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VU Dream Teams

At Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, we not only want our students to become ‘something’, such as an economist, doctor or biologist. We also want our students to become ‘someone’. We think it is important that they develop theirselves both academically and personally, cultivating the broader qualities within them. This includes improving communication skills, fostering an enterprising spirit or learning to develop activities that have social impact.

That is why VU encourages students to think and work beyond borders and in doing so contribute to our world in a meaningful way. This ideology is embodied in VU’s 'A Broader Mind for Students'-programma. The VU Dream Teams fall under this umbrella.

What do these Dream Teams do?
Since the 2021-2022 academic year, five VU Dream Teams have been active, each consisting of 8 to 14 Bachelor’s and Master’s students from various programmes. These teams have been working independently on societal assignments. In the section 'Dream Teams and ambassadors', you can read about the specific challenge each team is taking on. For the new academic year, the Dream Teams are looking for successors who can bring the work of the current teams to the next level. 

Why participate in a VU Dream Team? 
The skills you develop by participating in these innovative teams contribute greatly to your personal and professional growth. The teams will write a business plan, set up a website, brainstorm with people from various disciplines, and translate ideas and expertise into prototypes. The teams will also engage in interesting collaborations with companies and institutions. They will learn to network, maintain relationships with stakeholders and pitch creative ideas in a professional context. Each team is supported by a VU ambassador.

Support and resources
Each team is supported by a VU ambassador and receives a standard amount of funding for facilities and setting up activities. Beyond that, the team operates completely independently and is responsible for attracting sponsors and generating additional financial resources.

VU profile themes 
Four out of five Dream Teams are linked to one of the four VU profile themes: Human Health & Life Sciences, Governance for Society, Science for Sustainability and Connected World. These themes reflect the essence of our approach to carrying out the VU mission as it relates to education, research and knowledge transfer (impact). The fifth team (PULSE Racing) is linked to the faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences and has been in operation for several years now. 

Previous Dream Teams 
In previous years, several VU students have achieved great successes by participating in Dream Teams such as PULSE-racing, and Human Power Team and Wasub as well.

Recruitment, selection and application
Interested? VU Bachelor and Master students can apply for one of the five Dream Teams via on Wednesday 15 June at the latest. Please provide at least the following information when applying:

  • Personal details
  • Current study programme and year
  • Dream Team of your choice
  • Motivation (letter) or video message explaining why you would like to participate in a particular team and what your contribution to this team will be. Creativity is appreciated. 

The selection interviews will take place from mid June.

Birgit Kaman MSc Human Movement Sciences and former Dream Team

Birgit Kaman MSc Human Movement Sciences and former Dream Team

“Working within the PULSE Dream Team is a very valuable experience. The translation of theory into practice is educational and also a lot of fun. I’m using my scientific knowledge in a different way, but I’m also learning how to manage and organize a company. PULSE has given me insight into what is possible with my education. I have also learned how important working in a multidisciplinary team can be.”

Extra information on Dream Teams

  • Dream Teams and ambassadors

    Here, you can read about the five VU Dream Teams in operation, the assignment each team is working on and which VU ambassadors are assisting the teams:
    Dream Team 1: VU ProFit!
    This team is linked to the profile theme Human Health and Life Sciences.
    Not everyone lives a healthy lifestyle and COVID-19 has deteriorated healthy lifestyles even more. Dream Team VU ProFIT! develops a novel approach to improve the lifestyle of VU staff and students. The team employs innovative measurements and methods with regard to nutrition, movement, sleep and psychosocial factors (for instance stress and motivation) and translates the collected information into made-to-measure recommendations using optimal communication techniques and practical applications. Measurements are performed in the labs of the departments of Human Movement Sciences, Health Sciences and Psychology to test the new approach and to monitor and quantify the lifestyle improvement of VU staff and students. 

    The VU ambassadors of this Dream Team are prof. dr. Hein Daanen and dr. Hanneke Wijnhoven.

    Prof. dr. Hein Daanen
    Hein is human movement scientist and professor in Exercise Physiology of the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences. His research focuses on human adaptations to heat and cold. The last five years he was involved in the management of three Dream Teams of TU Delft and VU: Human Power Team (fastest cyclist of the world), Wasub (fastest human powered device under water) and Pulse-Racing (fastest cyclist using muscle electrostimulation in spinal cord injured athletes).

