Eight VIDI grants for TU Delft

News - 30 May 2017

NWO has awarded 8 experienced researchers from TU Delft with a VIDI grant worth 800,000 euros. The grant enables them to develop their own innovative line of research and set up their own research group. The eight projects are:

Claudia Hauff (EWI): Better MOOCs

Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs) today suffer from a lack of retention with usually less than 10% of learners succeeding. MOOCs offer flexibility and scale but do not involve truly novel education technologies. Today, they mostly revolve around a set of videos and quizzes and little else. Learning is a complex process and more involved than what is currently acknowledged in MOOC platforms.  

One important and so far completely neglected aspect of online learning is search (retrieving information) and sense making (making sense of information): learners turn to the Web seeking additional information, and over time create mental representations of the material. However, Web search engines today are not built to support users in the type of complex searches often required in learning situations.  

This SearchX project brings together the fields of learning at scale and information retrieval in a mutually beneficial manner. SearchX has two goals: to significantly increase learners’ engagement and success in massive open online learning through the tight coupling of search and learning in the SearchX framework; and to significantly increase our understanding of complex search tasks.

Joost de Winter (3mE): Gesturing automated vehicles

In the coming decades, our roads will be populated with an unprecedented mixture of automated vehicles (AVs) and human road users (HRUs) such as pedestrians, cyclists, and manually driven cars. A bottleneck is that current AVs do not communicate to HRUs, making AV-HRU encounters inefficient and potentially accident-prone.

De Winter’s research aims to devise novel AV-to-HRU communication methods. He will study the largely unexplored topic of how HRUs communicate with each other, and examine whether AVs’ gestures should be human-like (anthropomorphic) or nonhuman (mechanistic), and implicit (embedded in vehicle motion) or explicit (visual/auditory signs).

De Winter will also create two unique facilities, (linked simulators and a test track setup with synchronized data logging) to determine the effectiveness of implicit anthropomorphic and implicit mechanistic gestures in staged HRU-HRU/AV encounters. Furthermore, concepts of AVs that provide explicit gestures will be developed, tested, and demonstrated to industry on public roads. 

Marie-Eve Aubin-Tam (TNW): Getting a hold on proteins translocation

The threading of proteins through narrow channels is a crucial biochemical process, which is essential for cellular protein trafficking and protein degradation. Such translocation is also used by pathogens, which inject their lethal toxins through the cell membrane (the motor proteins driving this translocation process are called protein translocases). The underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood.

In the past Aubin-Tan demonstrated the unique capabilities of optical tweezers to reveal information on protein remodelling while being translocated by a soluble translocase. If one could, similarly, use an optical tweezers to hold a protein while being translocated by a membrane translocase, it would contribute tremendously to our understanding of the inner workings of these machines.

Alexis Bohlin (L&R): Renewable fuel production and combustion systems

In this proposal Bohlin will introduce innovative snap-shot hyperspectral CARS imagery, with unprecedented simultaneous resolution in space, spectrum, and time. This major advance within optical spectroscopy/microscopy techniques will deliver powerful examinations of chemical composition and temperature-fields in rapid gas-phase reacting- and culture media. This new optical diagnostics platform will be intensively validated for two application fields: the microbial production of biofuels and the development of new combustion technology with reduced emission of pollutants. 

Bohlin proposes new strategies to examine synthesis of biofuels and the incorporation of non-conventional fuels in combustors with the same spectroscopy/microscopy technique. The ultimate goal of this research is to progress fundamental understanding in combustion modes for reduced emission, and to boost the control of fermentation reactions of the bioreactor, leading to a further step-in-progress towards a carbon-neutral energy supply.

Elmar Eisemann (EWI): Massive rendering for many views

With the advent of many-view rendering scenarios, the classic setting (of a standard screen a computing device and a single user) is about to change. Stereoscopic, virtual-reality, multi-view, and soon light-field and holographic displays enter the mass market. Simultaneously, remote rendering with large crowds operating low-performance devices lead to structurally similar challenges. Both areas are potential billion-dollar markets and efficiency of the rendering systems will become a decisive cost factor, because these problems cannot be efficiently handled by increasing computing power.

This project proposes to rethink the established graphics pipeline by restructuring computations, reallocating resources to perceptually meaningful aspects, and building innovative tools for content developers to target many-view platforms.

From a scientific perspective, the project introduces new theoretical ideas with potential impact beyond the motivation application domain. Furthermore, the results will have direct impact on commercially relevant application domains, such as entertainment, medicine, or geoscience, where many-view approaches are rapidly becoming commonplace.

Liedewij Laan (TNW): Dissecting biochemical network structures which facilitate evolution

How organisms evolve is a large unanswered question, while the answer is essential to understand evolutionary processes such as cancer progression. The researchers will investigate how evolutionary processes are affected by the protein networks, which make up an organism.

How organisms evolve is a fundamental question with implications for human health. Laan  wants to mechanistically understand how biochemical networks, which make up an organism, reorganize during evolution, without compromising fitness. In vivo, all biochemical networks are connected, which complicates the study of finding out how, or simply, for which biochemical network, mutations are adaptive.

Therefore, Laan will isolate one biochemical network by building an in vitro model system. With this system she will identify basic network structures, which allow network evolution without loss of function. In parallel she will test these mechanisms in vivo. The focus will be on symmetry breaking in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Fritz Körmann (3mE): The perfect high entropy alloy cocktail

Metallic alloys constitute one of the oldest developments of sciences for thousands of years. It is therefore surprising when a new class of metallic alloys is discovered. High Entropy Alloys (HEA) are such a class and have received great attention recently in terms of the underlying physics responsible for their formation as well as unusual physical and materials properties. HEAs reveal auspicious magnetic and outstanding mechanical properties, making them candidates for next-generation of technological applications.

So far more than 30 different elements have been used resulting into more than 300 reported HEAs. Still this is only a marginal fraction of the immense number of possible combinations, leaving an overwhelming number of alloys with presumably superior properties unexplored. Further, basic mechanisms such as the relation of strength and chemical complexity are still poorly understood.

In this project Körmann will address these issues by developing a computational framework to predict materials properties of multi-component alloys. This will greatly facilitate experimental efforts by narrowing down the large number of possible materials to well-defined promising candidate alloys.

Tim Taminiau (TNW): Fault-tolerant protection of quantum states

Quantum mechanical states enable a powerful and fundamentally new way to process information. However, quantum states are fragile and errors due to decoherence inevitably occur. Without a way to detect and correct these errors, large-scale quantum information processing is impossible.

The theory of quantum error correction predicts that quantum states can be protected, in principle, indefinitely. The key idea is fault tolerance: by encoding quantum states in multiple entangled qubits and actively correcting errors through careful measurements, the system can recover from any error affecting a single qubit. Whether this is possible in actual physical systems remains an open fundamental question.

Taminiau proposes a research program with the overarching goal to demonstrate active fault tolerant protection of quantum states based on nine nuclear spins in diamond at cryogenic temperatures. This goal is now within reach due to two recent advances by his team:  a novel method to control multiple nuclear spins and non-destructive measurements and real-time feedback that enable the correction of errors.