NWO awards Vidi grants to TU Delft researchers

The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded €800,000 worth of grants to four TU Delft researchers.

Akira Endo, Gary Steele, Birna van Riemsdijk and Mark Veraar were among the 86 scientists to be given a Vidi grant to develop their own line of groundbreaking research. With an annual budget of over €500 million, the NWO funds excellent research projects in an effort to promote quality and innovation in science. Under the Vidi grant scheme, a maximum of €800,000 is awarded to exceptional scientists with several years of successful postdoctoral research experience. The grant’s recipients are considered to be among the top 10–20% in their field.

“What makes the Netherlands stand out is that its funding agency NWO has a great appreciation for interdisciplinary research,” says Akira Endo, a postdoctoral researcher from Japan. “This gives young researchers who do not easily fit into existing boundaries a chance to exploit their new ideas.” As an astronomer, Endo experiments with superconducting electronics and nanotechnology in order to design new photonic instruments that enable scientists to observe and measure submillimeter wave galaxies. His electronic circuits will be used in the development of the DESHIMA spectrometer, which will be installed in Chile.

At the same time, Canadian Gary Steele’s nanoscience research focuses on the quantum motion of mechanical resonators. By creating nanometer-sized strings and drums from carbon, and listening to their “quantum sound”, the assistant professor in the Faculty of Applied Sciences aims to explore the strangeness of quantum motion. “The drums and strings we will make in the project could be useful as quantum memory chips in a quantum computer,” Steele claims. “They could also eventually replace micromechanical sensors in things like phones.”

Dutch researchers Birna van Riemsdijk and Mark Veraar also received Vidi grants for their work in the fields of computer science and mathematics. Van Riemsdijk is currently developing intelligent software that adapts to human norms and values, while Veraar investigates the theoretical relationship between harmonic and stochastic analyses.

With a success rate of less than 20%, the NWO funding process is considered to be highly competitive. “Applicants should be at the top of their field internationally,” Steele says. “The proposed research should be highly ambitious. The committee is looking for major breakthroughs in science.” The Vidi grant allows scientists to form their own research groups and pursue their work for the next five years. In doing so, they are able to establish themselves as experts in their fields.