14 Apr 2020   |   Network Updates   |   Update from University of Twente
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University of Twente receives two Marie Curie individual fellowships

The objective of the MSCA IF (Marie Curie Individual/European Fellowship) is to attract excellent researchers of any nationality to Europe, by providing them with a Fellowship based on opportunities to acquire and transfer new knowledge. This year the UT was able to obtain two MSCA IF’s. The fellowships are awarded to Dr. Tom van Dijk (Faculty of EEMCS) and Dr. Russell Chan (Faculty of BMS).

In his project titled PIGGY, Tom van Dijk will research how parity game solving algorithms handle so-called tangles. Parity games are two-player games on a mathematical graph. The problem of solving a parity game is closely connected to the famous computer science problem of P versus NP. Van Dijk says: “I hope that I can either find a polynomial algorithm to solve parity games, or prove that no such algorithm can exist.” The latter would mean that parity games separate P and NP.

With this fellowship, Van Dijk can come back home at the UT. From 2012 to 2016 he did his PhD research in Twente. “I like that the UT offers a quality learning environment to develop myself as a scientist while at the same time giving space to develop my line of research”, says Van Dijk. After his first time in Twente, he worked as a Postdoc at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria. There he implemented his software for solving parity games called Oink. “The name of my current project, PIGGY, is a reference to this program”, says Van Dijk.

One of the key objectives of the project is to develop reasoning about parity games and especially tangles into a format that is suitable for the general public, such as simple board games. He recently supervised a student who developed a board game to teach children to reason about cycles in graphs. “There is an increasing public effort to teach the basics of logic, programming and mathematical thinking to adults and children. The concepts of attractors and tangles are compelling as an addition to these efforts”, says Van Dijk.

‘Promising young researcher’

Prof. Marieke Huisman, Tom's supervisor, is delighted with Tom’s Fellowship: “As head of the FMT group, I’m very pleased that this Marie Curie Fellowship gives one of your promising young researchers an excellent opportunity to strengthen his research further in the coming years. I’m convinced that Tom will be able to crack some of the challenges around parity games in the coming years. Tom also creates a good vibe within our group. He organizes a lot of social activities."

Dr. Russell Chan will join the Faculty of BMS to work on his project Individualised Cognitive and Motor learning for the Elderly. The innovation is to provide a management solution to the ageing demographics across Europe and the world, by creating an evidence-based approach with high efficacy.

This is realised with a three-stage approach to investigate and provide a viable solution. In the first stage, historical and current theoretical issues with the quantification of motor learning development in elder adults   In the second stage, an integrated neurocognitive model of motor learning representation for the elderly, using supervised machine learning with electroencephalography (EEG) and behavioural data will be created to predict cognitive and motor states. Lastly, individualised intervention with two different forms of meditation is piloted to obtain greater learning outcomes in a shorter timeframe for the elderly. It is expected that elder adults with individualised training will gain benefits such as improved balance control for falls prevention.

His long-term vision and motivation have always been to improve the cognitive and physical wellbeing across the lifespan and so winning the MSCA project is a significant step towards this.

“UT and in particular the Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social sciences (BMS), have an integrated structure that allows for such applied research to thrive", says Chan.

‘Important direction of the faculty’

Russell’s supervisor prof. Willem Verwey about his Fellowship: "Russell's project, expertise and drive will add to an important direction that the BMS faculty wants to embark on: Management solutions for the movement wellbeing of elder adults. Winning this grant had not been possible without the support of BMS during grant writing, and the technical support of BMS Lab that will assist in assessing the complex movements patterns participants in this project will perform."

The next round of applications for MSCA Individual Fellowship will open on April 8th. Interested scientists (either applicants or supervisors) can contact Maria Luisa Carosso for more information.

This article was first published on 9 April by University of Twente.

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