Fellows 2015

Femke Nijboer

23-_new_JPEG_low_res1.jpg (2000×3000)Femke Nijboer is a professor in the department of Health and Medical Neuropsychology at Leiden University. In her research Femke focusses on people with severe physical disabilities, brain injuries or muscular diseases , those who are therefore not able to communicate properly.

It is often predicted that the 21st century will be the century of neuro technology. Neuro technology can be described as ‘the application of electronics and technology in the human nervous system”. An example of neuro technology are the so-called Brain-Computer interfaces (BCI’s). BCI’s are systems for people with physical handicaps,  such as Locked-In Syndrome (completely paralyzed but sane) or ALS (the breakdown of nerve cells). This technology  helps people to communicate using brain activity. The use of BCI’s and the research on (future) applications cites important ethical, legal and social issues which should be reviewed to ensure social acceptance and an appropriate policy. In it’s current situation, smart methods lack to provide all stakeholders with a vote,  whether in the debate and/or in the design of the neuro technology.

Femke Nijboer ‘s study focuses on people with Locked-In Syndrome,  ALS and other conditions that lead to physical handicaps and communication difficulties. She studies each case from different perspectives: how is their quality of life? How do these people make  decisions concerning life-prolonging measures? Does the brain reveal if someone is in a coma or if someone is suffering from  locked-in syndrome? And… How can we develop more tools for these people so they can have a better life and  contribute to society? Femke calls her work:  “an innovative and delightful mix of neuropsychology, clinical psychology, ethics and engineering”.

In May 2008 she received her PhD (magna cum laude) at the Graduate School for Neutral and Behavioral Sciences in Tübingen, Germany. She received several awards such as the Tursky Award (twice) and the NWO-Veni Grant. She used that scholarship to develop a new, interdisciplinary approach to accelerate innovation of BCI’s and to give end-users more control over the design (www.regieindesign.nl). She further wants  investigate the relationship between dignity, limitations, technology and society in the near future. Her main reason to seek a career in science was not as well-considered as you might think. Femke wanted a job where she could travel, learn and enjoy herself. Science then soon becomes an ideal outcome.  She considered being an actress, but found she didn’t had have the courage. Yet  in fact, she would have been studying  the exact same thing: the understanding of people.

Nijboer wants to use her months with the NIAS as an investment in her examination of the aforementioned Brain-Computer Interfaces. For her research, she will write a ‘grand finale’ letter concerning  the responsible innovation of BCI’s. She also wants to write a proposal on the approach and application of different neuro technologies and continue her investigation on how to integrate the values of the end user into the design of neuro technologies. She hopes that society will see them as people with other capabilities rather than people with a handicap. She hopes to obtain more insight in the diversity of people. According to Femke, we should embrace diversity because diversity is what makes us strong.

Doris van Halem

09_JPEG1.jpg (2000×3000)Dr. Doris van Halem (Eindhoven, 1981) is a professor in the department of Water Management – Sanitary Engineering at TU Delft. Doris loves solving puzzles . The scientist in her always  wants to find out  how something actually works. The idealist in her wants everyone on earth to have access to safe drinking water. An academic career at TU Delft is what conveniently brought these two drives together. And she considers it a bonus that she’s able  to enthuse students to join her field.

Safe drinking water is one of the main challenges of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations because diseases derived from water threatens the health of millions of people worldwide. These diseases are, for example, caused by viruses, bacteria or chemical impurities such as arsenic, fluoride and heavy metals. Today, 748 million people don’t have access to improved drinking water sources.

Ten years ago, Doris Halem graduated by producing  the ceramic pot filter. It became one of the most leading hygiene interventions, the system excels in simplicity. A pottery pot that you fill with polluted water, is then filtered as the water flows through the pot and the turns into clean drinking water as it’s collected in the container beneath. The pot itself is the filter. Meanwhile, these pots are being produced all over the world, each one pot is produced using local clay and locally burnout material such as sawdust. How does it work? When you heat the pot, the sawdust burns causing small holes inside the pot. These ‘pores’ filter the micro-organisms, such as bacteria and protozoa, which may lead to various diseases,  out of the water. At the same time, the next big challenge occurs for Doris van Halem. The pot filters cannot yet  filter out viruses or arsenic.

