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Four University of Cambridge researchers awarded European Research Council Advanced Grants





Four University of Cambridge researchers have been awarded prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grants.

The funding offers senior researchers the chance to pursue ambitious, curiosity-driven projects that could lead to major scientific breakthroughs.

Some 255 Advanced Grants, totalling €652million, were announced last week by the ERC as part of the EU’s Horizon Europe programme.

Cambridge’s awardees are:

Albert Guillén i Fàbregas, of the Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge
Albert Guillén i Fàbregas, of the Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge

Dr Albert Guillén i Fàbregas in the Department of Engineering - for his project ‘Scaling and concentration laws in information theory.

Dr Fàbregas, who has previously received ERC Starting, Consolidator and Proof of Concept Grants, said: “I am truly delighted with the news that the ERC will continue to fund my research in information theory, which studies the mathematical aspects of data transmission and data compression.

“This project will broaden the theory to study arbitrary scaling laws of the number of messages to transmit or compress.”

Director of Cambridge University Botanic Garden Prof Beverley Glover, of the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
Director of Cambridge University Botanic Garden Prof Beverley Glover, of the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge

Cambridge University Botanic Garden director Prof Beverley Glover, from the Department of Plant Sciences - for her project ‘Convergent evolution of floral patterning through alternative optimisation of mechanical parameter space’.

She said: “This funding will enable us to explore how iridescent colour evolved repeatedly in different flowers. We think it will shed new light on evolution itself, as we think about the development of iridescence structure from a mechanical perspective, focusing on the forces acting as a petal grows and the mechanical properties of the petal tissue.

“It's only possible for me to do this work because of the amazing living collection at Cambridge University Botanic Garden, and I'm thrilled that the ERC is keen to support it."

Prof Ian Henderson, of the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
Prof Ian Henderson, of the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge

Prof Ian Henderson in the Department of Plant Sciences - for his project ‘Evolution of the Arabidopsis Pancentromere’.

He said: “This project seeks to investigate enigmatic regions of the genome called the centromeres, using the model plant Arabidopsis. These regions play a deeply conserved role in cell division yet paradoxically are fast evolving.

“I am highly honoured and excited to be awarded an ERC Advanced grant. The advent of long-read sequencing technology makes addressing these questions timely. The ERC’s long-term support will allow us to capitalise on these advances, build new collaborations, and train postdoctoral researchers.”

Prof Paul Lane, of the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge
Prof Paul Lane, of the Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

Prof Paul Lane, in the Department of Archaeology - for his project ‘Landscape historical ecology and archaeology of ancient pastoral societies in Kenya’.

He said: “Pastoralism has been an extraordinarily resilient livelihood strategy across Africa. This project provides an excellent opportunity to reconstruct how East Africa’s pastoralists responded to significant climate change in the past, and to draw lessons from these adaptations for responding to contemporary climate crises in a region that is witnessing heightened water scarcity and loss of access to critically important grazing lands.

“This project will allow us to utilise the department’s world-leading archaeological science laboratories and expertise to answer crucial questions about past patterns of mobility, dietary diversity, climatic regimes and food security among East African pastoralists over the last fifteen hundred years. This has never been attempted before for this time period.”

Prof Anne Ferguson-Smith, pro-vice chancellor for research at the University of Cambridge, said: “Many congratulations to Albert, Beverley, Ian and Paul on receiving these prestigious and highly competitive awards. It is fantastic that their ambitious, cutting-edge research will be supported by the European Research Council, marking them as outstanding European research leaders.

“Now that the UK is an associated country to Horizon Europe I encourage other Cambridge researchers to also consider applying to the ERC and other Horizon Europe programmes.”

ERC president Prof Maria Leptin said: “Congratulations to the 255 researchers who will receive grants to follow their scientific instinct in this new funding round. I am particularly happy to see more mid-career scientists amongst the Advanced Grant winners this time. I hope that it will encourage more researchers at this career stage to apply for these grants.”





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