    Dr. Hanneke Wijnhoven
    Hanneke is a health scientist, epidemiologist and associate professor at the Department of Health Sciences. Her research focuses on the impact of a healthy lifestyle (particularly nutrition, healthy weight, and physical activity) and on healthy ageing. She also studies the role of diversity, such as the differences between men and women. Her ambition is to use her research to contribute to improving people's well-being. She enjoys working with others who pursue the same goal. Together with the motivated and talented students of Dream Team VU ProFit! and ambassador Hein Daanen, she likes to take on the challenge of improving the lifestyle of VU staff and students.

    Dream Team 2: Newcomer Entrepreneurship
    This team is linked to the profile theme Governance for Society.

    This Dream Team explores the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Netherlands to see where new ideas can contribute the most and co-creates solutions with newcomer entrepreneurs with a refugee background. The team will learn about social entrepreneurship, intercultural work, and the process of ideation and implementation to contribute to interdisciplinary societal challenges. The entrepreneurial ecosystem presents unique challenges for newcomer entrepreneurs, such as difficulties accessing finance and legal expertise, discrimination and exclusionary practices. This may inhibit the development of startups by newcomers and affect the psychological well-being of people from refugee communities in general. This Dream Team will work on developing innovative ideas to address this complex social problem by collaborating with a leading incubator in the field and with newcomer entrepreneurs who aim to address these challenges. 

    The VU ambassador of this Dream Team is Youssra Lotfi, MSc Political Science/Public Administration.

    • MSc. Youssra Lotfi
      Youssra graduated from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 2016 as a political scientist and public administration expert. Since then she has been active in the public sector as a professional and volunteer. In both roles she focuses mainly on groups in vulnerable circumstances, on combating inequality of opportunities as well as inclusion issues. Promoting participation among young people in the Netherlands to contribute to social impact is a key motivator to her.

    Dream Team 3: Empathic robot / The Iron Man
    This team is linked to the profile theme Connected World.

    In a world in which robots and people live together, robots need to be able to ‘read’ people. This reading consists of:

    • recognising emotions through facial expressions, gestures, voice and content 
    • understanding and explaining emotions in a given situation 
    • showing empathy and understanding 

    This team is charged with teaching a robot these communicative aspects for various people with different backgrounds, cultures and social groups. In this way, the empathic robot can become everyone’s friend.

    The VU ambassador of this Dream Team is prof. dr. Piek Vossen

    • Prof. dr. Piek Vossen 
      Piek is a linguist and professor of Computational Lexicology. "I’m interested in how language works, how empathy works and how bonding occurs. Interpersonal communication between people is highly personal and extremely fascinating. That is the ultimate challenge for a robot and therefore also for this Dream Team.”

    Dream Team 4: Planet-friendly food for a sustainable future
    This team is linked to the profile theme Science for Sustainability.

    The Dream Team Planet-friendly food has the task of developing a toolkit tailored to the wishes and needs of  people from all walks of life. This toolkit will make them more aware of the impact of their eating behaviour on the environment and social climate and enable them to make choices that will make the world a little bit better, one step at a time. The team will collect data from various groups of people to identify their wishes and needs. Based on this data, the team will develop and test the tools and materials for the toolkit. The next step will be to determine whether the toolkit actually leads to more planet-friendly eating among the selected target groups. 

    The VU ambassadors of this Dream Team are dr. ir. Margreet Olthof and prof. dr. ir. Ingeborg Brouwer

    • Dr. ir. Margreet Olthof
      Margreet works at the Department of Health Sciences, is a nutritional scientist and is programme director of the Master's programme in Health Sciences. She conducts research in the field of nutrition and human health, including nutrition in specific phases of life (young & old), the health effects of what we eat and drink (such as coffee), and sustainable, healthy food for people and the planet. She is happy to work with the Dream Team and take up the challenge of making concrete and creative plans that will help people in the Netherlands make healthier and more sustainable food choices, as part of the big mission ‘planet-friendly food’. 
    • Prof. dr. ir. Ingeborg Brouwer
      Ingeborg is a nutrition scientist and professor of Nutrition for Healthy Living at the Department of Health Sciences. Her research focuses on the effects of food on health and sustainability. She looks at how different foods and diets impact health and well-being outcomes and how much pressure they put on the environment, for example, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions or land use. Ingeborg is looking forward to working with the students to make the Netherlands a little better.

