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PhD thesis award for Biologist Chris Jacobs

Chris Jacobs, former PhD-student of the IBL, received the national “Dissertation Award” for best PhD thesis of the year on insects. The award was handed out last Friday, the 18th of December, by Professor Matty Berg, president of the Dutch Entomological Society.

The award ceremony took place during the yearly Entomology Day of the Netherlands Entomological Society (NEV) in Ede. The jury appreciated the broad scope of the experimental approach, from developmental genetics to ecology and the jury praised the engaging writing style. The award amounts €1000 and a certificate of appreciation.

Learning from beetles

Jacobs did his research on 3-millimetre-long red flour beetles ( Tribolium castaneum) and was supervised by Dr. Maurijn van der Zee. He discovered an evolutionary innovation that might explain the extreme success of insects. The taxonomic group of Insects is highly successful and makes up three quarters of all animal species on earth. Insect eggs contain an extra-embryonic membrane, the serosa, which protects them for example against pathogens.

In one of his studies, Chris Jacobs removed the serosa genetically from the beetle embryos to show that it is a crucial membrane preventing them from drying out or becoming waterlogged. The drought-resistant eggs may have been crucial for insects to become more independent of water and thrive on land. This extra protection makes the eggs much more robust and gives them and advantage over Crustaceans, the closest relatives of the insects, which do not have such a membrane.

“Science Explained”

Jacobs will invest the prize money in the foundation " Science Explained”, which he started earlier this year. “Science Explained” funds scientific projects or projects that encourage popularization of science. Chris Jacobs is currently appointed as Postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany.

About the Dutch Entomological Society

The Netherlands Entomological Society (Dutch: Nederlandse Entomologische Vereniging, NEV) was founded in 1845 for the purpose of improving and promoting entomology in the Netherlands.

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