Naturally-occurring perovskite

Eight Cambridge researchers are among the latest recipients of European Union awards given to early-career researchers from over 50 countries.

Six of our successful researchers are non-UK nationals, showing once again that Cambridge has the ability to attract the very best talent from around the world to carry out research at its world class facilities

Peter Hedges

The European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants have been awarded to 408 researchers from across Europe. The awards will help individual researchers to build their own teams and conduct world-leading research across all disciplines, creating an estimated 2,500 jobs for postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and other staff at the host institutions.

The successful Cambridge researchers are:

  • Roland Bauerschmidt - Renormalisation, dynamics, and hyperbolic symmetry
  • Quentin Berthet - Computational Trade-offs and Algorithms in Statistics
  • Felix Deschler - Twisted Perovskites: Control of Spin and Chirality in Highly-luminescent Metal-halide Perovskites
  • Lorenzo Di Michele - A DNA NANOtechology toolkit for artificial CELL design
  • Louise Hirst - Gliding epitaxy for inorganic space-power sheets
  • Sertac Sehlikoglu - Imaginative Landscapes of Islamist Politics Across the Balkan-to-Bengal Complex
  • Blake Sherwin - CMB Lensing at Sub-Percent Precision: A New Probe of Cosmology and Fundamental Physics
  • Margherita Turco - Human Placental Development and the Uterine Microenvironment

Commenting on the awards, Dr Peter Hedges, Head of the University Research Office at the University of Cambridge, said: “The success of UK researchers, and in particular Cambridge researchers, demonstrates the world-leading position that our country holds in research and innovation. This is a position we have will have to fight hard to maintain in the face of competition from other nations across Europe, the USA and China.

“Six of our successful researchers are non-UK nationals, showing once again that Cambridge has the ability to attract the very best talent from around the world to carry out research at its world class facilities.”

The ERC-funded research will be carried out in 24 countries, with institutions from Germany (73), the UK (64) and the Netherlands (53) to host the highest number of projects. The grants, worth in total €621 million (£560 million), are part of the EU Research and Innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “Researchers need freedom and support to follow their scientific curiosity if we are to find answers to the most difficult challenges of our age and our future. This is the strength of the grants that the EU provides through the European Research Council: an opportunity for outstanding scientists to pursue their most daring ideas.”

President of the ERC, Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, added: “In this year’s ERC Starting Grant competition, early-career researchers of 51 nationalities are among the winners – a record. It reminds us that science knows no borders and that talent is to be found everywhere. It is essential that, for its future successful development, the European Union keeps attracting and supporting outstanding researchers from around the world. At the ERC we are proud to contribute to this goal by supporting some of the most daring creative scientific talent.” 

Researcher profile: Dr Margherita Turco

 Among this year’s successful awardees is Dr Margherita Turco from Cambridge’s Centre for Trophoblast Research (CTR).

Margherita began her career studying the development of embryos in domestic animals during her studies for Veterinary Biotechnology at the University of Bologna, in Italy. During her PhD in Molecular Medicine at the European Institute of Oncology in Milano, she became interested in how early cell lineage decisions are made and began using various stem cells models to address this question.

This led Margherita to come to Cambridge in 2012 to carry out her postdoctoral work on human trophoblast stem cells at the CTR. Her goal is to understand how the human placenta grows and develops during pregnancy.

“The placenta is a remarkable organ that is formed early in pregnancy. It plays the crucial role of nourishing and protecting the baby throughout its development before birth,” she says. However, there is a lot that can go wrong during this period.

“Complications occurring during pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia, fetal growth restriction, stillbirth, miscarriage and premature birth, are principally due to defective placental function. These conditions, which collectively affect around one in five pregnancies, can pose a risk to both the baby and mother’s health. Understanding early placental development is the key to understanding successful pregnancy.”

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