Left to right: Professor Chiara Ciccarelli, Professor Jason Miller, Professor Rosana Collepardo-Guevara, and Dr Jenny Zhang

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded grants worth a total of €627 million to 308 researchers across Europe, of whom four are at the University of Cambridge.

This grant will give us the opportunity to keep exploring radical ideas.

Professor Rosana Collepardo-Guevara

The grants are part of the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme. They are given to excellent scientists and scholars at the career stage to support them to pursue their most promising scientific ideas.

Cambridge scientists, Professor Chiara Ciccarelli, Professor Rosana Collepardo-Guevara, Professor Jason Miller, and Dr Jenny Zhang have been named as awardees of ERC consolidator grants. 

Professor Chiara Ciccarelli

Chiara Ciccarelli is Professor of Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory at the Department of Physics. She is a Royal Society University Research Fellow and a Fellow and Director of Studies at St Catharine's College. She said: “Our group studies magnets and seeks ways to write and read their magnetic state as fast and as energy-efficiently as possible. This is because magnets remain the best way, that we know of, to store digital data for a long time.

“Our ERC project, PICaSSO, explores new ways to ‘write’ magnets at low temperature by interfacing them with superconductors. Although this research is still at an early stage, it would allow the development of ultra-energy-efficient cryogenic memories, a necessary requirement for the realistic scaling of quantum computers.

“I am absolutely delighted to have been awarded a consolidator grant. It is an incredible opportunity to do great science and an important recognition of the work of my amazing team.”

Professor Rosana Collepardo-Guevara

Rosana Collepardo-Guevara is Professor of Computational and Molecular Biophysics at the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry and the Department of Genetics. She is a Winton Advanced Research Fellow in physics, a director of postgraduate education for chemistry and a Fellow of Clare College. She said: “My group investigates the connection between genome structure and function by developing computer models and algorithms that can bridge scales, from atoms to genes, while considering the extensive chemical diversity of the genome.

“We will investigate the transformative hypothesis of phase transitions in genome organisation, which suggests that our genes are organised inside functionally diverse liquid drops. We will develop new computer models to probe how the physical properties of these droplets are regulated, and how this may contribute to the tight regulation of our genes.

“I am truly delighted and proud of my team. This success is owed to the exceptional students and postdocs that I’ve had the privilege to supervise over the years, and also to the support of my mentors, collaborators, and family. This grant will give us the opportunity to keep exploring radical ideas.”

Professor Jason Miller

Jason Miller is a professor in the Statistics Laboratory and a Fellow of Trinity College. He said: “My research is at the interface of probability theory with complex analysis, combinatorics, and geometry. The questions I study arise from models in statistical physics which are exactly at a critical point between a phase transition.

“My ERC project will be investigating critical random media in two dimensions, including models of how fluid flows through a porous medium and how the spins organise themselves in a magnet. The focus will be the study of their fractal structure and diffusion properties.

“I am very pleased to have received the grant. With the support that it provides, I will be able to form a research group to tackle longstanding questions in the area.”

Dr Jenny Zhang

Dr Jenny Zhang is a BBSRC David Phillips Research Fellow at the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry. She is a Fellow of Corpus Christi College. She said: “My team focuses on creating toolsets for rewiring the electrochemical pathways associated with living systems, particularly photosynthetic organisms. We do this to better understand fundamental bioenergetics and to manipulate them for various applications, such as in renewable energy generation.

“This ERC project develops an exciting new approach for accelerating the creation of synergistic interactions between biological and non-biological materials for highly efficient and robust energy exchange. The ultimate aim is to generate high performing biohybrid materials for clean energy generation.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be awarded this unique grant, which recognises all the key ingredients needed for innovation. This wonderful result was a cumulation of a lot of hard work, but also the generous support of my wonderful team and colleagues. I could not be more grateful for both the grant and the people I get to work with.”

Scientists at UK institutions have won the second greatest number of grants in Europe. Across Europe, the number of women receiving grants has increased for the third year running. 

“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to all the brilliant researchers who have been selected for ERC Consolidator Grants,” said Iliana Ivanova, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. “I'm especially thrilled to note the significant increase in the representation of women among the winners for the third consecutive year in this prestigious grant competition. This positive trend not only reflects the outstanding contributions of women researchers but also highlights the strides we are making towards a more inclusive and diverse scientific community.”

The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based across Europe.

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