Pitch sessions 2016

Global one health

Jamal-Roskam

Jamal Roskam

Research Summary
Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest threats for both human and animal health. The aim of this research was to provide a comprehensive supply chain based conceptual framework that includes an inventory of all main measures and strategies that could affect the risks of human exposure to antimicrobial resistance.

Personal Summary

Jamal Roskam holds an M.Sc. from Wageningen University. Currently, he is a Ph.D. student at the Business Economics Group of Wageningen University. His current research focuses on economic decision-making support on reducing risks of human exposure to antimicrobial resistance through broiler and pig supply chains.

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Floor Biemans

Research Summary
Two main traits affecting transmission of infectious diseases are host susceptibility and host infectivity. We set out to estimate genetic differences among hosts both in susceptibility and infectivity during an epidemic. Genomic information and observations on disease phenotypes are combined to determine which genomic regions affect disease transmission.

Personal Summary

In 2013 I obtained my Master in Animal Sciences at Wageningen University. After graduating I started my PhD at the Quantitative Veterinary Epidemiology group and the Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre. In this PhD, I develop methods to estimate genetic differences in host susceptibility and infectivity for infectious diseases, with a focus on Digital Dermatitis in dairy cattle.

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Lione Willems

Research Summary
Viruses are highly effective DNA and RNA carriers and therefore interesting vehicles for applications like drug delivery. While these virus-based delivery vehicles bring safety issues, artificial viruses are a safer option. These artificial viruses may be composed of synthetic proteins that mimic the functions of natural virus proteins. Our goal is to design such a synthetic protein which specifically binds to a DNA template and forms an artificial virus with the DNA wrapped inside.

Personal Summary
I started my studies in Utrecht in 2008, where I studied Biomedical Sciences. I got interested in the field of virology and after obtaining my MSc degree I found this interesting PhD position on the design of an artificial virus in the group of Physical Chemistry and Soft Matter at Wageningen University.

Resource use efficiency

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Gurnoor Singh

Research Summary
A central research question to many breeding companies and breeding research institutes is to find cost-effective manners for breeding crops with pre-defined characteristics and environmental conditions. Breeding research programs, especially the ones that use modern ˜omics technologies, produce a huge amount of experimental data possibly containing novel insights within the scope of every experiment.

Personal Summary
I am Gurnoor Singh, a young researcher pursuing PhD in Wageningen UR, Netherlands. I am an Indian citizen, coming from northern part of India from the state of Punjab. I have a professional background in Bioinformatics and both my graduation (Jaypee University, India) and post-graduation (University of Bonn, Germany) studies focused in the said domain. I am working on a Big data integration project entitled: Prediction of candidate genes using interoperable genome annotations and literature, in the guidance of Dr. Richard Finkers and Dr. Richard Visser.

Fang Gou

Fang Ghou

Research Summary
Intercropping is the cultivation of two or more crop species simultaneously in the same field, it is widely practiced by smallholders around the world. Due to the complementary resource use in time and/or space among different species, intercropping tends to have a higher productivity than traditional sole crops. Moreover, by increasing biodiversity and environmental heterogeneity at field scale, intercropping has stronger abilities to suppress pests and diseases than its corresponding sole crops. When non-legume species intercropped with legume species, intercropping may improve soil fertility through biological nitrogen fixation and increase protein content in non-legume crops.

Personal Summary
Fang Gou is from southwest of China, she is a PhD candidate in the Centre for Crop Systems Analysis. She is doing research on wheat-maize strip-relay intercropping system, which is widely practiced by farmers in Northwest China. Her objectives are to investigate the mechanisms of intercropping productivities and resource use efficiencies, and to explore the potential yields of intercropping by means of experimentations and simulations.

Franca Bongers

Franca Bongers

Research Summary

Maximizing plant growth and reproduction per unit land area is often the objective in production systems; it has also been the guiding principle in much plant ecological and eco physiological research. The strategy that would be selected for depends on the way plants interact and compete for light with each other. I use a combination of 3D virtual plant modelling and competition experiments to elucidate how natural selection may have acted on these leaf responses. Finally, I want to test whether natural selection indeed runs counter to maximum land use efficiency at the community level.