During the months that Doris Halem plans to stay at at NIAS, an event  made possible by the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science scholarship, she wants to investigate how we can use metal nanoparticles in low-cost membranes to remove viruses and arsenic from the water. Therefore, in the coming months, she will set up a workshop to unite Dutch academics, NGO’s, the industry and the government to increase global impact.

Doris studied Civil Engineering at Delft University and completed her masters cum laude. During her studies, her interest in global challenges such as developing safe drinking water grew. During her study, she was involved in water projects in Sri Lanka and Benin.

In 2011, she completed  her PhD, cum laude. She investigated the removal of iron and arsenic that was present in contaminated groundwater in Bangladesh to make sure the water was safe to drink. Doris van Halem is currently working as a professor and together with her PhD students she researches  topics to improve water supply, internally and abroad (Nicaragua, Bangladesh). When asked ‘What do you wish to achieve with your research?’, her answer is clear: my research is a contribution to society and my goal is  to obtain safe drinking water for everyone. We can realize this  by developing smart, applicable technologies. Furthermore, she also thinks educating students and PhD students from developing countries directly contributes to the field of water knowledge in the country itself. According to Doris, in the long run, education will have a greater effect than any type of technology.

Fellows 2014

Simone van der Burg

GezondNU_De Ontmoeting_Z7A8926Dr. Simone van der Burg (43) is assistant professor and project leader at the IQ Healthcare department of the Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen. The blood of a newborn in the Netherlands  is investigated  with the heel prick for abnormalities. The primary goal is to discover diseases early on to start the treatment early which could increase the forecast for the child. In the Netherlands the blood is investigated on 18 severe diseases for which we have treatment. At the moment these investigations are done using biochemical technologies but within 5 or 10 years it is expected that it will be cheaper to do these investigations using new technologies that will scan all the genes. These technologies are called “Next Generation Sequencing technologies (NGS). This will bring up ethical questions. The research of Simone van der Burg aims to establish a ethical framework regarding the relational approach of the ethics. This framework determines which knowledge about the genes should be communicated and evaluated by looking of and how these investigations threaten or perpetuate the connection between parents and children. It is important to consider these questions beforehand. Although the heel prick is voluntary, almost a 100% of the parents currently participates in the investigation. This means that the parents have faith in the investigation that determines diseases early on. It seems reasonable to assume that parents as well as medical employees expect that the heel prick investigation will protect and foster the health of the child. But it is uncertain if parents are still willing to participate if the genes of their babies are investigated by using NGS, which can detect incurable diseases besides curable diseases, or can detect diseases that will show up later on in the child’s life. The current criteria of Wilson and Junger (1968) which are the starting point for the current heel prick screening are not sufficient for answering the questions that will rise with the NGS. It is especially difficult to understand the ethical intuitions that rise because the genetic information about the child is also relevant for the parents with whom the child is genetically related. Simone van der burg aims with her research to contribute and enrich the ethical and political debate regarding the introduction of NGS by establishing a framework which keeps the concepts of trust, connections, relations and responsibility in mind.

Maryam Kavousi

MaryamDr. Maryam Kavousi (39) is medical researcher and active on the epidemology department of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam. Her research area is cardiovascular diseases. Cardiovascular diseases remain the number 1 cause of death worldwide. Cardiovascular diseases consist of several disorders, amongst others heart diseases regarding the coronary artery, strokes and heart failure. While cardiovascular diseases and mortality rates for women are comparable to those of 10 year younger men, women have a higher risk of strokes and heart failure on middle and higher age. The risk prediction of cardiovascular diseases for women is still not optimal. Statistics focus on heart diseases regarding the coronary artery, women however have a higher chance on strokes and heart failure especially at middle and higher age. Moreover due to their higher life expectancy women have a higher chance on cardiovascular diseases during their whole life. There are two new concepts for the risk prediction of cardiovascular diseases namely “riks -age” and “lifetime cardiovascular risk”. The Research of Maryam Kavousi is centered on understanding how these two risk concepts relate to predicting cardiovascular disease risk for women. Useful interpretation of these two concepts could help the risk communication between doctors and women. Maryam Kavousi will work for a couple of months at the NIAS on establishing research standards focused on cardiovascular diseases for women.

