Winners Thesis Award 2022

Thesis Award

Each year four Wageningen University & Research students are awarded a prize for their thesis’ level of excellence by the University Fund Wageningen. One prize is awarded per education domain. The four domains are: Life Sciences, Social Sciences, Environmental Sciences, and Agrotechnology and Food Sciences.

Winners Thesis Award 2022

Four writers of excellent MSc theses won the Thesis Award 2022 from the University Fund Wageningen. Dana Verhoeven won in the field of life sciences with her thesis on light-capturing mechanisms during photosynthesis in plant leaves. She published her findings in an academic journal and even broke through an accepted dogma in plant physiology. Her outstanding research and academic achievements led her to be crowned as the overall winner. Lisa Boterman, Max van Deursen and Aimee Kok wrote the best theses within the domains of environmental sciences, social sciences and agrotechnology and food sciences.

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Jury members 2022

The jury members for this year are:

  • Francine Govers, Life Sciences

  • Oene Oenema, Environmental Sciences

  • Prof.dr. Wim Heijman, Social Sciences

  • Prof. dr. ir.  Kees de Graaf, Agrotechnology and Food Sciences

The 2021 winners

Four WUR students were awarded prizes on June 17th during the award ceremony of the Thesis Award 2021 of the University Fund Wageningen. Corentin Bisot won in the field of environmental sciences with his thesis on the growth behavior of soil fungi and was honored as the overall winner. According to the jury, Selena Koene, Carolina Sarzana and Sanne Put wrote the best theses within the domains of life sciences, social sciences and agrotechnology and food sciences.

For his master's thesis, Corentin Bisot (MSc Earth and Environment) conducted research into the growth behavior of so-called Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi under various environmental conditions. These soil fungi create large, complex underground networks and form a symbiotic relationship with various plants and trees. They pass on nutrients from the soil to the plant, and in return receive carbon resources. A well-functioning network can make a positive contribution to the nutrient cycle in agricultural systems, and a better understanding of how these underground networks grow can give us clues on how to stimulate optimal symbiosis.

Growth and branching of fungus

Bisot looked at the effects of temperature and the presence of nutrients in the soil on the way the fungus grows and branches out. He did this by an enormous amount of high-resolution photographs of the growth of the fungus in petri dishes under different conditions, for which he used a recently developed robotic set-up. He then analyzed this data with various algorithms and was able to come to some interesting conclusions about the growth of the fungi. For example, the fungi grow faster at high temperatures, adapt their growth patterns to existing structures, and branch out more when there is an uneven distribution of insoluble nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil.

Bisot not only made use of new techniques and brought to light interesting findings, but he also proved to be a good writer, according to the jury: “His thesis is well-structured, well-illustrated and well-written; basically, it reads like a novel, in which the reader becomes eager to learn how the next hurdles have been taken.”Bisot's findings contribute to the development of a model that can be used in an agronomic context. Before that happens, however, a lot of research still needs to be done on other aspects of the growth of these fungi.

Award ceremony

The award ceremony took place on campus for the first time in two years this year, during a special day for donors, the Friends of the University Fund Wageningen, who financially support the Thesis Award. The winners received their prize in the presence of dozens of Friends, the jury members, the winners, supervisors and chair holders, and family and friends of the winners.

Other winners and theses

Agrotechnology and Food Sciences

Selena Koene, Plant Biotechnology & Molecular Life Science
Thesis title: Biomolecular condensates as vaccine delivery systems
Supervisor: Siddharth Deshpande (Physical Chemistry and Soft Matter)

Social Sciences

Carolina Sarzana, Organic Agriculture
Thesis title: Social-ecological resilience of the shea butter value chain upstream end: the case of Beninese shea agroforestry parklands
Supervisor: Verina Ingram (Forest & Nature Policy), Paul Struik (Crop Systems Analysis)

Life Sciences

Sanne Put, Plant Biotechnology
Thesis title: Unraveling nuclear natural variation under fluctuating light conditions reveals the complexity of photosynthesis
Supervisor: Tom Theeuwen and Mark Aarts (Laboratory of Genetics)

The 2020 winners

University Fund Wageningen has granted the Thesis Award of 2020 to four students from Wageningen University & Research. Peter La Follette won within the domain of environmental sciences and was honoured as overall winner. Within the other domains Patrick Barendse, Wisse van Engelen en Lianne Remie received prizes.

