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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.
Severe traffic jams not only have an impact on mobility, they also raise environmental and health issues linked to fuel consumption and air and noise pollution. Prof. Ludovic Leclercq is developing new traffic control models that could tackle road congestion while integrating a green dimension.
Scientists led by ERC grantee Emma Teeling have identified part of the molecular mechanism that gives bat species Myotis their extraordinary long and healthy lifespans. The longest-lived bats can live over 41 years of age while weighing only 7g, which is the human equivalent of some 234 years. They also maintain good health longer than many other mammals. The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, focus on the protective structures at the end of chromosomes, called telomeres. Bats may have evolved unique telomere maintenance mechanisms which allow them to repair age-related cell damage.
Our immune system recognizes and fights infections in a constantly changing environment, where new pathogenic threats emerge. At the crossroad between physics and biology, Prof. Aleksandra Walczak investigates the fascinating process that allows the immune system to be always ready to adapt and evolve to face new dangers.
Headscarves, mosques and halal shops — many EU citizens are Muslims, but visible signs of their faith are often viewed with distrust. What some Europeans see as a right to express their identity, others regard as a threat to societal core values. Insights from ERC-funded research into emblematic controversies may help to find a way forward.
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.