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VU New Year's Gala

We rolled out the red carpet for our fantastic students and staff at the VU New Year's Gala!

Which student and teacher were the greatest VU talents in 2021, who wrote the best thesis and who won the prize for the most enterprising student? Which support staff members deserved an ode of gratitude and which great educational innovation was awarded? We found out during the festive and musical VU New Year's Gala where all the VU awards were presented on 27 January. 

The winners
Bachelor Thesis Prize: Andrew Tan
Master Thesis Prize: Tim Mocking
StudentTalent Prize: Ramla Jamac
Teacher Talent Prize: Alexander Bijnsdorp
Innovation Prize: Personal and Professional Identity (PPI) - Faculty of Law
VU + ASIF Student Startup Competition: Bambooi (VU + ASIF Best Startup), Madglove (Best Social Entrepreneurship Startup), ReAlliance (Best Sustainability Startup)
Supporters of the year: Marike ten Hoorn and Robbert Loots 

Read the jury report here (in Dutch). 

Get to know the VU talents
What drives the nominees and winners? Watch the videos about some of these inspiring talents and get to know them better.

Student Talent Prize
Yatou Sallah
Suraj Harylallsingh 
Ramla Jamac (winner)

Alumnus Leonard Witkamp (Ksyos), coach of the StudenTalent 

Innovation Prize
Diversifying Philosophy Through Training High School Teachers  
harmaceutical helpdesk for consumer questions on medicines 
Entrepreneurship with impact for social scientists 
Personal and Professional Identity (PPI) (winner)

Watch it again

Did you miss the VU New Year's Gala 2022 or do you want to watch it again? You can do so here

Prizes and nominees

  • Innovation Prize

    The Innovation Prize is awarded once every two years to a team of teachers that have developed a project aimed at improving educational practice or giving innovative substance to VU Amsterdam’s educational vision. This may also involve cooperation between teachers, support staff, students and social actors. The winning team will receive €50,000 to implement the innovation. 

    The nominees

    Ondernemen met impact voor sociale wetenschappers (Entrepreneurship with impact for social scientists)

    Under the leadership of Erik van Ingen, the Faculty of Social Sciences is working hard to develop transdisciplinary education 2.0. Not only do students learn to actively link their academic knowledge to issues from outside the university, as in regular transdisciplinary education, they also learn skills that are not part of the social sciences curriculum. Entrepreneurial skills are linked to academic knowledge and skills, with the aim of making an impact on society, taking on issues about sustainability, climate change, polarisation and the socially responsible use of big data. The project focuses primarily on the renewal and further development of transdisciplinary education in the Sociology Bachelor programme, but it is also working on scaling up to other (social science) programmes and to other universities.

    Farmaceutische vraagbaak voor geneesmiddelvragen van consumenten (Pharmaceutical helpdesk for consumer questions on medicines)

    Consumers often have a need for simple, accessible information about the effects of the medication they are taking. Students and alumni of Pharmaceutical Sciences, despite their substantive knowledge, are insufficiently trained to provide consumers with this. Therefore, this project establishes a pharmaceutical questionnaire in which students themselves participate: they answer the questions. With attention for active learning, engagement and student responsibility. This innovative project increases the autonomy of students.

    Persoonlijke en Professionele Identiteit (PPI) (Personal and Professional Identity) - Winner

    The learning programme Personal and Professional Identity (PPI) is a unique programme of the Faculty of Law that fits in well with the positive learning and teaching culture of the faculty. In PPI, students are actively involved in their own learning process and development into professional participants within the VU community and in their future professional field in an innovative way. During interactive group meetings and individual interviews, they are coached by pairs of student mentors and teacher coaches. In activating educational forms, they learn to reflect on who they are, what they can do and where they want to go. They also acquire competences for professional practice. All progress is recorded in a portfolio that remains available after graduation. PPI replaces the mentor and tutorate in the bachelor programme.

    Diversifying Philosophy Through Training High School Teachers

    A professionalization trajectory will be developed for secundary school philosophy teachers to get them acquainted with non-canonical texts, thinkers and perspectives. The project will support them in their preparations for the soon to be undertaken renewal of the secondary school philosophy curriculum in a diversified direction. The overall aim is to respond to an emerging and urgent need at universities and secondary schools to diversify philosophy to reflect our global society. The project leaders also hope philosophy can, through our efforts towards a more diverse approach, become more attractive for students from diverse backgrounds. There is no other way to reach diversity than to actually work on it and to ‘do diversity’ in all sorts of contexts. This project is a cooperation between Amsterdam University College, VU Amsterdam and the Vereniging Filosofiedocenten in het Voortgezet Onderwijs (Association of Philosophy Teachers in Secondary Education).

  • Student Talent Prize

    The Student Talent Prize is awarded annually to a student who not only achieves good grades, but also knows how to put the concept of academic education into practice in a ground-breaking way. The winner receives € 4,000.

