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QMUL Researchers win ERC Starting Grants for groundbreaking research

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) is celebrating two major research wins, with two academics awarded prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants for their groundbreaking, ambitious research. Overall, ERC awarded 400 grants to early-career researchers across Europe, including 32 in the UK. 

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The ERC Starting Grants are worth €1.5 million euros over five years and are awarded to early-career researchers who are 2-7 years post PhD. The grants are designed to support researchers carrying out cutting-edge research that can make a significant impact.  

Dr Wei Tan, a Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at the School of Engineering and Materials Sciences, has been awarded a grant for his project “Life-like Resilient Materials for Mitigating Liquid-Solid Impact Damage (LSIMPACT)”. The project aims to address the longstanding puzzle of liquid-solid impact, which involves the collision between a high-velocity liquid and a solid, leading to substantial material degradation. 

“How can high-velocity liquid cause major damage to solid materials, such as erosion of wind blades? LSIMPACT embarks on a journey to not just understanding the failure mechanisms of solid materials under liquid impact, but also to create new materials with ‘life-like’ features. I will lead a team to develop materials that can heal themselves, adapt, and endure — greatly enhancing the lifetime of engineering structures,” said Dr Tan. 

Dr Edward Gillen of the School of Physical and Chemical Sciences has also won the grant with his project “Age-Enabled Exoplanet Science: Understanding the evolution and diversity of planetary systems (AENEAS)”. AENEAS will fund a large team to work with Dr Gillen to conduct ground-breaking research into understanding how planetary systems evolve into the diverse and potentially habitable population we observe. 

“While we have discovered many exoplanets, we have only begun to scratch the surface of probing how planetary systems evolve from formation to maturity. This ERC project will enable us to significantly advance our understanding of planetary system evolution and will produce a new age dating framework that will have far-reaching implications for the wider exoplanet, stellar and Galactic astrophysics fields,” commented Dr Gillen. 

ERC President Professor Maria Leptin said: “It is part of our mission to give early-career talent the independence to pursue ambitious curiosity-driven research that can shape our future. In this latest round of Starting Grants, we saw one of the highest shares of female grantees to date, which I hope will continue to rise. Congratulations to all winners and good luck on your path to discovery.” 

The ERC Starting Grants are highly competitive, with only 14.8% of proposals being successful this year. The awards are a testament to the outstanding research being carried out by Dr Tan and Dr Gillen, and they are a major boost for QMUL’s research reputation.  

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