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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).
European countries have different cultures of capitalism and employment. But in the face of challenges like globalisation and the financial crisis, the various models are changing – in different ways. At the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Professor Seán Ó Riain is using an ERC Starting Grant to understand how European employers and employees are making ‘new deals’ in response to these challenges.
Cancer is one of the most challenging medical issues we face. In the United Kingdom alone, there are 300,000 new cases every year – leading to almost two million surgical operations annually. Thanks to ERC funding, Dr Zoltán Takáts of Imperial College London has developed a ‘smart’ surgical knife that can ‘smell’ the tissues it is cutting through – with the potential to revolutionise cancer treatment, as well as food and drug analysis, and research into the human ‘microbiome’.
Science has a crucial part to play in tackling the AIDS pandemic. ERC funded scientists are engineering better vaccines, studying HIV evolution of drug resistance and discovering how our immune system could combat the virus. They are also working on social impacts, including protecting children from abuse and supporting child caregivers in an AIDS-related context. These projects are just a few examples, but they demonstrate the wide range and vital importance of the research being done – from parenting programmes to molecular biology.
Almost 842 million people worldwide are chronically undernourished according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The world faces huge challenges if it is to achieve food security for a global population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050. With ERC help, Professor Malcolm Bennett of the UK’s University of Nottingham is trying to improve crop yields through better understanding of roots and the way they grow.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is increasingly used to help women become pregnant. The most common technique is in vitro fertilisation, i.e. the transfer of fertilised human eggs into a woman's uterus. However, ART can imply risks for the embryo during the pregnancy or even later in life. With a grant of the European Research Council (ERC), Polish researcher Dr Grazyna Ewa Ptak has analysed sheeps embryos. With her team at the University of Teramo, she has discovered the precise timing and nature of placental disorders consequent to ART. Her findings can greatly improve reproductive technologies and lead to safer pregnancies for both women and animals.
Why should people waste their time executing some repetitive time-consuming everyday tasks which do not require creativity and intellectual capacity? Such a reasoning stands behind Professor Bruno Siciliano’s ERC funded project aiming at the creation of a new generation of service robots.
Molecular electronics has raised increasing interest in recent years, in particular the use of molecules as nano-electrical components for electronic, photovoltaic and thermoelectric devices. With her ERC Starting grant, Dr Gemma Solomon studies how molecules carrying current heat up and cool down, potentially paving the way to new frontiers in power-generating materials.
Hallucinations have been the seeds of inspiration of legendary filmmakers such as Luis Buñuel, Terry Gilliam or David Lynch. Auditory hallucinations are a major symptom of schizophrenia. These inner voices people hear in the absence of any external acoustic input can be very disruptive for health and for social life. Professor Kenneth Hugdahl, who holds an ERC Advanced grant, has developed an iPhone app to help patients to re-focus their attention. Based at the University of Bergen in Norway, he participates in the “Horizons for Social Sciences and Humanities” conference in Vilnius on 23 and 24 September 2013 and exposes the first results of his ERC project.
During the 20th century, the experiences of post-communist states in Central and Eastern Europe were very different from those of much of Western Europe. Have these different experiences fostered different attitudes when it comes to public space, and ‘public goods’ like health care, education or the environment? Dr Natalia Letki of the University of Warsaw in Poland is using an ERC Starting Grant to carry out an ambitious multi-disciplinary study of attitudes and behaviour regarding ‘public goods’ across this region – drawing on political science, sociology, economics and even psychology.