    The nominees

    Ramla Jamac (Faculty of Science)- Winner

    Ramla is a true role model. With her start-up MobileUurka, she is making a serious contribution to reducing maternal mortality in Somalia, inspired by the support her parents received when they fled the war in Somalia. MobileUurka provides hospitals with a registration system and the ability to monitor and communicate with patients remotely to reduce geographical and financial barriers to care. Ramla is a great example of a student who knows how to apply her academic skills to strengthen society. Ramla's talent is also demonstrated by the fact that she is one of the few Master students to have been selected as a pre-finalist for the Amsterdam Science Innovation Award 2021.

    Suraj Harylallsingh (Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences)

    Suraj has already won his faculty's Student Award for contributing to the education of others in various wonderful ways. How? By providing good feedback on courses, giving free tutoring to fellow students and helping fellow students with personal problems during the pandemic. He organised excursions to companies and a study trip to Prague. Suraj does so much for his fellow students that he should be put in the spotlight himself.

    Yatou Sallah (Faculty of Social Sciences)

    Yatou Sallah: a passionate, inspiring, down-to-earth mentor and organiser who contributes full of energy to a positive world. As a mentor, she provides mutual connection at a time when this is desperately needed. Outside VU Amsterdam, Yatou also devotes herself to a positive society through podcasts and radio. Besides being a good student, Yatou can rightly call herself a connector and bridge-builder.

  • Teacher Talent Prize

    Per faculty, students have nominated their best young teacher. The nominees have a chance of winning the €4,000 prize to be spent on VU Amsterdam education.

    The nominees

    Oliver Fabert (Faculty of Science)

    Oliver turns out to be an expert in providing education in times of crisis. Not just because of his humorous, well-appreciated, well-run video lectures and additional Q&A sessions, also because he ensured that students got to know each other and could learn from each other and, above all, that they did not experience any stress during his lectures. A perfect recipe for a – relatively - relaxed study period during a pandemic.

    Alexander Bijnsdorp (Faculty of Medicine) - Winner

    When corona made it impossible to teach anatomy, Alexander set up the 'Anatomy studio': a programme that allowed students to follow anatomy lessons from home using visual material. Alexander Bijnsdorp is a passionate teacher who has the interests of students in mind and inspires students with his contagious enthusiasm.

    Sean Telg (School of Business and Economics)

    Sean surpassed the expectations of students when they were forced to sit at home because of corona. His positive attitude, passion for education and adaptability make him popular. Sean also truly wants to get to know students. He designed his online education in such a way that students received all the attention they needed at that moment, both in class and individually. Sean puts his students first without compromising on quality.

  • Bachelor and Master Thesis Prize

    Thousands of students toil over many theses every year. Who wrote the best thesis? Emeritus professors of VU Amsterdam choose the winners from three nominees per prize. The winners receive € 2,000 each.

    The nominees of the Bachelor Thesis Prize will follow soon

    Lara van Leeuwen (Law) - De termijnloze glijdende schaal waardoor de criminele vreemdeling altijd vreemdeling blijft. Een studie naar de verenigbaarheid van de afschaffing van de eindtermijn van de glijdende schaal met het non-discriminatiebeginsel als uitgelegd in de jurisprudentie van het EHRM.*

    In her thesis, Lara argues for the reintroduction of the so-called 'final deadline', so that the residence permit of foreigners who have been living in the Netherlands for more than 20 years is not withdrawn after conviction for a criminal offence. This is a wonderful example of how scientific knowledge can be used for the benefit of a diverse and inclusive society.

    * An English translation: The termless sliding scale whereby the criminal foreigner always remains a foreigner. A study of the compatibility of the abolition of the final deadline of the sliding scale with the non-discrimination principle as interpreted in the case law of the ECHR.

    Nalini Heinmüller (Psychology) - Mental Health Disparities by Gender Identity: A Cross-Sectional Study about Depressive Symptoms in Transgender Individuals

    Nalini shows that transgender people show higher levels of depression than cisgender people. In doing so, she debunks earlier findings that this effect is stronger among transgender people who were assigned a male gender at birth. A perfectly written and strongly thesis with a methodology that exceeds bachelor level.

    Andrew Tan (Information Sciences) - Visualization of Energy Consumption in Container-based Virtualization - Winner

    The excellent combination of conceptual design and project implementation shows that Andrew clearly possesses the necessary technical knowledge and analytical skills. Combined with his exceptional dedication, he has made a valuable contribution to his field.


    The nominees of the
    Master's Thesis Prize will follow soon

    Zowi Huinen (Oncology) - The role of stromal-derived sialic acid in macrophage-mediated immune suppression in PDAC

    Zowi conducted her research at a high level, comparable to the PhD students of the research group she was part of. She did this so well and adequately that her research is now being used for publication.

