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While on court, beach volleyball players need to act as a whole in order to prevent the ball from touching the sand: in a fraction of a second - just before the opponent's hand spikes the ball - the passer has to predict and adjust to the attacker's action as well as to their teammate's block position. Thanks to her Consolidator Grant, cognitive science professor Natalie Sebanz is studying the cognitive and psychological mechanisms underlying joint action expertise – in other words, how individuals learn skilled actions, such as those performed by professional athletes, together.
Imagine your favourite football team entering a stadium. An army of wireless cameras is following the players to give you the best possible view – of the whole pitch, of the chanting crowd, of each footballer, from the tip of his head to the grass blades he treads with his cleats. Thanks to Prof. Leif Oxenløwe’s research, this kind of wireless ultra-high definition television broadcasting can one day become a reality.
The Earth is made of layers, just like a big onion, composed of different materials. However, the compounds forming these layers are not static, flowing from one stratum to another, following patterns still not entirely understood. Prof. Patrick Cordier tries to model the real conditions minerals are subjected to beneath the Earth’s crust. His aim is to understand the forces driving tectonic plates so we can better comprehend phenomena like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Through her work with the fruit fly Drosophila santomea, Dr Virginie Orgogozo aims to answer one of the most challenging questions of modern evolutionary biology: how do observable characteristics change between species and yet remain stable in a given species?
The Theory of Mind - the ability to understand that others may have thoughts, beliefs, desires, and intentions different from ours - develops in early childhood and is considered as a key process to explain our social interactions. How do children acquire this ability? What are the cognitive and brain mechanisms that allow human beings to learn from others, to predict their behaviour and to communicate with them? These are some of the questions Dr Agnes Melinda Kovacs addresses, thanks to an ERC grant, in her laboratory in Budapest.
Researchers supported by the ERC have sampled magmatic gases derived from the Earth's mantle in the Eifel region in Germany. Their analysis of xenon, a rare and inert gas, sampled in bubbling mineral water could bring new insights into the origin of volatile elements, water and gases, that allowed life to develop on Earth.
While women inherit two X chromosomes, the expressions of one of them is shut down during embryonic development. Men have one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. The switching off of women’s second X chromosome is thought to compensate for the presence of only one X in males versus two in females, to balance for X-linked gene products between the sexes. X-chromosome inactivation is also one of the clearest examples of what epigenetic mechanisms do to our genetic material: the DNA of the genes on the X is still present but not actively expressed or needed. Prof. Edith Heard was awarded ERC grants to understand the intricate processes behind the phenomenon, with unexpected results that changed the way gene regulation is now looked at.
Malaria has always been the centre of attention for Dr Ali Salanti’s, a molecular parasitologist and an ERC grantee. With his studies, he hoped to bring new insight into pregnancy-associated malaria, to save the lives of women and their babies in areas affected by the disease. Now, Dr Salanti’s research has shifted to battling against another deadly disease: cancer. This comes after an unexpected discovery yielded ground-breaking results for the diagnosis and treatment of this illness. This is the kind of curiosity-driven research that can lead to ground-breaking serendipitous outcomes.
Artur Avila is a franco-brazilian leading mathematician and an ERC grantee since 2010. At the age of 16, he won the International Mathematical Olympic gold medal and before finishing high school, he received a scholarship for the Instituto Nacional de Matemática Pura e Aplicada (IMPA) of Rio de Janeiro. He is now senior researcher both at the National Center for Scientific Research - CNRS and IMPA. In this interview, Prof. Avila tells us about his international career and the research he conducts both in Brazil and France.
The European Mars mission in 2018 will land on the site identified by Prof Cathy Quantin-Nataf, grantee of the European Research Council (ERC), and her team at Université Lyon 1 and Observatoire de Lyon. Their choice of site, named Oxia Planum, was confirmed by the European Space Agency (ESA) on 21 October as the prime landing site for the robotic mission.