C.J. Kok Jury Award
What makes a thesis a winning one? The members of the jury make their selection based on the thesis itself and the corresponding recommendation, which is usually written by the (co)promotor of the PhD student or his or her scientific director.
Nominees for 2018
Identifying the origins of galaxy formation
Cosmic mist, first-generation stars and state-of-the-art computer simulations made clear that distant galaxies are much more than just simple dots in the sky. By investigating galaxies from the past, astronomer Jorryt Matthee from Leiden Observatory hopes to answer questions about the origin of galaxies, such as our own Milky Way.
The search for mysterious particles
Kyrylo Bondarenko from the Leiden Institute of Physics contributes to the search for sterile neutrino’s. These mysterious particles would explain three fundamental questions in particle physics. His predictions are currently used by a large collaboration of 52 scientific institutes. ‘If a sterile neutrino is discovered, it will significantly change our whole research area.’
The maths behind our cells
Using mathematics to unravel biological processes: mathematician Lisanne Rens built a mathematical model to study the mechanisms that drive tissue shaping. Her model bridges different biological scales, from molecules to cells to entire tissues. ‘It’s fascinating how cells, that behave as individual units, can somehow together create intricate patterns and functioning tissues.’
Making problem solving more efficient
Brand new doctor Hao Wang from the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science teaches computer programmes how to solve real world problems. His goal is to make the process of problem-solving more efficient. On 1 November he obtained his doctorate with the predicate cum laude. ‘I hope to solve difficult problems we haven't been able to solve so far.’
Sugar synthesis: the making of safer vaccines
The research of Qingju Zhang of the Leiden Institute of Chemistry is sweet. He namely studies carbohydrates and glycans, better known as sugars. Zhang made several discoveries that among others will contribute to the development of carbohydrate-based vaccines. Zhang: ‘This research is the starting point to develop safer vaccines.’
Drug binding kinetics as predictor of for potential medicines
Faster development of efficacious medicines; that is the goal of molecular pharmacologist Maarten Doornbos of the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research. He wants to find out which mechanisms influence the binding of drugs to a promising drug target in the body. That way, it will become easier to predict whether a potential drug will be effective or not. ‘I hope to speed up the process of drug development.’
Tinkering with bacterial production
Biotechnologist Boris Zacchetti enhanced the performances of Streptomyces bacteria, which are used to produce antibiotics and valuable enzymes. He discovered that certain genes are responsible for the formation of particles with highly different sizes, which has a negative impact on production performances. ‘My discoveries could contribute to the availability of cheaper or novel products for consumers.’
Cheating belowground interactions - Diversity, ecology and distribution of cheater plants
Hearing the word ‘cheating’, people are most likely to think about human or animal behaviour. But did you know plants can cheat too? Microbiologist Sofia Fernandes Gomes studied plants that deceive the fungi with whom they live together. In the future, these plants may act as indicator species for soil and forest health.
Main criteria for assessment are:
- The scientific quality, such as innovative content for its field of research, other disciplines and science in general.
- Do the research results bear direct relevance to society?
- Is the thesis easily accessible and clearly written?
- Career prospects after being promoted are also considered in the jury’s assessment, if this information is available.
Members of the 2018 jury are professors Carel ten Cate, Miranda van Eck, Bas Edixhoven, Mark Koper and Koen Kuijken.