Portraitmosaik der FWF-START-Preisträger:innen 2024
The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) presents the FWF START Awards to eight researchers. © FWF

The application volume amounted to approximately €141 million, of which around 46.4% percent came from the natural sciences and technology, 27.7% from biology and medicine, and 25.9% from the fields of humanities and social sciences. The eight funded projects, four of which are led by women, come from a wide variety of disciplines and will each receive up to €1.2 million in funding. The FWF START Awards are aimed at up-and-coming researchers, giving them the opportunity to plan their research in the long term and with a high degree of financial security.

The new START Award winners at a glance

Pushing the limits of mathematics

Portrait Juan P. Aguilera
FWF START Award winner Juan P. Aguilera is developing tools to clarify which mathematical problems are solvable and which are not. © FWF/Ulrich Zinell

Close to a century ago, researchers discovered that there are some questions in mathematics that cannot be answered. In his research project funded by the FWF START Award, Juan P. Aguilera wants to bring together different areas of mathematics in order to develop new logic tools. These should help to find out which questions actually have answers and which do not. In his FWF-START project “Proofs Beyond the Transfinite,” he combines proof theory, computability theory, and set theory to search beyond infinity for mathematical tools to determine whether mathematical questions have answers or not.

Juan P. Aguilera first studied applied mathematics and then completed his doctorate at TU Wien on the subject of infinity in mathematics. He has worked as a visiting scholar at Harvard University, Rutgers University, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Hamburg and has held a position at the University of Vienna. His contributions to mathematics have been recognized with several awards and in 2023 he completed his habilitation thesis on mathematical logic. He is currently working at TU Wien.

Juan P. Aguilera

Institute of Discrete Mathematics and Geometry, TU Wien

How emotions change language

Portrait Svitlana Antonyuk
Linguist and FWF START Award winner Svitlana Antonyuk is finding out how emotional reactions affect language change. © FWF/Sabine Hoffmann

The generative linguist Svitlana Antonyuk is investigating how emotion factors in to language change at the University of Graz. Using a combination of sociolinguistic and neurolinguistic methods, she is studying the psychological mechanisms that influence language use and change. Her project “The Emotions We Speak,” which has been selected for an FWF START Award, aims to better understand the role of emotions in contact-induced language change. Antonyuk’s hypothesis is that emotional attitudes towards linguistic material can influence the language system and lead to predictable changes within the language. This research offers valuable insights into the way emotions influence linguistic processes.

Svitlana Antonyuk is a Lise Meitner Senior Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Slavic Studies and the Department of German Studies at the University of Graz. She studied English and French philology at the National Jurij Fedkowytsch University in Czernowitz, Ukraine, and linguistics at Stony Brook University of New York, USA, where she received her doctorate in 2015.

Svitlana Antonyuk

Department of Slavic Studies, University of Graz


Exploring early Christian figures in literature

Portrait Dan Batovici
FWF START Award winner and classical philologist Dan Batovici explores the question of why some secondary early Christian figures attained a high status in late antique and medieval writings. © FWF/Daniel Novotny

Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch are among a number of early Christian figures who also became known as the “Apostolic Fathers.” Although they feature much less prominently in the hierarchy of Christianity than the apostles, they have had an enormous impact over the centuries. The classical philologist and FWF START Award winner Dan Batovici is the first to systematically examine the writings associated with these figures across cultures. His “Generative Authority” project is examining the complex reception of literature related to well-known secondary early Christian figures. In various late antique and medieval manuscript cultures, they are sometimes accorded very different meanings. The project is the first to investigate the “generative authority” of these figures in a set of Greek, Coptic, Armenian, and Syriac manuscripts.

Dan Batovici studied classical philology in Bucharest and theology and religious studies in Cambridge and St. Andrews. He works as a research assistant at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at KU Leuven, where he also completed his doctorate in 2015. In the past, Batovici, whose research focuses on early Christian writings, was a visiting scholar at the University of Cambridge and Wolfson College in Oxford. He is currently a visiting researcher at the University of Vienna. He will be carrying out his FWF START project at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Dan Batovici

Institute for Medieval Studies, Austrian Academy of Sciences


New perspectives on quantum systems

Portrait Uroš Delić
FWF START Award winner Uroš Delić is investigating how interacting quantum systems behave and hopes to open the door to a whole new field of research. © FWF/Luiza Puiu

From individual particles of light to superconductors, quantum physics can describe phenomena on a wide array of scales and dimensions with unrivaled precision. However, physicists usually study systems isolated from their environment – a useful fiction, but one that does not dovetail with reality. Under the project title “QNONREC,” Uroš Delić will be using the FWF START Award to investigate how interacting quantum systems behave, opening the door to a new field of research.

While the quantum physics of individual, well-isolated systems is well understood, many-particle systems have puzzled physicists, despite representing the norm in the world outside of physics labs. The project aims to investigate interacting quantum systems by initiating interaction among several suspended nanoparticles, whose behavior can be precisely controlled and read out using lasers and optical resonators.

UrošDelić is an experimental physicist. After completing degrees in physics and computer science in Belgrade, Serbia, Delić came to the University of Vienna, where he obtained his doctorate with honors in 2019. This was followed by research stays, for example at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA. Today, Delić researches and teaches at the University of Vienna and, as part of the FWF START project, he will become a junior group leader at the Austrian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information Innsbruck.

