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Dr Joaquim Alves Gaspar is a man of the sea. After many years in the Portuguese Navy, he gave up plans to become an admiral in favour of pursuing a PhD in the History of Cartography. This second career led him to receive an ERC Starting Grant, the first awarded in this budding discipline. With his highly multidisciplinary team (he likes to say that, to work with him, one must be a mathematician fluent in Latin), and the experience obtained as a navigator and navigational instructor, Dr Gaspar hopes to understand how and when the first nautical charts were created. The MEDEA-CHART team is the best place in Portugal, and probably in the world, to study the history of nautical cartography, hoping that this work will provide the domain with its rightful recognition within world history.
Radio astronomy has now entered a “golden age” with new facilities paving the way for significant discoveries on the early universe and the formation and evolution of galaxies. Working on faint radio-signals, Dr Vernesa Smolčić’s research may lead to significant advances in the area. Her goal is to provide the first census of high-redshift star-bursting galaxies, also called “submillimetre galaxies”, and a full census of galaxies hosting supermassive black holes.
The use and misuse of antibiotics has accelerated the emergence of drug-resistant bacterial strains, threatening our ability to treat common diseases. EU-funded research has shed new light on the mechanisms behind these microbial mutations, with implications for our understanding of diseases and resistance to treatment.
Plants form a key interface between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere by exchanging carbon, water and energy with their environment. They also release chemicals called “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) in the atmosphere. However, the overall impact of these gas compounds is poorly understood. Ülo Niinemets and his team look at the role of plants in large-scale Earth processes and how they affect air quality and the Earth surface temperature, solar radiation and precipitation.
Since the early 1990s almost 2000 planets have been detected outside our solar system. These discoveries led to a new area of universe sciences which is rapidly expanding. Astronomers are currently searching for extra-solar planets using a huge array of telescopes and instruments. Funded by the ERC, Prof. Cardoso Santos’ team has developed new tools to be used in both ground- and space-based facilities, to detect and study these planets.
December 10 has become a landmark for all human rights’ defenders. It is the day when the international community celebrates UN Human Rights Day to mark the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. A research project led by ERC grantee Professor Lauri Mälksoo, based at the University of Tartu (Estonia), illustrates the significance of human rights in today’s global context by looking at precisely how countries like Russia, understand and practice international law.
Pursuing a sustainable development and broadening social justice and cohesion are some of the challenges that Europe is currently facing. What if we could learn how to solve these challenges by using the social and political innovations taking place in different corners of the globe? Professor Boaventura de Sousa Santos suggests that a new approach can be developed in Europe based on the diversity of practices elsewhere.