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Spring Symposium: from proteins to data

During the annual LACDR Spring Symposium, the audience chose PhD student Rob van Wijk as best speaker. Furthermore, six PhD students won a poster prize. Matthias P. Mayer of Heidelberg University opened the symposium with a keynote lecture about chaperone proteins.

Poster winners

The LACDR Spring Symposium is an annual event where PhD students show their work to the institute and people from outside the institute. Every PhD student presents a poster, and for every department there are two prizes. The six winners of the poster presentations this year are: Mara Leone and Yiheng Zhang (BioTherapeutics), Xue Yang and Brandon Bongers (Drug Discovery & Safety), and Esmee Vendel and Aline Engbers (Systems Biomedicines & Pharmacology).

Best speaker

In addition, every department invites two PhD students to give a plenary presentation instead of a poster presentation. The audience picked their favourite from these six presentations, this year for the first time by digital voting. Rob van Wijk from Systems Biomedicines & Pharmacology won the prize for best oral presentation. Perhaps not entirely unexpected, as he won the poster prize in 2016 and 2017.

Winner Rob van Wijk


What is Rob van Wijk’s secret? ‘I think a successful presentation fascinates an audience enough to join you in your more in-depth scientific journey’, says Van Wijk. ‘By zooming out at the end and placing the little pieces of my research into the bigger picture, I hope to transmit what inspires me in drug research. That, and a lot of practice of course.’

Collecting data

The translational steps in preclinical research particularly inspire Van Wijk in his research. According to him, these steps are only possible with a sufficient understanding of the biological process and the role of the drug in that process. And you can only achieve that understanding with quantitative models that build on experimental data. ‘In my research and my presentation, I focus on the fact that these models need more and more data’, says Van Wijk. ‘It is unrealistic to collect these data in rodents or even patients. The zebrafish could be a solution.


Van Wijk gets to represent the LACDR at the PhD competition during the national two-day Dutch Medicines Days, organised by FIGON. ‘It’s an honour to represent the LACDR. I’m also very motivated to convince the audience of the importance of both advanced model-based analysis and appropriately designed experiments.    

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