Errors in algorithms and AI

Peter La Follette wrote his winning thesis “Numerical daemons of hydrological models are summoned by extreme precipitation” under the supervision of Lieke Melsen and Ryan Teuling for the Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management chair group. In his thesis, La Follette focused on errors in measurements and models of predictions of extreme precipitation conditions and their expected changes due to climate change. La Follette not only showed a high level of skill in his modelling, his focus on understanding errors in modelling could also count on the jury’s approval.

Peter La Follette. Photo by Guy Ackermans.
Peter La Follette. Photo by Guy Ackermans.

With this, La Follette also opens up a larger issue, namely the increasing use of algorithms and artificial intelligence in everyday life. The jury: ‘It is unrealistic to think that in a modern society we can do without artificial intelligence, and without algorithms. But if we use them, then it is of paramount importance that we understand their behaviour, and especially what happens if erroneous input takes place.’

According to the jury, there is too little awareness of the occurrence of errors in models and their implications for further calculations. Therefore, according to the jury, crowning this thesis with the Thesis Award should be interpreted as a signal to WUR researchers and students that it is important to pay more attention to this.


La Follette is currently working on a publication based on his research for which he won the thesis prize and on his second thesis. For this, in addition to his former supervisors, he is also working with a team of researchers from the Eel River Critical Zone Observatory. Moreover, he has been working on a number of independent hydrological modelling projects. As the overall winner he received €1000 and a bronze sculpture of the 'Wageningen tree' by Sjoerd Buisman. The other three domain winners each received €500.

Online award ceremony

Due to COVID-19, the award ceremony took place online again this year and was attended by the jury members, the winners, supervisors and chair holders, Friends of UFW, and family and friends of the winners. This year's jury chairman was Dr. Paul Hebinck. Rector Arthur J.P. Mol provided the introduction.

The full jury consisted of:

  • Dr. Paul Hebinck, social sciences
  • Prof. dr. ir. Maarten Koornneef, life sciences
  • Prof. dr. Herbert Prins, environmental sciences
  • Prof. dr. Grietje Zeeman, agrotechnology and food sciences

Other winning theses

Agrotechnology and Food sciences

Lianne Remie, Human Nutrition

Title thesis: ‘Alzheimer-related activation of microglial cells caused by intestinal barrier exposure to LPS, DON, H2O2 or Ibuprofen

Supervisor: Wilma Steegenga; chair holder: Sander Kersten

Lianne Remie
Lianne Remie

Social Sciences

Wisse van Engelen, Forest and Nature Conservation

Title thesis: ‘The Park Multiple: The Politics of Conservation Tourism Partnerships’

Supervisor: Esther Turnhout; chair holder: Marielos Pena Claros (since 1 January 2021)

The article about Wisse published by FNP can be found here.

Wisse van Engelen. Photo by Guy Ackermans.
Wisse van Engelen. Photo by Guy Ackermans.

Life Sciences

Patrick Barendse, Molecular Life Sciences

Title thesis: “Expanding the CRISPR toolbox using thermostable Cas9 variants. Genome editing and base editing in E. coli and human cell-lines”

Supervisor: Ioannis Mougiakos, Despoina Trasanidou, Laura de Haan; chair holders: Thijs Ettema (Microbiology) en Yvonne Rietjens (Toxicology)

Patrick Barendse. Photo by Guy Ackermans.
Patrick Barendse. Photo by Guy Ackermans.

Read the full news article here.

The 2019 winners

The UFW-KLV Thesis Award was presented to four excellent master students on 11 June 2020. Due to the circumstances, the ceremony took place online via a Skype connection. In addition to the four lucky winners and jury members, chair holders, supervisors and friends and family of the winners were also present.

The winner of the overall thesis prize, chosen from 28 nominations, is Jasper Roebroek. Jasper wrote his winning thesis 'Global distribution of hydrologic controls on forest growth' under the supervision of Ryan Teuling, Lieke Melsen and Remko Uijlenhoet, for the Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management chair group. The jury was impressed by the quality and impact of Jasper's work, as well as the independence with which he worked and his holistic approach.