    Finn de Ridder (Parallel and Distributed Computer Systems) - SMASH: Synchronized Many-sides Rowhammer Attacks from JavaScript

    Finn's research had great impact: it was published, nominated for an award (Pwnie Award), and businesses as well as the academic 'Security' community have visibly improved their defence efforts against the 'Rowhammer' attacks on the working memory of PCs, servers and smartphones following the publication of Finn's research. All in all, an original and high-quality social research project.

    Tim Mocking (Bioinformatics & Systems Biology) - Improving clonality analysis of multiple tumours from the same patient - Winner

    A study of the crucial clinical problem of determining whether (new) tumours originate from the primary tumour, or represent a new, different type of tumour, the latter of which would require a completely different medical treatment. Besides some improvements on existing methods, Tim came up with a completely new idea that he managed to implement within a short time. His thesis is of high technical quality, characterised by profound theoretical insight combined with outstanding creativity.

    Timen Vierling (Spatial, Transport and Environmental Economics) - The willingness to pay for better elementary education. Applying a spatial difference model in Amsterdam

    Timen shows that an increase in the quality of schooling raises house prices in Amsterdam. Good primary education attracts higher incomes, whereas it was long thought that this was not the case in the Netherlands. Finding a causal effect is remarkable for a social science thesis. That and the methodological approach - which, according to his supervisor, is better than that of other (international) studies - makes Timen's thesis a deserved nominee for the Master Thesis Prize.

  • VU + ASIF Student Startup Competition, made possible by Pfizer and VUvereniging

    Which VU startup stand out and will be awarded during the VU New Year’s Gala as:

    • VU + ASIF Best Startup – prize: €3,000.- 6 months office space in the VU StartHub worth €3,000.- and delegation to the European Startup Competition Stage Two (made possible by Pfizer).
    • Best Social Entrepreneurship Startup – prize: €2,000.- 6 months office space in the VU StartHub worth €3,000.- (made possible by the VUvereniging).
    • Best Sustainability Startup – prize: €2,000.- 6 months office space in the VU StartHub worth €3,000.- (made possible by the VUvereniging).

    All winners will be offered a mentor from the VU alumni mentor network and support from ASIF in finding funding.

    The Student Startup Competition is an annual competition, in addition to the five-yearly VU Kuyper Challenge. The nominees pitch their idea to a jury of successful entrepreneurs and researchers. 

    Nominated startups

    ReAlliance - Winner Best Sustainability Startup

    ReAlliance creates circularity in the packaging industry by incentivizing consumers to return packaging to a collecting point, and thereby creating a sorted clean wasted stream for recycling.

    Healthnetwork

    Healthnetwork provides a set of guidelines that allow people to make well-informed choices about what is right complementary medicine for which patients.

    Dizordat

    Dizordat is a social media platform aimed at inciting users to debate, share opinions, get feedback and connect on all sorts of topics and in the most interactive way. 

    Madglove - Winner Best Social Entrepreneurship Startup

    The goal is to develop an orthotic device in the form of a glove that can be used at home, to improve the hand function of people that suffer from spasticity. The aim is to get the spastic hand into a functional position for a better grasp.

    Bamboi - Winner VU + ASIF Best Startup

    Bamboi created organic toilet paper made from 100% sustainably sourced bamboo. Each roll is CO2 negative, free from deforestation and completely chemical free.

    SIMPLEX

    There are multiple diseases correlated to the same symptoms. SIMPLEX is a software with an algorithm that matches the symptoms with a list of potential diseases. 

    FireDynamo

    FireDynamo is a single-tree based simulation software that considers the terrain and weather conditions to accurately predict the fire propagation.

    Binqy

    Binqy is the online tool for organizations to detect burnout at an early stage using professional questionnaires based on research and expert input.

  • Tribute to support staff

    VU Amsterdam cannot do without its support staff, who all help to keep this university running based on their own expertise. Two special support staff members will be put in the spotlight by writer Ernest van der Kwast during the VU New Year's Gala.

    Support staff members of the year: Marike ten Hoorn and Robbert Loots 

Presentation

  • Ernest van der Kwast

    Ernest van de Kwast was born in Mumbai, India. He has his breakthrough as a writer with the autobiographical novel Mama Tandoori (2010), that became a bestseller in the Netherlands and Italy. In 2015 the novel De ijsmaker was released, which won the Dioraphte Literatour Prijs, and in 2016 Het wonder dat niet omvalt. In 2016/’17 he was Free Writer at the VU Amsterdam.

  • Emma van Muiswinkel

    Actrice Emma van Muiswinkel performed in plays like Bär and Onze Kersentuin. She also acted in plays produced by the Haarlemse Schouwburg, like Hemels Haarlem and Kenau.

  • Bart Sietsema

    Actor Bart Sietsema performed in musical stage shows like Orfeo and Illias. He also played a role in the series Hollands Hoop. Besides acting Bart also composes music for several theatre companies.