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Leiden University shows its face on 3 October

Leiden University celebrated the Relief of Leiden with the 3 October University. This year the University also took part in the festive parade, to promote 444.

444 stands for Leiden University's 444-year existence. The University usually celebrates every 5-year anniversary, but 444 was too good a number to let it pass by. We are therefore going to celebrate 444 years in 2019 instead of 445 years in 2020. To make our intentions known, a delegation from the University played a prominent part in the 3 October parade. 

3 October parade
Leiden University in the parade

The 3 October University

Lisa Bloemberg and Sophie Verhoeven are both interested in drug development. Only Lisa decided to study Biomedical Sciences and Sophie BioPharmaceutical Sciences. Lisa did an internship with PhD student Parasitology Leonard Pelgrom who gave the lecture. And Sophie was keen to go along.

The Parasitology Department of Medicine/LUMC is investigating whether parasites, especially worms, can make people healthier. How would that work? Insulin converts sugar into energy. People with diabetes have too high a sugar level in their blood. The body does produce insulin but the organs and cells no longer react sufficiently to it; the body is less sensitive to it. When you are overweight, inflammatory reactions occur in the fat cells that slow down the reaction to insulin, making it impossible for them to do their job properly. The excess sugar remains in the blood which has harmful effects on blood vessels and nerves.

Lisa (r) dragged Sophie with her to the lecture on the relationship between worms in y our body and becoming healthier.

Worms in the body - usually considered a combatable infection - want to stay there. They secrete a substance that prevents the immune system from making short work of them. This also reduces the inflammations in the fatty tissue and increases the sensitivity to insulin. Should fat people eat worms then? Uh, not necessarily. The parasitologists are now trying to find out which precise substances in the worm are responsible for the positive effect. If they can be imitated and put in a tablet, it will not be necessary to eat live worms.  
Lisa learned a lot from Leonard during her internship, she says. And what did she investigate herself? That is really too complicated to explain quickly.... Maybe one day in a 3 October lecture

Leonard Pelgrom
Leonard Pelgrom talked very enthusiastically about parasitic worms in the body.

Peter van der Meer and Suzanne van der Meer-Van der Laan grew up in Leiden and both studied chemistry here. ' The chemistry must have been good, then,' is a joke they have probably heard thousands of times already. They came to listen to the lecture by chemist Marc Koper. He talked about preserving energy and renewable energy, and about hydrogen batteries that may well become the energy source of the future.

Suzanne and Peter van der Meer
Suzanne and Peter van der Meer: close links with city and University.

Peter and Suzanne feel, not surprisingly, connected to both the university and the city. That is why they can be found in the Van der Werfpark. They like to participate in the traditional 3 October festivities such as herring and white bread. Peter is not to be missed in his special 3 October jersey. That's why he was photographed by the university photographer last year. But yes, that jersey is still special to him.

Marc Koper
Hydrogen could be the energy bearer of the future, according to physicist Marc Koper.

Sascha van den Bosch is thirteen. Wouldn't she rather be at the parade and was she taken to science activities by her parents? She wants both, Sascha says, and the nice thing is that she can do that too, first a lecture and then the parade. Sascha is at the Teylingen College in Oegstgeest, and her favouritge subject is history. Her mother could choose from the three lectures and probably did so with one eye on Sascha.

Sascha van den Bosch
Sascha is interested in history.

Ariadne Schmidt holds the Magdalena Moons Chair as Professor of History of Leiden City Culture. Magdalena is said to have persuaded her Spanish lover and local commander Valdez in 1574 to wait one day before storming the city of Leiden. The dikes in the area were penetrated, causing the water to rise and the Spaniards to flee. Schmidt's lecture was about the women in the early modern Dutch city. They do not appear in the history books, but they were there. In fact, in large numbers: because of the large-scale shipping industry and the high death aate among marinerss it caused,cities has around 133 women for every 100 men. And they contributed greatly to the economy, especially in the sale of fish and meat products. The most important lesson Sascha learned is that there is more to history than the school books say!

Ariadne Schmidt
Women are often missing from history books, says Ariadne Schmidt.


Text: Corine Hendriks
Photos: Eelkje Colmjon (3 October University) and Sean van der Steen
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