The other winners and their theses are:

Agrotechnology and Food SciencesJavier F. Reynoso Lobo, BiotechnologyTitle thesis: DARK PHOTOSYNTHESIS: Hydrogen and far red light based growth of a Spirulina platensis enriched microbiomeSupervisor: David Strik; chair holder: Cees Buisman

Social SciencesRoman Meier, International Development StudiesTitle thesis: Identity Negotiation of Indigenous Peoples in the Process of Rural-Urban MigrationSupervisor: Bram Jansen; chair holder: Bram Buscher

Life SciencesDries Hulst, Animal SciencesTitle thesis: Genetic epidemiological analysis of endemic diseasesSupervisor: Piter Bijma, Mart de Jong; chair holder: Martien A.M. Groenen

The jury members for this year were:

Prof. dr. ir. Tiny van Boekel, Agrotechnology and Food SciencesProf. dr. Matthijs Schouten, Environmental SciencesProf. dr. ir. Maarten Koornneef, Life SciencesDr. Paul Hebinck, Social Sciences

Jasper Roebroek
Jasper Roebroek
Javier F. Reynoso Lobo
Javier F. Reynoso Lobo
Roman Meier
Roman Meier
Dries Hulst
Dries Hulst

The 2018 winners

On Monday 17 June, the Thesis Award 2018 was awarded during a celebratory event. In 2018 a total of 34 theses were submitted.

These are the four winners of 2018:

Environmental Sciences Adria Fontrodona Bach, Hydrology and Quantative Water Management Group Title thesis: "Widespread decrease of snow depth of Europe from in-situ observations." Supervisors: dr. ir. Ryan Teuling en Lieke Melsen, PhD, MSc

Social Sciences Coen Frederiks, Agricultural economics and rural policy group Title thesis: "Better safe than sorry? The costs of the EU's registration procedure for microbial biocontrol agents Supervisor: prof. dr. Justus Wesseler

Life Sciences Margaretha Veltman, Biosystematics group Title thesis: "Domestication and dispersal of African Rice (Oryza glaberrima): from West Africa to the Americas." Supervisor: prof. dr. M. Eric Schranz

Agrotechnology & Food Sciences Sten ten Klooster, Food Process Engineering Title thesis: "The two monodisperse droplet formation mechanisms unravelled." Supervisors: prof. dr. ir. Karen Schroen en prof. dr. ir. Joris Sprakel

Overall winner: Margaretha Veltman, Biosystematics Margaretha Veltman has won the KLV-UFW Thesis Award 2018. She received the prize for her interdisciplinary thesis in which she combined high quality bioinformatics with historical and social questions. With her findings on the origin of African rice through her research in the history of slave trade, she has made an important contribution to the knowledge about this crop.

Read the article in Resource.

Photos: © Guy Ackermans

The 2017 winners

In 2017, a total of 18 theses were submitted. A winner has been selected per domain. The overall winner has been announced during the opening of the 'Month of Education' on 24 April 2018.These are the four winners of 2017: Environmental sciences Ewout Knoester, Marine Animal Ecology Group Title thesis: Mariculturing Coral Nearby Fish Communities of natural reefs: are the benefits of algae pastures greater than the cost of Coral Predation? Supervisor: Dr. Ronald Osinga Chair holder: Prof. Dr. Tinka Murk

Social sciences Giulia Sirna, Food Safety Law Title thesis: "A functional comparison of non-tariff trade barriers for the example of food trade in the EU, the US and the international trade order" Supervisors: Dr. Kai Purnhagen, Prof. Dhr. Bernd van der Meulen Chair holder: Nadia Bernaz Life sciences Mihris Naduthodi, Biotechnology Title thesis: Metabolic Engineering of Bacillus smithii for the production of succinic acid Supervisor: Ioannis Mougiakos Chair holder: Prof. John van der Oost Agrotechnology & Food Sciences Ralph van Zwieten, Food Process Engineering Title thesis: Clogging in membrane filtration systems: the transition from dead-end to cross-flow Supervisors: Ties van de Laar, ir. Joris Sprakel Chair holder: Prof. ir. Karin Schroen

Overall winner: Mihris Naduthodi, BiotechnologyBy comparing the four UFW-KLV Thesis Award winners, the jury unanimously judged that the thesis of Mihris Naduthodi stood out in terms of complexity and novelty.

