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Winners thesis awards natural sciences announced

14 December 2022
Each year, the Programme Committee for the Bachelor’s in Medical Natural Sciences and the Master’s in Biomedical Technology and Physics presents thesis awards to students. This year, Pauline van de Drift received the Master’s Thesis Award and Julia Meijer was the recipient of the Bachelor’s Thesis Award.

A total of six students were nominated for these prizes this year. The research conducted by the students was very diverse: from fundamental physics research to designing new diagnostic methods to help improve quality and workflows in hospitals. Last month the nominees were given the opportunity to present their graduation research in a short pitch. The audience, consisting of students, their family members and several lecturers, were then asked to vote on the winner.

The structure of pyramidal cells
Julia Meijer won the Bachelor’s Thesis Award from Medical Natural Sciences for her research entitled “Morphological analysis of layer 5 and 6 pyramidal cells in the human neocortex”. She conducted research into the structure of pyramidal cells in layers 5 and 6 of the human neocortex – the outer layers of the brain – to gain more insight into human cell types. Meijer: “A lot is already known about this for mice, but this has not yet been mapped out for humans. Before you can truly understand how cells deviate in patients with brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, it is first important to map the structure of healthy cells. Otherwise you cannot compare them and discover where things possibly go wrong.” The results are already being used in education to show what human pyramidal cells in the neocortex look like and what the importance is of mapping all human pyramidal cell types. 

Generating a chemical profile at crime scenes
Pauline van de Drift received the Master’s Thesis Award from Biomedical Technology and Physics for her study entitled “Functionalization Methods and Optimization of Biosensing with Silicon Microring Resonators.” The identification of victims, perpetrators and persons involved at crime scenes is typically done by matching the characteristic patterns of fingerprints to fingerprints in a database. When fingerprints at the scene are poor quality, matching is not always possible. In her thesis, Van de Drift researched a better way of locating biomarkers in fingerprints using microring resonators, a type of imaging technique. The findings of this study contribute to the development of a new type of sensor that can generate a chemical profile based on finger prints at crime scenes. Van de Drift: “This will allow professionals to find out the blood type and the gender of the persons involved in a shorter period of time. Identification will be faster and the information can be used as evidence in forensic investigations.”

Diverse research
The topics studied by the other nominees were also very diverse. One student conducted fundamental physics research into gaining knowledge of sub-diffuse light scattering, to be used in the development of better sensors for diagnosing patients in the future. Another student researched whether MRI images could be used to find out faster if the condition of patients suffering from Fabry disease is worsening.

During the award ceremony, prizes were also awarded to lecturers of the two degree programmes. Students were able to vote on this in advance. Stan Heukelom (department of Radiotherapy, Amsterdam UMC) and Theo Faes (department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, Amsterdam UMC) were voted lecturers of the year for the Bachelor’s in Medical Natural Sciences and the Master’s in Biomedical Technology and Physics.

Image: left Julia Meijer, right Pauline van de Drift