Stimulating international contacts for young researchers through the HJS Fund

The HJS Fund invests in young agrobiologists and crop scientists to facilitate research in agrobiology and crop sciences. Special attention is given to sustainable food production.

Fund target group

PhD- and post doctoral students associated to Wageningen University and younger than 35 years of age receive one grant of maximum €1,500 per year for a study trip to a foreign university or research institute. The goal is for them to acquire more in-depth knowledge of their domain.

The impact of your gift

New contacts and feedback are important for the development of young researchers. Your gift gives researchers the chance to test their ideas elsewhere. The research they conduct in their domain has a positive effect in aiding to the solution of impending global food shortage.

Grant winners 2019

Niccoló Bassetti

Niccoló Bassetti participated in the XVIII IS-MPMI Congres thanks to a grant of the HJS Fund. Here he was able to gain knowledge about he latest highlights in the research of plant immunity and biotic stress resistance.

"The attendance of the Congress was very helpful for the scope of our project. Dr. Philippe Reymond, Principal Investigator of the only other lab working on plant defence against insect eggs, presented the discovery of the first insect egg-derived molecule that is recognized by the Arabidopsis immune system. This gave us the opportunity to discuss commonalities and differences between their system (Pieris- Arabidopsis) and ours (Pieris-Brassica).

Overall, I really enjoyed the collaborative spirit and the community feeling that seems to be present among the members of the MPMI Society. I found it to be very inspiring that one of the closing activity was a survey among the Society members to outline the TOP 10 research questions to be addressed in the coming years (see below for the complete list). It shows the dynamic character of the plant immunity community but also a certain self-critical attitude, which I consider one of the scientist's fundamental qualities in order to take up the new challenges that will keep arising from the agricultural sector and the human society. I would like to express my deepest gratitude for giving me the possibility to attend the IS-MPMI Congress."

Thomas Abrell

Thomas Abrell participated in the Farming System Design (FSD) Congress in Montevideo, Uruguay, thanks to the support of the HJS Fund. In the four years since his last FSD visit, he has seen the FSD community grow a lot.

"From a scientific point of view it was really interesting to see how the tools are performing better, how the specific research questions are more adapted, and also how the scales of analysis are changing and more stakeholders are getting involved.

I particularly enjoyed the field trip visit. Doing a PhD on family farming in the Amazon region, it was interesting to see how family farming in Uruguay takes place, a totally different region of Latin America. Agriculture there is much more comparable to agriculture in Europe."

Grant winners 2018

Alexandre Wadoux

Alexandre Wadoux used his grant for a work visit to the University of Sydney for a duration of nine weeks. Here he was able to do research under supervision of Prof. Budiman Minasny.

"In this period we investigated the use of proximal soil sensing as a cost-effective method to characterize the drivers of the soil quality. We had to develop a novel method to account for the use of different proximal soil sensors to estimate and map the total carbon of hte soil. This research has led to two publicated articles in SOIL and Geoderma. The director of the agricultural institute, Prof. Alex McBratney, offered me a 3-year post-doctoral position which could start at the end of my PhD. I accepted this very good offer and I thank the HJS fund for giving me the opportunity to go to Sydney!"

Femke Lutz

Femke Lutz was able to go to Fort Collins, Colorado, with the support of the HJS Fund, in order to collaborate with two prominent researchers working on a similar topic: tillage effects on N2O emissions on cropland.

"Both are working with a field scale model (Daycent), whereas I am working with a global ecosystem model (LPJmL). The idea was to conduct a modelling comparison together with observational data and see how the models are performing.

The visit to Colorado was very succesful in many aspects. First of all, the fruitful discussions helped me in getting to know much more on N2O emissions, which is a very important subject in my PhD. They seemed to be the experts on that field, which was very inspiring. Moreover, new ideas for papers popped up on which we hopefully will work in the future. Second, I broadened my network, which can be very helpful in my future career as time has come to start to look for new jobs. Third, it is very good to work in a team that is different than mine. It is nice to see how other groups work in solving complicated research questions.

From this stay, I learned a lot about myself and my research and I am VERY thankful I had this opportunity to experience this. Therefore I would like to say many thanks to the "Huub and Julienne Spiertz Fund", and I can advice all researchers to take an opportunity to go abroad as well."

Grant winners 2016

Antonino Cusumano

Antonino Cusumano used his grant for a visit to the XXV International Congress of Entomology (ICE 2016). This is the biggest conference of the history of entomology with about 6.500 scientists gathering from all over the world.

"During the conference, I followed sessions related to plant-insect interaction, chemical ecology and biological pest control thanks to the interdisciplinary structure of the ICE 2016 which is indeed one of the great advantages of attending this conference, in my opinion. In fact, I was able to interact with researchers from different fields, which was very useful to expand my networking activity.

My oral contribution, “Prospects of egg-killing defensive traits for sustainable crop protection” gave me the opportunity to present how our university is contributing to the development of plants resistant against insect pests. The audience was particularly interested in this novel line of research as demonstrated by the several questions I received.

I attended the plenary lectures of two Nobel Laureates (Dr. Jules A. Hoffmann, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2011 and Dr. Peter Agre Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2003). I was particularly fascinated to see how research in entomology can contribute to unravel key basic questions leading to major discover for mankind, especially in the case of dr. Hoffmann who started his career as an entomologist.

I thank the HJS fund for giving me the opportunity to be part of this great event."

Corien Voorburg

Corien Voorburg used her grant to visit the 5th international symposium on tomato diseases in Malaga, Spain.