    Dream Team 5: PULSE Racing
    This team is linked to the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences

    Dreamteam PULSE Racing strives to improve the mobility and vitality of people with spinal cord injuries (the athletes) by way of Functional ElectroStimulation (FES). Through FES, the muscles contract because pulses are sent through the skin to the nerves. In this way, PULSE Racing allows athletes with spinal cord injuries to cycle again! PULSE Racing participates in (inter)national competitions and has even won gold at the Cybathlon, a competition in which talented parathletes, aided by advanced robotics, compete for gold. PULSE Racing combines sports, rehabilitation and technology, and aims to raise awareness of FES so even more athletes can experience the possibilities and benefits of FES.

    The VU ambassador of this Dream Team is prof. dr. Thomas Janssen.

    • Prof. dr Thomas Janssen
      Thomas is professor of Rehabilitation Research at the Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences at VU, where he teaches courses in exercise physiology and rehabilitation. He also leads research in the field of spinal cord injury and adapted sports in rehabilitation centre Reade and is academically (co-)responsible for the Centre for Adapted Sports Amsterdam, part of the Amsterdam Institute of Sport Science. Cycling as fast as possible with the aid of electrostimulation, the goal of this Dream Team, is not only interesting on a academic level, the knowledge gained can also mean a lot for the health and fitness of people with spinal cord injury.
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    • What is a Dream Team?
      A Dream Team consists of a group of highly-motivated Bachelor’s and Master’s students (and possibly PhD candidates) who, together with university staff, take on a concrete social challenge in which the learning experience of the team members takes centre stage.
    • Why is participation in the Dream Team programme a unique opportunity (what is the added value)?
      Joining one of the five Dream Teams offers a great opportunity to work in a self-managing, interdisciplinary team that tackles a definitive social issue and works towards a concrete end result. This experience includes, for example, writing a business plan, setting up a website, attracting sponsors and making contacts within companies and institutions. You will be guided by a VU ambassador. This programme allows you to put your (theoretical) knowledge into practice in a team setting, together with students from other disciplines. A Dream Team could, for example, consist of Bachelor’s or Master’s students in Communication Sciences, Business Administration, Art History, Biology and Social Sciences.
    • What does the recruitment and selection process look like?
      You can apply for one of the five Dream Teams via by Wednesday 15 June at the latest. Please include a motivation (letter) or video message (creativity is appreciated here) explaining why you want to participate in a particular Dream Team and how you think you can contribute. Do not forget to add you personal details, current study programme and year and the Dream Team of your choice. The selection interviews will be held from mid June. And if you’re selected? Then you and your Dream Team will get to work on the assignment from September!
    • Do Dream Team members earn credits? 
      Students who participate in a Dream Team can earn six extracurricular ECTS credits by writing a report about your Dream Team. This report should contain a number of elements (you can ask the ambassador or a member of the supervisory team about these in advance). In some cases, it is possible to earn six intracurricular ECTS if the ECTS credits can be integrated into an existing programme component (for example a practical internship or elective credits). It is up to the programme whether or not to offer this; it's not a given.
    • How much time does it take to participate and can I combine it with my studies?
      You will be involved in Dream Team activities at least one day a week (especially in the start-up phase). You are free to spend more or less time on the assignment as you see fit.
    • What are the selection criteria and do I need good grades to be selected?
      The selection is primarily based on the motivation of the student. Knowledge and expertise related to the topic of the Dream Team are also considered. Do you have contagious enthusiasm and an enterprising spirit? If so, this could work to your advantage! Grades and study progress can be taken into account in the selection process (as a secondary factor).
    • What is the duration of a Dream Team?
      As a general rule, a Dream Team is active for one academic year. 
    • What happens to the Dream Team projects after one academic year? 
      At the end of the academic year, a new team will take over the work and move it forward, ensuring that additional progress is made.
    • Does a Dream Team receive funding?
      Yes, every Dream Team receives an initial amount of capital. However, an important part of the project is to raise funds from external parties.
    • Does it matter which study programme I follow?
      No, no matter what discipline you are studying, you can contribute in a meaningful way to any Dream Team.
    • Does it matter what language(s) I speak?  
      No, all languages are welcome.
    • What is the primary language of the team?
      Dutch or English, as decided on within the group.
    • Where do the Dream Teams carry out their activities (location)?
      The Dream Teams have five rooms at their disposal in the W&N building. 
    • How can I get answers to my (additional) questions? 
      You can send any additional questions to
  • Contact

    Dream Team related questions
    Peter Beek/ Bart van Leijen

    Omayra Mac Donald