‘I was welcomed with roses and a meal’

Fourteen talented scientists at the University of Groningen and the UMCG have each received a personal VENI grant of up to €250,000 from science funding organization NWO. Microbiologist Alicia Lammerts van Bueren (33) examines the ‘warfare’ strategy of bacteria in our intestine.

What was the first thing you did when you received the grant?

‘I called my husband to let him know the good news. The next evening when I arrived home from work, I was welcomed with roses and a home-cooked meal. We celebrated the grant together with our daughter.’

AliciaLammersVanBuerenWhat is your research about?

‘My research is about studying the mechanisms with which bacteria coexist in our intestine as part of our microbiome. There are over 1,000 species of microbes in our gut and they outnumber our own cells by 10:1. They are able to live in our gut without being recognized by our immune system and to digest some of the foods we are unable to digest, such as complex carbohydrates found in plant material.

I study how microbes digest complex carbohydrates produced by other microbes as a way of defending themselves against their ‘invading neighbours’. The intestine is a crowded space and bacteria must compete to establish their niche environment. By understanding the ‘warfare’ strategy of bacteria, we may be able to develop therapeutic strategies to treat human microbiome-associated diseases, such as diabetes, obesity and colitis.’

Why is it so interesting?

‘It is truly amazing how bacteria shape the way we live. Without them residing in our bodies, we wouldn’t be able to function as a whole entity. Right from birth bacteria shape how we develop, starting first with helping our immune systems and helping us digest our mother’s milk. The bacteria we gain in childhood stay with us for the rest of our lives. Not all bacteria are harmful, so we shouldn’t be afraid of them.’

In bout three years ago I will have discovered…

‘A mechanism of microbe-microbe interactions in the intestine and that this same strategy might also apply to how healthy bacteria help fight off the pathogenic bacteria that enter our intestine, such as salmonella.’

Why are you a scientist and not, for example, an entrepreneur?

‘I love being an academic research scientist and I love the freedom and flexibility you have to pursue the research that interests you. I also love the contribution I can make to teaching future scientists and that you are making a contribution to society behind the scenes by expanding our understanding of how nature works.’

RUG Veni’s

En Eva Heinen was onvindbaar…

Planoloog Eva Heinen kreeg een VENI-subsidie voor onderzoek naar duurzaam transport. Jammer dat Cambridge haar heeft weggekaapt.

‘It was the perfect time to get such good news’

Alex Pigot is thrilled by the biodiversity in Madagascar. He wants to know: why on earth are there so many species?

‘Ik werd ongeduldig, duurde me te lang’

Waarom werken Seychellenzangers samen bij het opvoeden van hun kinderen? Eh? Sjouke Anne Kingma heeft het natuurlijk over vogels.

‘All my colleagues gathered together’

Bioinformatician Yang Li is working on sytems genetics of metabolic flow rate. What a joy! ‘Every day I learn new things.’

‘Ik heb heel hard ‘yes’ geroepen’

Martin de Borst riep heel hard ‘yes’ . Hij kreeg geld voor zijn doel om nierpatienten langer zonder dialyse te laten leven.

‘My wife didn’t even answer the phone’

Astronomer Vibor Jelic is going back 13,2 billion years back in time. He joins captain Picard to Galaxy. Lucky guy!

‘Ik kreeg tranen in mijn ogen’

Suzan Folkerts graaft zich in in bijbels. De canon van Nederland, die zegt dat Luther als eerste de bijbel vertaalde, klopt niet, weet ze nu.

‘The least I owe them is a big party’

Manuel Nuno Melo examines how different drugs interact with cell membranes. And he owes his family a big party.

‘Ik kon het niet geloven, mijn zus moest ‘t checken’

Roemeense en Britste televisiemakers werkten samen tijdens de Koude Oorlog, ontdekte televisiehistoricus Dana Mustata.

‘I was welcomed with roses and a meal’

Alicia Lammerts van Bueren examines bacteria in our intestine and received a VENI grant. A proud husband gave her roses.

‘Ik geloofde het eerst niet’

Hoe kan het dat wij al weten wat er gezegd wordt, voordat het gezegd wordt? Jakub Dotlacil onderzoekt hoe taal werkt.

‘Ik zat daar gelukzalig te zijn’

Marketingdeskundige Marijke Leliveld onderzoekt Pampers. Het bedrijf doneert aan Unicef. Maar geeft de consument dan zelf nog?

‘Ik heb heel even gehuild’

Viroloog Izabela Rodenhuis-Zybert gaat tijgermuggen onderzoeken met haar Veni. Tenminste, de infecties die ze veroorzaken.

‘Ik heb meteen een sollicitatie afgezegd’

Martijn Wieling kreeg een Veni-subsidie. Hij gaat sensoren op de tong zetten van Nederlanders die Engels praten. Wat gaat er mis?