cultural, social and policy aspects necessary to maintain unity and cohesion in a society.

UU scientists are also involved in other projects that will receive subsidies. Biology professor Maarten Kole is participating in a major research project on brain disorders, while Chemistry professor Petra de Jongh is working on a project about electrochemical processes that are key for the energy transition.