 Fellows 2013

Maria Barbosa

maria barbosaDr. Maria Barbosa (40) is research manager microalgae at Wageningen University & Research Centre (Wageningen UR) and director of AlgaePARC (Algae Production and Research Center) in Wageningen. Microalgae are considered to be one of the most promising raw materials for sustainable supply of ingredients for food and non-food products. In Europe food and fuels can be produced using microalgae which makes us less dependent on fossil fuels and imported raw materials for the agriculture. Maria Borbosa wants to facilitate is smooth implementation of microalgae biotechnology in our society. Her goal is the development of sustainable industrial process chains, based on biotechnology, and products on microalgae base, the most sustainable raw materials for food, silage, cosmetics, chemicals and fuel. Biotechnology in combination with microalgae is still a new concept, but it is a growing research area with the potential to change into commercial and industrial activities. It offers scientific challenges both on the fundamental as well as the technological domain. The research of Maria Barbosa focuses on fundamental research into applied methods for maximum production of metabolic processes by microalgae. This is a new research area, in which cell and metabolic processes need to be understood en integrated into processes and technology. Wageningen UR and AlgaePARC have established an international leading position on the microalgae raw material production, due to the research of Maria Barbosa. With this grant Maria Barbosa wants to work at the NIAS on identifying the needed synergy between fundamental and applied research on this domain. De results of the resarch will be described in a scientific article. Also new definition will be developed for resarch standards for a new PhD and a project proposal will be develop regarding this subject. This will give the sustainable microalgae biotechnology an extra impulse.

Frances de Man

Frances de manDr. Frances de Man (33) is an assistant professor at the VU Medical Centre and active on the lung disease department. Her current research on pulmonary hypertension (PAH) is part of the Institute for Cardiovascular Research (ICAR-VU) on the lung disease department of VU medical Centre. PAH is a incurable lung disease, which is classified by rising blood pressure in the pulmonary artery. Patients will eventually decease due to failure of the right heart muscle. The height of the blood pressure of patients with PAH cannot predict when this heart failure will happen. This suggest that there are also other factors involved. The research hypothesis of Frances de Man states that a genetical variation in type 2 receptors of the bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPR2) decreases the response of the right ventricle to adjust to the increased blood pressure you find at PAH. Failure of the right heart muscle is not identical to failure of the left heart muscle. Often people assume that the process is equal. However the right and left heart muscle differ significantly on embryological, structural and functional areas. This means that a direct transfer of knowledge of one heart muscle to the other heartmuscle is not possible. There is still a lot unknown about the left heart muscle. The Dutch For Women in Science site will give Frances de Man the opportunity to analyse and publish her data at the NIAS and to discuss the results with other experts in this area. With the results of her research Frances de Man hopes to improve the treatment and life expactancy of PAH patients.

Fellow 2012

Judith Rietjens

Judith RietjensJudith Rietjens (36) works as an assistant professor at the Department of Public Health of Erasmus MC, the Netherlands and at the End-of-Life Care Research Group of Ghent University & Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium. Her research project concerns; Relieving suffering at the end of life: explaining cultural diversity in the use of palliative sedation. Judith Rietjens has received several prestigious grants for her research on palliative sedation. Palliative sedation is purposefully rendering patients unconscious by administering sedating medication. It is known that there are different applications of palliative sedation between countries. During her fellowship, Judith Rietjens aims to develop a framework explaining the variance in the use of palliative sedation between countries by; comparing empirical data of studies conducted in the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and the USA. The aforementioned results will be compared with theories about cultural diversity and finally the findings will be discussed with international experts during a workshop where the framework will be finalized. The results will be presented in one or two publications, which will be submitted to an international peer-reviewed medical journal. In addition the findings will be distributed to other relevant entities, such as the EAPC who has launched the European guideline for palliative sedation. The outcome of the research can ultimately inform the development of culturally sensitive end-of-life care guidelines and policymaking.