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ERC: SISSA receives funding worth two and a half million euros

22 November 2022
Two new Starting Grants to study innate behaviours and black holes

Two more European Research Council (ERC) grants for SISSA. The projects of researchers Laura Donnay and Katja Reinhard, worth a total of almost two and a half million euros, will start in the coming weeks and will last five years. Thanks to this result, the number of ERC grants hosted by the School since the ERC foundation in 2007 has risen to 30 and SISSA confirms its position among the Italian institutions with the highest number of ERC grants compared to the number of researchers.

Laura Donnay is a theoretical physicist, she obtained her PhD in Brussels and conducted her postdoctoral research at Harvard and at the Technical University of Vienna. Her project, entitled 'The celestial road to a holographic description of black holes' (CeleBH) aims to tackle some of the key unresolved questions in black hole physics, in particular to understand the mysterious origin of their vast entropy. Thanks to a unique combination of powerful approaches based on newly discovered symmetries and also on her previous works, Donnay aims at addressing the challenge of a holographic formulation of spaces that include realistic black holes, such as those we observe in the sky.

Katja Reinhard's project, entitled 'Context-dependent flexibility in innate behaviours and their underlying neural circuitry' (Flexin), will instead investigate how the brain allows to adjust behaviour to different situations. In particular, she will study how neural circuits mediate context-specific reactions to survival-critical cues including threat and prey, in order to reveal general principles of brain architecture and to provide a framework for assessing the causes and treatment of the lack of flexibility, for example in anxiety disorders. Born in Switzerland, Reinhard is a neuroscientist, who is moving to SISSA after a PhD in Tubingen and a research fellowship in Leuven. 

Donnay and Reinhard are among 408 Starting Grant winners, funding designed to support Principal Investigators at an early stage of their careers, that is when they are starting their own independent research activities or programmes. Only 27 of them will be hosted by Italian institutions. The financial support will help the two researchers setting up their groups in SISSA, covering for equipment as well as salaries for new staff. The full call results have been announced today and can be found here