ERC Stories

        • Targeting cancer: nanocontainers deliver localised chemotherapy
        • Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the EU – and this figure is expected to rise due to an ageing population in Europe. In his ERC-funded ‘Nanotherapy’ project, Professor George Kordas has developed ‘nanocontainers’ ­– tiny hollow spheres with a width measured in molecules – which are attracted to cancer cells and, once there, deliver their payload of chemotherapy drugs. It is a kind of ‘guided missile’, aimed at the heart of a cancer cell.
          Illustration ©
          Paul Hakimata photography/www.shutterstock.com
          Picture ©Courtesy of Prof. Georges Kordas

        •  April 2014
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        • Cancer in 3D: in-depth research to uncover its secrets
        • In 2012, 2.8 million people in the EU were diagnosed with cancer. It is the second most common cause of death in the Union – three out of 10 deaths for men, and two out of 10 deaths for women – a figure that is expected to rise due to the ageing European population. Dr Danijela Matic Vignjevic’s STARLIN project is using ERC funding to understand how normal cells become cancerous and spread.
          illustration © convit/shutterstock.com

        •  April 2014
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        • A hot topic for mermaids
        • To study something in detail you need to look at it from all directions, whether it is the Venus de Milo statue in the Louvre Museum, a car you are thinking of buying, or when using a CAT-scanner to image inside the human body. In the ERC-funded GLOBALSEIS project Professor Guust Nolet is doing this on a truly global scale, by developing a worldwide network of marine-based seismic-wave sensors that can give a much better picture of deep-earth structures and resolve a major paradox in geoscience.
          Pictures ©
          Alain Anglade / ©shutterstock - Littlesam
          Portrait ©Julia Frey

        •  March 2014
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        • The movie optometrist: clearer vision for cameras
        • Lights, camera... action! On the eve of the Oscars, we take a look at an ERC project in the field of film. ERC grantee Marcelo Bertalmío loves cinema so much that he made it the core of his research. A filmmaker himself – he has directed two movies – Dr. Bertalmío is developing a series of image processing algorithms that will create a better and cheaper way to shoot movies, whilst granting more artistic freedom to directors and cinematographers. He is the author of a book, Image Processing for Cinema (2014), which has already received plaudits from the film industry.
          ©Illustration - http://www.flickr.com/photos/visitportugal/ (Creative Commons licence)

        •  February 2014
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        • Biomass by numbers
        • The use of biomass from plants as a renewable energy source is not new. Yet surprisingly, the positive net economic and environmental benefits of biomass energy exist only on paper. This is about to change thanks to the largest experimental tree plantation in the world, which takes place in East Flanders. Professor Reinhart Ceulemans and his team are working to get the numbers needed to inform evidence-based decisions on the role of renewables in future energy policies.
          Portrait ©Melanie Verlinden/Reinhart Ceulemans
          Research illustration ©Melanie Verlinden

        •  February 2014
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        • Throwing light on to nanowires
        • At the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, Professor Anna Fontcuberta i Morral’s ERC-funded UPCON project (Ultra-pure nanowire heterostructures and energy conversion) is investigating new concepts and technologies that point the way to the next generation of photovoltaic systems. Prof Fontcuberta i Morral is a speaker at this year's American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Chicago, where she will give a talk entitled 'Nanowires have the power to revolutionize solar energy'.

          Research image courtesy of Yannik Fontana.
          Sketch of a forest of standing nanowires, ideal for the efficient capture of the solar radiation

        •  February 2014
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        • If Darwin could have scuba dived...
        • If Darwin could have scuba dived, he would have enjoyed the East African lakes: Victoria, Malawi and Tanganyika. Here live the cichlids – a colourful fish which has evolved rapidly into thousands of species, emulating and surpassing Darwin's finches in the Galapagos. Prof. Walter Salzburger, an Austrian researcher, is using his ERC grants to study the diversity of cichlids from ecological, morphological and genetic viewpoints. He believes these unique fish provide an ideal model system to understand the "how" and the "why" in questions of evolutionary biology: questions that relate to all life on earth.

          Lake Tanganyika  (© Adrian Indermaur)

        •  February 2014
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        • Beneficial social relationships in an increasingly urbanised world
        • It feels as if humanity has never been more connected. We live in ever-expanding cities, stay in constant contact and even have online friendships with people we have never met. But have human social relationships really changed that much since we were hunter-gathers some 200 000 years ago? Are we suited to living in a world where everyone is apparently supposed to know everyone else? And most pressing of all, how can we achieve social cohesion at a time of great urbanisation and globalisation? 

          © Shutterstock

        •  February 2014
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        • European perspectives on religion in public
        • The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) makes decisions on religious freedom that affect the rights of over 800 million people in 47 countries. A famous case is the Lautsi v. Italy decision which prevented the display of the crucifix in classrooms, and was later revoked after a public outcry.

          Dr Effie Fokas, a Greek researcher, has received an ERC Starting grant to study the influence of ECtHR decisions on the public. Looking beyond the legal implementation of the decisions, she hopes to discover how they change local perceptions of religious rights, grassroots movements and national case law.

        •  January 2014
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        • Sound advice: modelling music halls
        • Have you ever seen an engineer conducting an imaginary orchestra? We think of scientists working in a lab, but Professor Tapio Lokki, of the Aalto University School of Science in Finland, has spent the last few years visiting concert halls and making meticulous measurements of their characteristics. ‘Karaoke’ is Japanese for ‘empty orchestra’ – and in some ways that is what he has created to help his studies. The research could lead to improved building designs and a form of audio ‘Augmented Reality’ (AR).
          Research picture ©Jukka Pätynen – Aalto University
          Portrait ©Liisa Hirvisalo – Aalto University

        •  December 2013
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