Personal Summary
I am Franca, 27 years old and call myself a real plant biologist because I think plants are fascinating organisms. My main interest is understanding plant responses to environmental signals, in which I integrate physiological and ecological processes. Besides my fascination for plants, I love to travel around the world to explore different countries, experience diverse cultures and nature. Of course, as a true biologist I do this through camping and hiking, learning more about these new places by really experiencing them.

Resilience

Eline de Jong

Eline de Jong

Research Summary
In my PhD project I investigate resilience in social-ecological systems. Pressures on social-ecological systems are increasing, and therefore resilience becomes more important. When external pressure is applied to social-ecological systems, it reveals their underlying structure and its embedded resilience, or the lack of it. To understand its structure and resilience, I will use two modelling methods, system dynamics and agent-based modelling.

Personal Summary
Last January, I started as a PhD student at Information Technology Group and Research Methodology Group. Before this PhD I did a master in System Dynamics in Norway, Portugal, and the Netherlands, where my interest in systems thinking grew. I want to apply systems thinking to urgent issues in social-ecological systems to help people understand those systems better, and help to let the world be a better place.

Daniela-Bustos-Korts

Daniela Bustos Korts

Research Summary
Crops relevant for food security are grown in a large range of environmental conditions, which are likely to increase with climate change. Fortunately, genotypes show different stability/resilience in response to environmental changes, allowing breeders to produce specific-adapted varieties. The production of specific-adapted varieties is more likely to succeed if more genotypes are evaluated during the selection process.

Personal Summary
My name is Daniela Bustos-Korts. I’m a last-year PhD student from Chile, working at the group of Mathematical and Statistical Methods. My background is in Agricultural Sciences and Crop Physiology (Universidad Austral de Chile). During my study, I got curious about the very large ability of plants to adapt to a wide range of growing conditions. Especially, about how genetic diversity allows us to get our food in the most diverse environments.

Sanne Gijzel

Sanne Gijzel

Research Summary
Sanne Gijzel applies dynamical systems theory to human health in order to become able to better understand and quantify human systemic resilience. By learning from novel insights in analysing resilience of different complex systems, she aims to identify critical transitions, tipping points and early warning signals in human health. Analysing the dynamics of the human complex system may offer new opportunities for the understanding, treatment and prevention of health transitions in elderly people.

Personal Summary
Sanne is a medical doctor with a passion for interdisciplinary research that can bridge the gap between scientific theory and the clinical practice. During her PhD project, she is being supervised by Prof. Dr. Marcel Olde Rikkert (doctor in geriatric medicine, Radboud UMC Nijmegen) and Prof. Dr. Marten Scheffer (Aquatic Ecology and Water Management, WUR). This unique collaboration provides fruitful opportunities for the exploration of resilience and critical transitions in the context of human health and ageing.

Metropolitan Solution

Wiebke-Klemm

Wiebke Klemm

Research Summary
Landscape architect Wiebke Klemm presents novel insights into cooling effects of urban green, like parks and street trees, and how this microclimate knowledge can be translated into applicable design guidelines based on a ‘Research through designing’ approach. On-going urbanisation and global climate change worldwide demand rethinking the design of urban areas: they need to be both, climate-responsive and liveable.

Personal Summary
Wiebke Klemm is landscape architect and quartermaster ‘Green Urban Planning and Design’ at the chair group of Landscape Architecture at Wageningen UR. Her work on resilient urban outdoor spaces builds upon her experience in both the professional and the scientific field of landscape architecture. At the moment she is in the final year of her PhD project.

Delaram Azari

Delaram Azari

Research Summary
Urban energy systems are undergoing significant changes. The emergence of low and zero carbon technologies and strategies, such as micro-generation and demand side management programs, change the nature of the consumers, and therefore, change energy demand profiles. Predicting energy demand profile on the local scale, considering changes in future energy systems, is the main bottleneck, and therefore focus of this research. .

