Dr Kirsty Wan and Dr Ana Antic have both received five-year grants through the ERC's ‘Starting Grants’ funding scheme.

European Research Council funding success for Exeter academics

Two researchers from the University of Exeter are celebrating after receiving a significant funding boost from the European Research Council (ERC).

Dr Kirsty Wan and Dr Ana Antic have both received five-year grants from the respected research council, through its ‘Starting Grants’ funding scheme.

They are among a cohort of researchers from across Europe to receive a share of €621 million, allocated by the ERC to talented early career researchers to fund their own research teams and pioneering projects.

Dr Wan, a Research Fellow at the Living Systems Institute (LSI) has received the grant of €1,950,430 for her project called EvoMotion.  It will pioneer new research into how single-cell organisms can display complex behavioural traits despite not having a nervous system.

These investigations will develop new techniques in which scientists can probe the limits of single cell organisms, and their capacity to perceive and interact with their surroundings.

Dr Wan said: “I am delighted to have received this substantial grant from the ERC, which will give me a unique opportunity to develop my ideas.

“There are few grants that allow researchers complete freedom to explore unconventional ideas that value rather than penalise curiosity-driven research. I am therefore incredibly grateful to the ERC for funding this research.”

Dr Ana Antic, Senior Lecturer at Exeter’s History Department, secured a grant of €1, 499, 952 to investigate the history of transcultural psychiatry and its links to decolonisation.

The project, called ‘Decolonising madness? Transcultural psychiatry, international order and the birth of a “global psyche” in the aftermath of WWII’, is the first to trace the emergence and development of the concept of a “global psyche”, and to examine how psychiatrists from different cultures worked together from the 1950s until the early 21st century.

Dr Ana Antic will examine patient case files in a number of clinics around the world as well as archival materials from global mental health institutions such as the World Health Organisation and WPA, as well as institutional and governmental documents from Nigeria, India, Taiwan, USSR, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, UK, Colombia, USA and other countries.

Dr Antic said: “This project will contribute a historical perspective to one of today’s core debates:  can Western psychiatric systems and therapies help alleviate the suffering and improve the lives of people from different parts of the world? It will also produce a different narrative of modern European history.”

Four hundred and eight early-career researchers have been awarded European Research Council grants in this year’s first completed ERC competition.

The highly-coveted funding will help individual scientists and scholars to build their own teams and conduct pioneering research across all disciplines. The grants, worth in total €621 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.”

Date: 3 September 2019

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