‘The least I owe them is a big party’

Fourteen talented scientists at the University of Groningen and the UMCG have each received a VENI grant of up to €250,000 from scientific research backer NWO. Biophysicist Manuel Nuno Melo (30) examines how different drugs interact with cell membranes.

What was the first thing you did when you were awarded the grant?

‘The absolutely first thing I did when I received the acceptance e-mail was to smile widely. Not only was it wonderful news, but I also received it while I was on holiday. I then began to slowly spread the news to my family, friends and colleagues; their help was fundamental to the success of my application, so the least I owe them is a big party.’

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What is your research about?

‘Broadly speaking, I study how different drugs interact with cell membranes. I do this by using computer simulations. That way I can see molecular processes taking place in more detail than with any other experimental technique.’

Why is it so interesting?

‘The cell membrane is involved in much more than just surrounding the inside of the cell. From a drug perspective, the membrane is a barrier that must be crossed or, alternatively, a target that must be destroyed. I get to study the similarities and differences between these crucial events. Furthermore, with computer simulations I can really see how life – the formation of a membrane, for example – emerges from simple chemical interactions between molecules. The fact that these molecules are lifeless on their own makes it even more fascinating!

In about three years I will have discovered…

‘In about three years I will have understood why there are certain antibiotics that kill bacteria by breaking their membranes, whereas others that are very similar in nature act by first silently crossing the membrane and only then attacking its internal structure. With this knowledge I’ll be able to improve different drugs by enabling them either to disrupt or cross membranes. This may even be applicable to a wider range of molecules besides antibiotics, such as anti-cancer drugs.’

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

‘I am driven by the challenge of solving scientific problems and by the excitement of being part of a community that constantly pushes back the frontiers of human knowledge. I don’t believe I can fulfil these aims in any other job.’

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?