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Five researchers at the University of Cambridge have won consolidator grants from the European Research Council (ERC), Europe’s premiere funding organisation for frontier research.

Three hundred and twenty-seven mid-career researchers were today awarded Consolidator Grants by the ERC, totalling €655 million. The UK has 50 grantees in this year’s funding round. The funding is part of the EU’s current research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

The ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded to outstanding researchers of any nationality and age, with at least seven and up to 12 years of experience after PhD, and a scientific track record showing great promise.

The research projects proposed by the new grantees cover a wide range of topics in physical sciences and engineering, life sciences, as well as social sciences and humanities. 

From the University of Cambridge, the following researchers were named as grantees: Professor Vasco Carvalho, Professor Tuomas Knowles, Dr Neel Krishnaswami, Professor Silvia Vignolini and Dr Kaisey Mandel.


Vasco Carvalho, Professor of Macroeconomics and Director of Cambridge-INET, Faculty of Economics

Project title: Micro Structure and Macro Outcomes.

What is your research about? 

“Research under the project MICRO2MACRO takes as a starting point the organisation of production around supply chain networks and, within these networks, the increasing dominance of very large and central firms. This renders a small number of firms and technologies systemic in that they can influence aggregate economic performance.

“Within this broad agenda, MICRO2MACRO explores issues surrounding, first, market power and pro-competitive policies and, second, innovation, productivity and the diffusion of new technologies. The project also partners with one global financial institution to unlock relevant real-time, highly granular data that is necessary to study some of these questions.”

How do you feel about being named a grantee?

“I'm ecstatic. First, because it recognises the combined effort of colleagues around the world in developing a new micro-to-macro research agenda and understanding macroeconomic developments via a new lens. Second, because it provides the opportunity to inject otherwise scarce resources into early career researchers and PhD students, thereby adding to the human capital in this research area. Third, because it further highlights a decade of collective efforts at the Faculty of Economics here at Cambridge and helps ensure its continued growth as a hub for the development of new approaches to decades old questions in economics.”


Professor Tuomas Knowles, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

Project title: Digital Protein Biophysics of Aggregation.

What is your research about?

“Our work is focused on understanding the basic molecular principles that govern the activity of proteins in health and disease. In particular we are interested in how proteins come together to form machinery and compartments that underpin the functions of a living cell, and what happens when these processes fail. 

“The ERC project is focused on understanding how proteins condense together to form functional liquid organelles, and how such compartments can gel and form irreversible protein aggregates associated with disease. Such problems have been challenging to study previously due to the very high heterogeneity of the structures that are formed which make observation by conventional bulk techniques challenging. We will be developing new single molecule approaches to study this phenomenon aggregate by aggregate and cell by cell, and in this way shed light on the connection between the physical and structural properties of protein assemblies and their biological activity.”

How do you feel about being named a grantee?

“I am truly delighted by this support of my research and that of my group, which will allow us to develop fundamentally new approaches for probing a process at the core of biological function and malfunction.”


Dr Neel Krishnaswami, Computer Laboratory

Project title: Foundations of Type Inference for Modern Programming Languages.

What is your research about?

“Many modern programming languages, whether industrial or academic, are typed. Each phrase in a program is classified by its type (for example, as strings or integers), and at compile-time programs are checked for consistent usage of types, in a process called type-checking. Thus, the expression ‘3 + 4’ will be accepted, since the + operator takes two numbers as arguments, but the expression ‘3 + ‘hello’’ will be rejected, as it makes no sense to add a number and a string. Though this is a simple idea, sophisticated type systems can track properties like algorithmic complexity and program correctness.

“In general, programmers must write annotations to tell computers which types to check. In theory, it is easy to demand enough annotations to trivialize type-checking, but this can easily make the annotation larger than the program itself!  So, to transfer results from formal calculi to real programming languages, we need type inference algorithms, which reconstruct missing types from partially-annotated programs.

“In TypeFoundry, we will use recent developments in proof theory and formal semantics to identify the theoretical structure underpinning type inference.”

How do you feel about being named a grantee?

“Naturally, I am happy to find out that my research is valued in such concrete, material terms, and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to have the chance to support PhD students and postdocs working in this area. I also feel this shows off the best international character of science. I am an Indian-American researcher working in the UK, judged and funded by my European peers. Consequently, I keenly feel both the opportunity and responsibility to carry on the cosmopolitan tradition of scientific work.”


Professor Silvia Vignolini, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

Project title: Sym-Bionic Matter: developing symbiotic relationships for light-matter interaction.

What is your research about?

“With this ERC grant I aim to develop new platforms and tools to study how different organisms build symbiotic interactions for light management and ‘evolve’ new symbiotic relationships, in which one of the organisms is replaced by an artificial material to generate a novel class of hybrid which I link to call ‘sym-BIonic matTEr’ – BiTe!”

How do you feel about being named a grantee?

“I was very excited to learn that I had been awarded an ERC grant and I look forward to starting the project. It’s an amazing opportunity for my team and me! 

“When you receive the evaluation response, you get an email notification that invites you to log into the EU portal to see the outcome of the evaluation. In those few minutes that it takes to open the right form on the platform, I experienced pure panic! When I finally open the letter, I had to read it three times to convince myself that I had been awarded the grant! It was a great day!”


Dr Kaisey Mandel, Institute of Astronomy, Statistical Laboratory of the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, Kavli Institute for Cosmology

Project title: Next-Generation Data-Driven Probabilistic Modelling of Type Ia Supernova SEDs in the Optical to Near-Infrared for Robust Cosmological Inference.

What is your research about?

“My research focuses on utilising exploding stars called Type Ia supernovae to measure cosmological distances for tracing the history of cosmic expansion.

“I lead a project to develop state-of-the-art statistical models and advanced, data-driven techniques for analysing observations of these supernovae in optical and near-infrared light to determine more precise and accurate distances. 

“Applying these novel methods to supernova data from the Hubble Space Telescope, new ground-based surveys, and, in the near future, the Vera Rubin Observatory's Legacy Survey of Space and Time, we will pursue new and improved constraints on the accelerating expansion of the Universe and the nature of dark energy.”

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