Opening of the Academic Year 2021 - 2022

Wageningen University & Research annually celebrates the Opening of the Academic Year. Renowned speakers share their views on a current topic. On 6 September, the Opening of the Academic Year 2021-2022 took place. To guarantee a healthy and safe environment in this corona time, this year’s Opening of the Academic Year was mainly an online event.

  • Opening of the academic year

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Crossing Boundaries

Science and Art have often been put in juxtaposition: ratio versus emotion. Wrongly so, as they are both facets of our collective ingenuity. They share the desire to explore the world around us but do so in different ways, yet encounter similar problems of serendipity and failure. They create new insights and objects, and even new living beings by challenging and crossing boundaries. During this event we will look at how, in our field, science and art have sought inspiration from one another and how they are both part of the great public dialogue about our human future.

Read more about our speakers and leading young scientists

John van der Oost

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Read more about John van der Oost

John van der Oost (1958) obtained his PhD at the Free University (Amsterdam 1989). After postdoc positions at Helsinki University and EMBL-Heidelberg he returned to Amsterdam in 1992 with an KNAW fellowship. Since 1995 he is group leader of the Bacterial Genetics group in the Laboratory of Microbiology at Wageningen University. John was appointed Full Professor in 2005. The first ten years, his group focused on discovery of novel enzymes, pathways and regulatory systems, using integrated approaches of molecular genetics/genomics, biochemistry and laboratory evolution. From 2005 onwards, a new research line was initiated, addressing microbial host-virus interactions, including CRISPR-Cas and Argonaute (selected grants: NWO-VICI, NWO-TOP (2x), NWO-TOP; ERC AdG). In addition, he is PI of the NWO gravitation project (2017) that aims at Building a Synthetic Cell. He has been coordinator of an EU project and a Marie Curie Research Training Network. He was elected as member of EMBO (2013), the Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts and Sciences (KNAW, 2017), the Royal Dutch Society for Science and Humanities (KHMW, 2019), and the Academia Europaea (2019). He is author of >300 peer-reviewed scientific papers (>40,000 citations), and has an H-index >85. He is inventor of >30 patents, co-founder/advisor of NTrans Technologies and advisor of SCOPE Biosciences and Hudson River Biotechnology. In 2018 he received the Spinoza prize (NWO), and in 2020 the Lennart Philipson Award (EMBL).

Ernst van den Ende

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Read more about Ernst van den Ende

Ernst van den Ende (1962) studied Plant Pathology at Wageningen University and took his PhD at the Phytopathology Chair Group. He then worked as scientist at several research stations in the fields of fruit cultivation and horticulture. Research by the WUR research stations has a strong regional focus. When the Greenports were established in the Netherlands, Ernst participated in several advisory councils where he contributed to the shaping of regional innovation.

Since 1 September 2009 he is Managing Director of the Plant Sciences Group (PSG) of Wageningen University & Research.

Since February 2011 Ernst is a member of the Topteam Horticulture and Starting materials.

Justus Wesseler

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Read more about Justus Wesseler

Prof. Dr. Justus Wesseler holds the chair in Agricultural Economics and Rural Policy at Wageningen University, The Netherlands. He has a degree in agricultural, environmental and natural resource economics from the University of Göttingen, Germany. His research work is on bioeconomy economics and policies. The major focus is on the contribution of value chains to improve sustainability and the impact of new technologies and regulations on the value chain in this respect. He is member of the International Consortium of Applied Bioeconomy Research (ICABR) and editor of the Palgrave series on bioeconomy economics and policies. He has been involved in a number of small and large scale international research project as team member and/or coordinator and been invited to serve as an adviser in academia and research. Currently he is the coordinator of the EU funded project Monitoring the Bioeconomy (BioMonitor) and a member of the EU High Level Expert Group to assess the needs, potential, feasibility and approach for an International Platform for Food Systems Science.

Wen Wu

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Read more about Wen Wu

Wen Ying Wu, born and raised in Aruba (1991), obtained her BSc in Biotechnology (2013) at Wageningen University and Research with a minor in wine and beer technology at Cornell University in the USA. In 2015, She obtained her MSc degree in Molecular Biotechnology at the Wageningen University and Research. During her MSc, she participated in the iGEM competition (a synthetic biology competition), where her team got 2nd place worldwide for the graduate division. After iGEM, Wen did her internship at Imperial College London. She obtained her PhD in 2021 in the Laboratory of Microbiology at Wageningen University under the supervision of Prof. John van der Oost and Dr. Raymond Staals. During her PhD, she studied type V CRISPR-Cas systems. In particular, she studied the molecular mechanism of type V CRISPR-Cas systems, and how they function as an adaptive immune system in bacteria against viruses. Using the proteins that she studied, she also repurposed them into genome editing tools. Wen is currently a postdoc in the Laboratory of Microbiology engineering and improving CRISPR-Cas proteins for better genome editing.

Nikita Sajeev

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Read more about Nikita Sajeev

Nikita Sajeev obtained her MSc. degree in Plant Biotechnology at Wageningen University and Research (WUR). For her MSc. thesis, She worked under the supervision of Dr. Yanxia Zhang at the department of plant physiology. Here, she studied the role of Strigolactones in promoting the germination of  root parasitic plant Striga. Nikita’s studied the molecular mechanism by which Striga seeds are able to sense and germinate in the presence of strigolactones, a hormone released by the host plant. Knowledge from this project could help mitigate the devastating yield losses caused by Striga to major food crops like rice and sorghum.

Currently, Nikita is a PhD candidate working under the supervision of Prof. Leonie Bentsink at the department of Plant Physiology, WUR. Her research focuses on the role of RNA binding proteins (RBPs) in the translational control of seed germination. Seeds are a unique system to study translational control, as they provide an exclusive ON/OFF switch for protein production when they transition from a dry state to a completely hydrated state during germination. Nikita aims to understand the molecular mechanism by which specific RBPs help the seeds sense their environment and make the crucial decision - whether to germinate or not. This is extremely important to ensure seedling establishment. RBPs could hence be used as tools to fine-tune germination in agriculture and under challenging environmental conditions.

Apart from research, Nikita is passionate about open and honest science communication. She wants to bridge the gap between science and society. This led her to co-start the GeneSprout Initiative- A young researcher initiative for open dialogue on New plant breeding techniques.

Maximilian Kardung

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Read more about Maximilian Kardung

Maximilian Kardung is a Ph.D. candidate at the Agricultural Economics and Rural Policy Group, Wageningen University. Before this, he received his MSc degree in Urban Environmental Management with a specialization in Environmental Economics. For his MSc thesis, he worked with Wageningen Economic Research on the governance of natural areas in the Netherlands.

Currently, he is working under the supervision of Prof. Justus Wesseler (Agricultural Economics and Rural Policy Group) and Dr. Dusan Drabik (Agricultural Economics and Rural Policy group). His research focuses on measuring and monitoring the bioeconomy. The research employs quantitative and qualitative methods to assess the economic, social, and environmental impacts of transitioning from a fossil-based economy to a bio-based economy. This transition towards a bioeconomy is driven by trends in Technology and Innovation, Market Organization, Climate Change, Resource Availability, Consumer Demand, and Policy and Legislation. Maximilian aims to understand the influence of these driving forces, which is vital for measuring and monitoring the development of the bioeconomy.

He is working in the EU Horizon 2020 project BioMonitor, which aims to establish a sustainable statistics and modelling framework for the bioeconomy.

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