It involved a state of the art fundamental research on the molecular properties of the recently discovered ThermoCas9 enzyme. This led to a high impact paper in Nature Communications. This fundamental research also formed the basis for the development of a new genome editing tool, which is part of a patent that has been filed. This extends the CRISPR-Cas toolbox by which mutations can be introduced with great precision. Among other things, it can be used to create bacterial factories that can produce platform chemicals in a sustainable way, by which the use of crude oil can be reduced. This is really a big achievement and therefore Mihris Naduthodi has become the overall winner of the UFW-KLV Thesis Award 2017 of Wageningen University.

The 2016 winners

In 2016, in total 35 theses were sent in. Per domain one winner was selected and one overall winner.These are the four winners of 2016:Environmental sciencesAnnemerel Mol, Environmental TechnologyTitle thesis: "Bioelectro chemical battery"Supervisors: Sam Molenaar MSc, dr. ir. Tom Sleutels, dr. ir. Annemiek ter HeijneChair group holder: prof. dr. ir. Cees BuismanSocial sciencesJorieke Vaanhold, Economics, Environment and GovernanceTitle thesis: "Price determination in the electricity imbalance market"Supervisor: dr. Edwin van der WerfChair group holder: prof. dr Ekko van IerlandLife sciencesJoëlle Janssen, Nutrition and HealthTitle thesis: "A new immune regulatory role of isoleucine and valine: Shaping macrophage polarization states"Supervisor: dr. Vincent de BoerChair group holder: prof. dr. Jaap KeijerAgrotechnology and Food sciencesJustin Tauber, Molecular Life SciencesTitle thesis: "Dopant dynamics in weak crystals"Supervisor: dr. ir. Joris SprakelChair group holder: prof. dr. ir. Jasper van der GuchtOverall winnerJustin Tauber, master student Molecular Life Sciences

The 2015 winners

In 2015, in total 21 theses were sent in. Per domain one winner was selected and one overall winner.

These are the four winners of 2015:

Environmental SciencesShengle Huang, Environmental SciencesTitle thesis: "Optimization of methanol-based mixed culture chain elongation"Supervisor: dr. ir. David P.B.T.B Strik, MSc W.S. ChenChair group holder: prof. dr. ir. Huub H.M. Rijnaarts

Social sciencesBas Groeneveld, Management, Economics & Consumer StudiesTitle thesis: "Examining economic fluctuations and agribusiness strategies: A longitudinal perspective on economic fluctuations, Western agribusiness strategies and performance"Supervisor: dr. E.F.M. WubbenChair group holder: prof. dr. S.W.F. Omta

Life sciencesAnnelieke Wentzel, Animal SciencesTitle thesis: "Koi herpesvirus Il10: Bioactivity and signalling pathway"Supervisor: M. Forlenza MSc, dr. M.C. Piazzon, prof. dr. ir. G.F. WiegertjesChair group holder: prof. dr. ir. H.F.J. Savelkoul

Agrotechnology and Food SciencesMichiel Karrenbelt, Bioinformatics & BiotechnologyTitle thesis: "Yeast-like development in Aspergillus niger; A quest for genetic determinants of morphogenesis in strive for tailor made morphologies"Supervisor: dr. Peter SchaapChair group holder: prof. V.A.P. Martins dos Santos

Overall winnerAnnelieke Wentzel, master student Animal Sciences

F.l.t.r.: prof. Peter Schaap (received the prize on behalf of Michiel Karrenbelt), chair of the jury prof. dr. Martien Cohen Stuart, prof. dr. Leontine Visser, Bas Groeneveld, prof. dr. Herman Eijsackers, Shengle Huang, prof. dr. ir. Pierre de Wit, Annelieke Wentzel (overall winner)
F.l.t.r.: prof. Peter Schaap (received the prize on behalf of Michiel Karrenbelt), chair of the jury prof. dr. Martien Cohen Stuart, prof. dr. Leontine Visser, Bas Groeneveld, prof. dr. Herman Eijsackers, Shengle Huang, prof. dr. ir. Pierre de Wit, Annelieke Wentzel (overall winner)

The 2014 winners

In 2014, in total 23 theses were sent in. Per domain one winner was selected and one overall winner.

