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This 8 March, the ERC celebrates the achievements of grantee Dr Mariana Graña, a determined researcher in a branch of physics where women are still noticeably underrepresented. She reflects on how far women have come in Theoretical Physics and what is still needed to overcome the gender-role stereotypes associated with this appealing but abstract field of science.
The increasing development of wearable technology sparks the need for new, innovative ways to interact with our shiny gadgets. Deviating from the conventional approach based on touch-sensitive devices, Prof. Jürgen Steimle aims at producing body-worn user interfaces that can be applied directly on the skin. Highly personalised, biocompatible and ultrathin, these devices will seamlessly blend with the human skin to create a technological extension of our body.
Applied theatre tells a story not for the purposes of entertainment but for social, economic, political or therapeutic reasons. Prof. Matthias Warstat, funded by the ERC, wants to know more about the growth and impact of this form of theatre across the world.
Will spacecraft follow a similar evolution to computers? While information processing in the last century was performed by large mainframe computers, today, networked smart phones dominate the market. In spacecraft engineering a similar paradigm shift is apparent: from traditional single, large, and multifunctional satellites towards groups of very small satellites that cooperate together. Professor Klaus Schilling, in his ERC project “NetSat”, addresses crucial challenges to enable small satellite formations to self-organise. This offers innovative application perspectives in areas like Earth observation, science exploration or telecommunications.
Despite holding out promise for cancer treatments, nanomedicine lacks the means to predict patient response to tumour-targeting therapy. Prof. Twan Lammers has devised imaging which differentiates between those likely to benefit and those unlikely to do so. A significant barrier for the nanopharmaceutical industry tackling cancer is that while some patients treated with nanomedicine show major improvements in survival rates and quality of life, many others do not respond well. This can result in delays in receiving appropriate treatment. A step forward would be the ability to differentiate likely responders from non-responders, prior to their selection for studies or treatment.
Funded by the ERC, Prof. Anna Wienhard studies several new geometric forms that have been discovered over the past 20 years. These structures are closely related to the generalisation of Teichmüller space, which describes how the surface of a pretzel can be endowed with the geometry of an Escher painting.
CRISPR is a widely used molecular biology tool exploiting an immune process discovered in bacteria. Dr David Bikard studies CRISPR in bacterial cells, in conjunction with different DNA repair systems, to create even newer tools. He hopes to gain insight into bacterial genetics, and develop increasingly effective medical treatments.
In the highlands of Asia, an area spanning the mountain regions between the Pamirs and the eastern Himalayas, livelihoods are shaped as much by remoteness as by connectivity. With ERC funding, Dr Martin Saxer intends to shed new light on these areas at the edge of nation-states yet in the centre of geopolitical concerns.
Emulsions play a key role both in natural and industrial processes, as they allow the combination of two liquids that do not normally mix and make the blend stable. Yet, when materials solidify or freeze, the complex interactions that take place and affect the final microstructure of the solidified components, are still poorly understood. ERC grantee Sylvain Deville and his team at CNRS have showed that it is possible to use an optical imaging technique to study the freezing of emulsions while the process takes place, a novel method presented in the prestigious journal Science.
Everyone who has ever been stuck in traffic knows how frustrating and time-wasting it can be. ERC grantee Carlos Canudas de Wit is working on a global approach to improve traffic management systems using the new technologies and innovations that have not yet been fully exploited.