Three researchers at Ghent University win an ERC Starting Grant

Today the European Research Council (ERC) announced the names of the European scientists winning a Starting Grant. Three Ghent University researchers win an ERC Starting Grant.

Three new ERC Starting grants at Ghent University

EU awards grants worth ¤621 million to early-career researchers from over 50 countries. 408 scientists win the European Research Council’s Starting Grants.

The highly-coveted funding will help individual scientists and scholars to build their own teams and conduct pioneering research across all disciplines. Some 13% of applications were selected for funding this time.

At Ghent University , three researchers win an ERC Starting Grant for 5 years. The successful candidates’ research covers a diverse range of topics, as can also be seen at the new Starting Grants at Ghent University :

  • Charlotte Scott (Ghent University & VIB): MyeFattyLiver: Unravelling the heterogeneity and functions of hepatic myeloid cells in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
  • Katrien De Graeve (Ghent University): LiLI/ Later-in-Life Intimacy: women’s unruly practices, spaces and representations
  • Ilse De Looze (Ghent University):  DustOrigin: The origin of cosmic dust in galaxies

With her grant, Charlotte will investigate the role of two types of immune cells, dendritic cells and macrophages in driving non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). With the increasing prevalence of obesity and its link to NAFLD, this liver condition is one of the main global healthcare burdens of the 21st century. Unfortunately, a lack of understanding regarding how the disease develops means that there are currently no treatment options available for end-stage NAFLD other than liver transplantation.  Charlotte explains how she will use the grant to contribute to better treatment options for this crippling liver condition: "I hope that a better understanding of these immune cells and their specific roles in this disease could lead to novel therapies for the future. So far, I have focused on investigating these cells in healthy individuals. But now, thanks to this grant, I can implement novel tools such as single cell RNA sequencing and CITE-Seq, to study them in a disease-setting. I will also unravel their specific contributions to disease and will try to use that knowledge to tackle liver disease."

Katrien De Graeve   (Ghent University):  LiLI:  Later-in-Life Intimacy: women’s unruly practices, spaces and representations

Negative ideas and stereotypes prevail about older women and sex. It is generally assumed that growing older is bad for women’s sexuality and desirability. Widespread negative assumptions about ageing and female sexuality are also reflected in the lack of research interest in the topic and a predominantly medicalized view. There is a critical need for alternative models to the negative conceptions of 50+ women’s sexuality. LiLI aims to address this significant gap in the research by exploring experiences and viewpoints that have the capacity to change the way we look at ageing and female sexuality. A multidisciplinary team with expertise in anthropology, social geography, cultural studies and philosophy will investigate the ’unruly’, counterhegemonic knowledge of 50+ women from diverse social positions to develop a radically new, affirmative theory of 50+ women’s sexuality.

Ilse De Looze (Ghent University): DustOrigin: The origin of cosmic dust in galaxies

Cosmic dust grains (i.e., particles built up from heavy elements such as carbon, silicon, magnesium, iron) are responsible for the obscuration of roughly half of the starlight in the Universe. They also play a privileged role in regulating the conditions for future star formation, and can instigate massive flows of galactic material out into the intergalactic medium. So far, we lack the knowledge on how the majority of cosmic dust forms in galaxies, which impedes our understanding of how these galaxies evolve through time. With this ERC project, we hope to solve the ``origin of cosmic dust" problem. Stars, as the engines that produce metals in the Universe, are considered to be an obvious site for dust formation. This ``stardust" is currently thought to be insufficient to account for all cosmic dust in the Universe. The build-up and growth of dust grains from metals available in the space in between the stars in galaxies has been proposed as an alternative dust production channel, but has not (yet) been backed up with a viable chemical formation route. Based on laboratory tests - which will be conducted at LERMA (Laboratoire d’Etudes du Rayonnement et de la Matière en Astrophysique et Atmosphères) in Paris, an extensive set of infrared observations and sophisticated dust evolution models, we will investigate how most cosmic dust is formed (and destroyed) in galaxies through cosmic time.

What are ERC grants?

ERC grants are given to top researchers of any nationality, to implement a groundbreaking, high-risk/high-gain fundamental research project at any European institution, for the duration 5 years.

ERC grants allow scientists to give their research a whole new direction Proposals are evaluated on excellence and the researchers are evaluated based on their track record of the last 10 years prior to their application.