These are the four winners of 2014:

Environmental SciencesLena Schulte-Uebbing, Climate studiesTitle thesis: "Wedging the emissions gap in agriculture: Potential of a possible bottom-up initiative to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture"Supervisor and chair group holder: prof. dr. Rik Leemans

Social SciencesNick Middeldorp, Sociology of Development and ChangeTitle thesis: "In Honduras it is a in to defend life: An ethnography of the discourses, practices and dangers of opposing to mining in Honduras"Supervisor: prof. dr. Bram BuscherChair group holder: Ellis Oudendijk

Life SciencesUroš Cerkvenik, BiologyTitle thesis: "Hearing in the field cricket Gryllus bimaculatus (de Geer): directional sensitivity in absence of frequency tuning"Supervisor and chair group holder: prof. dr. ir. Johan van Leeuwen

Agrotechnology and Food SciencesBerend van der Meer, Molecular Life SciencesTitle thesis: "Cooperative dynamics of two-dimentional soft colloidal systems - Both in equilibrium and out-of-equilibrium"Supervisor and chair group holder: prof. dr. ir. Jasper van der Gucht

Overall winnerUroš Cerkvenik, master student Biology, Experimental Zoology

F.l.t.r.: dr. Han Swinkels (president of KLV), Lena Schulte-Uebbing, Jacqueline Zappeij (mother of Nick Middeldorp), Berend van der Meer, Uroš Cerkvenik (overall winner) and prof.dr. Just Vlak (president of the jury)
F.l.t.r.: dr. Han Swinkels (president of KLV), Lena Schulte-Uebbing, Jacqueline Zappeij (mother of Nick Middeldorp), Berend van der Meer, Uroš Cerkvenik (overall winner) and prof.dr. Just Vlak (president of the jury)

The 2013 winners

In 2013, in total 20 theses were sent in. Per domain one winner was selected and one overall winner.

These are the four winners of 2013:

Environmental SciencesMargot Andrieu Title thesis: "Assessment of the fate and effects of antibiotics on freshwater econosystems surrounding catfish farms in the Mekong delta (Vietnam)"Supervisor: Paul van den BrinkChair group holder: Marten Scheffer

Social SciencesPatrick Ilg Title thesis: "Intergenerational discounting and long-term effects in the context of Nuclear Waste Management: An economic analysis of the Asse salt mine in Germany"Supervisor: Silke Gabbert, Hans-Peter WeikartChair group holder: E.C. van Ierland

Life SciencesWalinka van TolTitle thesis: "Memory of the mini wasps: Genetic basis of difference in learning rate beteween two hymenopteran parasitoids: Nasonia vitripennis and Nasonia giraulti"Supervisor: H.M. Smid, Katja Hoedjes Chair group holder: Marcel Dicke

Agrotechnology & Food SciencesTies van de LaarTitle thesis: "Flow of jammed binary suspensions in microchannels"Supervisor: C.G.P.H. Schroën, J. SprakelChair group holder: R.M. Boom

Overall winnerTies van de Laar

The 2013 winners

The 2012 winners

Per domain one winner was selected and one overall winner.

These are the four winners of 2012:

Environmental SciencesAnna WegnerTitle thesis: "Effects of nanopolystyrene on the feeding behaviour of the blue mussel"Supervisor: Bart KoelmansChair group holder: Marten Scheffer

Social sciencesSebastian HoenenTitle thesis: "Do patents increase ventue capital investments between rounds of financing?"Supervisor: Christos KolympirisChair group holder: Onno Omta

Agrotechnology and Food SciencesFrans BoogaardTitle thesis:"Comparison of two fundamentally different approaches to manipulator motion planning"Supervisor and chair group holder: Eldert van Henten

Life SciencesHanna RövenichTitle thesis: "Identification of novel Cladoporium fulvum effector proteins"Supervisor and chair group holder: Pierre de Wit

From left to right: Sebastian Hoenen, Anna Wegner, Hanna Rövenich, Frans Boogaard
From left to right: Sebastian Hoenen, Anna Wegner, Hanna Rövenich, Frans Boogaard