Uroš Delić

Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information Innsbruck, Austrian Academy of Sciences


Machine learning for more sustainable chemistry

Portrait Esther Heid
FWF START Award winner Esther Heid is combining chemistry and computer science to make production processes more sustainable. © FWF/Ulrich Zinell

Chemist and programmer Esther Heid is working on using machine learning to make chemistry more sustainable. Her project has been selected to receive an FWF START Award. To do so, she is developing computer models that will enable researchers to identify new and, in particular, more sustainable reactions and catalysts that can then be tested in the laboratory. The “Deep Learning of Chemical Reactions” project aims to develop new machine learning algorithms that will allow researchers to find new chemical reactions and catalysts in a computer-based virtual laboratory and accelerate the search for sustainable approaches in chemistry.

Esther Heid studied chemistry from undergraduate to doctoral level at the University of Vienna, with a focus on theoretical chemistry. She spent time as a visiting researcher at Imperial College London and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, in the USA. As a postdoc, she worked for two years at the interface between chemistry and machine learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and since 2022 she has been a postdoc at TU Wien. Her research there includes new multi-enzyme reaction networks for the targeted production of molecules.

Esther Heid

Institute of Materials Chemistry, TU Vienna


The role of stress in heart failure

Portrait Senka Holzer
FWF START Award winner Senka Holzer is investigating the role of stress and high blood pressure in heart failure. © FWF/Sabine Hoffmann

Heart cells perform enormous feats every day. If they have to do so under stress and high blood pressure for a long time, their performance will deteriorate. In the project “Energetics-Transcription Coupling in Hypertensive Heart,” FWF START Award winner Senka Holzer is investigating which cellular processes lead to heart failure. For this purpose, she has developed a method that allows her to examine individual heart muscle cells under an electron microscope. She is investigating how persistent high blood pressure affects the functioning of heart muscle cells and ultimately leads to heart failure. The project’s focus is on communication between the cell nucleus and the mitochondria that supply the cells with energy. Using an electron microscope application developed specifically for the project, Holzer analyzes individual heart muscle cells in order to better understand the processes inside them and find new approaches for research into heart disease.

Senka Holzer is an assistant professor at the Medical University of Graz and heads a research group at the Clinical Department of Cardiology. She previously studied molecular medicine and spent time as a visiting researcher at the University of California, USA.

Senka Holzer

Department of Internal Medicine, Medical University of Graz


The cellular mechanisms of childhood cancer

Portrait Polina Kameneva
Developmental biologist and FWF START Award winner Polina Kameneva wants to discover the mechanisms behind pediatric cancer. © FWF/Daniel Novotny

Not every harmful mutation leads to cancer. The development of a cancer cell depends on many factors, especially on the initial phase after mutation. Developmental biologist and FWF START Award winner Polina Kameneva is researching why cells are protected against the development of cancer at certain stages of development and not at others. Her research focuses on neuroblastoma, a common type of cancer in children. In her project “Modeling Pediatric Tumor Initiation with Human Stem Cells,” she is investigating the development of neuroblastomas, a type of tumor that occurs primarily in early childhood. With her research, Polina Kameneva wants to gain new insights into cancer and identify protective factors in the early stages of cancer development. To this end, she will be using state-of-the-art technologies to analyze the formation of tumors in 3D organoids created from human stem cells.

Polina Kameneva began her scientific career in marine biology before devoting herself to researching the development of cancer in the neurosciences. After a three-year research stay at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, she moved to the Center for Brain Research at the Medical University of Vienna in 2021. Kameneva has headed a research group at St. Anna Children's Cancer Research Institute since June 2024.

Polina Kameneva

St. Anna Children’s Cancer Research Institute


Looking into the "black box" of algorithms

Portrait Yurii Malitskyi
FWF START Award winner Yurii Malitskyi is studying the mathematics behind better algorithms to find faster solutions. © FWF/Stefanie Freynschlag

What is the best route from A to B? Which shares should I buy? And where should we build the next power plant? Optimization problems are omnipresent: We often need to select the best option from a list of alternatives to achieve one or more objectives. Problems of this type are often solved using algorithms that approach the optimum solution step by step. Mathematician Yurii Malitskyi wants to better understand the properties of such strategies and to find new, faster algorithms. He has been selected to receive the 2024 FWF START Award for his project. With the help of the mathematical structures of a variety of such optimization problems, Yurii Malitskyi wants to find better algorithms in order to arrive at solutions more quickly and to better understand the mathematical properties of the algorithms. To this end, he has to abandon the black-box assumption that is normally applied to functions in optimization problems. His approach promises progress in basic research and areas of application such as artificial intelligence.

Yurii Malitskyi is a mathematician. He completed his doctorate at the University of Kiev, followed by research at Graz University of Technology, the University of Göttingen, and EPF Lausanne. He then was appointed as an assistant professor at the University of Linköping in Sweden. In 2023, he was appointed as an assistant professor for computer-aided optimization at the University of Vienna. Accordingly, Malitskyi’s research focus is on optimization algorithms.

Yurii Malitskyi

Faculty of Mathematics, University of Vienna


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