" This conference was joined by about 150 researchers. This number made it possible to speak to many researchers and thereby expand my network within the field of tomato disease. This network will be important to find a job after I finish my PhD and can also be important for my current research. I spoke to some researchers who are working with comparable systems and I see possibilities to set up collaborations with their groups. I got the chance to meet other plant virologists during my poster presentation and had interesting discussions with them. Several suggestions were made to follow up on my current results, which will be beneficial in the remaining 2 years of my PhD. I also discussed my findings with researchers working with other pathogens, which was very renewing. These discussions resulted in plans for new experiments.

One of the days a technical visit was scheduled, during which we visited a commercial tomato greenhouse. In this greenhouse, the virus I am working on proveed to be a major problem last year. “My virus” does not occur in the Netherlands, so it was very interesting to meet people who really suffer from the yield loss caused by this virus. For me this forms an extra motivation to work hard and to find out more about this virus, to result in a better solution."

Success stories

Jantiene Baartman has a master degree in Soil Sciences and her PhD research focused on soil erosion processes. She successfully defended her thesis on 9 May 2012. She currently works as a post doc-researcher and teaches in the Soil Physics and Land Management (SLM) study programme at Wageningen University. She combined soil sciences, hydrology and geomorphology for her PhD research.

Jantiene used the HJS subsidy to present her thesis at the conference ‘European Geosciences Union’ (EGU) in Vienna and to network with international top researchers there. She hopes to gain new ideas for future research but also to create opportunities for joint cooperation on international projects. Taking the scope and parameters of the conference into account, this was the ideal place for a young researcher to meet experts from various research domains.

Gisella Cruz Garcia teaches at the chair group Sociology of Consumers and Households and is a PhD student in the departments of Plant Sciences and Social Sciences at Wageningen University. The subsidy allowed Gisella to attend the ‘International Society of Ethnobiology’ in Montpellier, France, from 20-25 May 2012. There, she presented the results of her doctoral research ‘Management, distribution and local uses of wild trees in Northeast Thai agro-ecosystems’. As a Dutch representative, Gisella also took place as member of the board of the International Society of International Ethnobiology. Lastly, she was responsible for the organisation and awarding of a student prize.

Prior to the congress, Gisella co-organised a two-day workshop and was member of its advisory committee. The workshop named, ‘Brick by Brick: laying the foundations for future biocultural diversity research’, offered a full programme and ample opportunity for networking, thereby, opening doors to possible future partnerships.

Jantiene Baartman
Jantiene Baartman
 Gisella Cruz Garcia
Gisella Cruz Garcia

Interview Mr. and Mrs. Spiertz

Mr. and Mrs. Spiertz

21 May 2015 prof. Huub Spiertz deceased. The Fund will be proceed by his wife Julienne.

Professor Huub Spiertz, emeritus professor Crop Ecology at Wageningen University, decided to create a Fund on Name when he turned 70 years old in 2011.

He and his wife, Julienne Spiertz, want to offer PhD students and post docs the chance to acquire foreign experience in crop science and agrobiology by providing funding for their study trips.

Discovery trip

Huub Spiertz says, “Young researchers must be given the chance to discover what the scientific world has to offer. They often have little opportunity to acquire new scientific contacts outside of Wageningen University. Especially at the beginning of their PhD, much attention is placed inwards while that is the ideal time to gain ideas from outside;  to test their ideas, to gain feedback and to exchange a train of thought. Attending congresses is usually done during the last phase of promotion but without a concrete goal, young researchers can get lost in the masses.”

New Contacts

New contacts and feedback are essential for the development of researchers. Huub Spiertz personally experienced this during his own promotion in the seventies. “I received little enthusiastic feedback back then for my research idea within my discipline. That is, not until I met renowned Australian scientist Dr. Lloyd Evans who was immediately enthusiastic. It was the impulse I needed otherwise I may have never started my thesis research.”

Spiertz counselled many PhD students as professor. His status as emeritus professor in 2006, however, was not a prelude to his retirement from his work and chair group. He wrote articles, judged manuscripts and gave students practical feedback. This way, he maintained weekly contact with young researchers.

The chair group has a large international network that PhD students and post docs can profit from. According to Spiertz, “I worked with wheat a lot. It’s a very international crop and it’s being worked on everywhere in the world. A study trip to a foreign university or institute allows researchers to stay in touch with new developments and innovations in their specific domains. Not everything happens at Wageningen, there is much on offer elsewhere too.”

Offering Chances

The Spiertzes have been active with the development of young people for a long time. Julienne Spiertz worked as a volunteer with refugees and they support the foundation for refugee students, UAF. Through the Rotary, Huub Spiertz was in touch with young talents during its education weekends. “It was fun to see the effects of such a weekend,” says Huub Spiertz. “I wanted the same for young agrobiologists.” He doesn’t see his contribution through this fund as charity though, “Our generation had the wind beneath our wings. But now that times are unsure and budgets are tight, young people must be given a chance. I see it as an investment: you know your goal and you know the people. A contribution from this fund gives agrobiologists and crop scientists extra opportunities and that contributes to the overall profession. For all who donate to charity, or request money at a party for charity, ask yourself whether or not to donate to a niche fund or to another one of UFW-funds!”

Global Food Shortage

Although now retired, the challenge faced by impending global food shortage is still very close to Spiertz’s heart. Spiertz believes that crop science can play a large role in finding solutions. “Wheat, rice and corn together provide for 70% of our energy demands. There are so many ways to produce these three crops more efficiently and sustainably. A lot of attention is given to genetics, but a lot can also be achieved if we change our approach to water usage and nutrients.”  Besides the quantities, the actual moment that water and nutrients are available is also important. “Good timing allows for the optimum growth and development of crops.”

2011

Trustees

The HJS Board of Trustees is comprised of:

  • Mrs Vivian Spiertz, family representative
  • Prof. Dr. Ir. P.C. Struik, professor
  • Dr. P. Reidsma, Plant Sciences Group Wageningen UR

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