Personal Summary
After finishing her MSc. studies in Sustainable Energy Technology at TU Delft, Delaram Azari started her PhD at sub-department of Environmental Technology, Wageningen University. Her work is on energy demand prediction for urban energy systems.


Lotte de Vos

Lotte de Vos

Research Summary
In recent years the number of amateur weather stations that share their measurements online has increased greatly. This crowdsourced data can add on or even improve traditional measurements. Especially since a large number of stations are placed in densely populated areas, much needed information is gathered on urban climate.

Personal Summary
After completing the Master Meteorology, Physical Oceanography and Climate in Utrecht, Lotte started her PhD in July 2015. Currently she works at Wageningen University and KNMI, where she did her master thesis project. Her PhD-project concerns the validation and combination of various crowdsourced data sources for the improvement of high resolution rainfall and temperature monitoring.

Synthetic biology

Martinus Schneijderberg

Martinus Schneijderberg

Research Summary
Microbial communities in the soil play a pivotal role in the functioning of plants. In fact, many plants species have a hard time even staying alive without the help of millions of bacteria, which feed on compounds released by the plant. The whole community – consisting of thousends of bacterial species – is called the “microbiome”, and every plant has its own: communities differ between plant species and even genotypes of species. My research focusses on the question how plants establish their own “microbiome” inside their roots and how they select for advantageous bacterial species. The most remarkable root structure which seems to influence the selection processes, is the very tip of the root: the lateral root cap.

Personal Summary
As a Bachelor student Liberal Arts and Sciences, I wandered around at the University of Utrecht. I ran into a variety of academic fields, each with their own ways of asking questions – and answering them. I got really attracted by the way (plant) biologists look at problems, how they set up experiments, and how they used plants as an elegant experimental system to unravel fundamental questions about “life”. I have a strong feeling that my broad basis combined with my focussed further education has led me to this exciting research; I’m now studying symbiotic interactions up to the molecular level, without losing the bigger (ecological) picture.

Robert Smith

Robert Smith

Research Summary
One of the key aims of Systems & Synthetic Biology is to get a better quantitative understanding of biological networks such that they can be exploited for our personal benefits. By combining experimental techniques with mathematics, physics and engineering, we can efficiently develop tools that possess robust and tuneable control of naturally occurring systems. Within our laboratory, we are currently investigating light-responsive synthetic networks that are gaining prominence in the optogenetics field. These tools allow us to non-invasively and instantaneously control biological systems simply through exposure to certain light qualities. As well as studying the systems functionality within a range of cell types, we are also aiming to create new tools and investigate applications that would be of interest to the biochemical and pharmaceutical industries.

Personal Summary
With a background in mathematics, my research applies modelling techniques to improve our understanding of biological phenomena. In my previous studies, I have focused on the links between environmental factors with plant development. I now look in more detail at the influence of light on both natural and synthetically constructed biological networks. Most notably, I focus on the functionality of such tools and their variation within different systems.

Bandan Chakrabortty

Bandan Chakrabortty

Research Summary
A key issue in plant developmental biology is to understand how directional growth and the subsequent oriented division of cells determine the morphogenesis of the whole organism. It is well known that the plant microtubule cytoskeleton plays a decisive role in both these processes. Our objective is therefore to investigate the dynamics of the cortical microtubule (CMT) network on a real 3D plant cell surface (the inner membrane cortex), their response towards changes in cell shape and its consequences in establishing an ordered CMT array prior to cell division. We are studying these mechanisms through a combination of experiments and computer simulations, along with some necessary theoretical studies.

We have built a simulation platform to investigate CMT dynamics on real 3D plant cell cortex. Plant morphogenesis seeds through first division of zygote and continue further by oriented divisions and growth of subsequent cells during plant embryogenesis. Using our model, we aim to explain the occurrence of these precisely oriented division planes through CMT dynamics and organization at different cell stages of plant embryogenesis.

Personal Summary
I am Bandan Chakrabortty, MSc. I am a physicists by training and currently working as a junior researcher at the group of Prof Ben Scheres, Plant Development Biology. I love applied mathematics and science of simple tricks.