Three most talented female WU PhD candidates got the 2017 Storm-van der Chijs Stipend. Rector magnificus Arthur Mol was present to hand over the awards to Lies Zandberg, Chantal Vogels and Carolina Levis. The two-yearly awards ceremony on 23 May 2017 followed after this year Storm-van der Chijs theme ‘Towards an inclusive and gender responsive WUR’.
Lies Zandberg won the first stipend for her research on mate choice in wild birds. The chair of the jury of the Academic Board Prof.dr.ir. Niels Anten stressed that the quality of the 17 candidates nominated by their professors. The other jury members were Prof.dr.ir. Tiny van Boekel and Prof.dr.ir Erwin Bulte. The stipend of 1,500 euro is to be used for further international profiling by a visit to an academic conference or institute abroad. The award certificates were handed over by rector Arthur Mol.
Lies Zandberg her work though reflected the stipend criteria of richness in initiative, interdisciplinarity, international embeddedness and linking science and society best. Lies independently designed and carried out a unique test for mate preference in wild birds for which she followed them throughout their lives. She developed new experimental techniques to comprehensively track the fitness consequences of individual differences in mate preference by merging complex theory, statistics and computer programing, ecology and genetics. Lies her promotor is Prof.dr. Marc Naguib of Behavioural Ecology.
Carolina Levis from Brazil, who was present on skype, won one of the second ranked stipends. Her promotor is Prof.dr. Frans Bongers of Forest Ecology and Forest Management. Carolina looks at the relation between past-human activities and the composition of the Amazonian forests. By inventories of forest sites, mapping archaeological sites and conducting interviews, she combines methods of the social and natural sciences. By revisiting the image of the Amazon rain forest as virgin nature never touched, she contributes to developing ways how today’s and future forests can best reflect this presence. The journal Science and prestigious international media already featured her work!
Chantal Vogels received the other shared stipend. Her promotor is Prof.dr. Marcel Dicke of Entomology. Chantal her research looks at how environmental, behavioural and genetic aspects of European Culex mosquitoes influence the transmission of the West Nile virus. She seeks to understand why some infectious diseases do occur in some places and not in others and accordingly improve control measures. Chantal found funds for her work herself and developed a citizen science approach whereby people could send her mosquito samples by mail.
The awarding followed after an inspiring discussion on the advancement of women in science while working towards an inclusive and gender responsive WUR. After introductions by Prof dr Carolyn Sachs of Pennstate University, USA by Skype and by Dr. Margreet van der Burg, gender studies WU and chair of the Storm-van der Chijs Fund, together with Alet Leemans, project manager of the WUR Gender Action Plan, the discussion was started. Three panellists Dr Bram de Vos, managing director of ESG-WUR, Rhiannon Pyburn, CGIAR Gender Platform & Gender Specialist KIT, and Dr Gemma van der Haar, Sociology of Development and Change, made the audience enthusiastic to join in.
There was a clear agreement that we especially on HRM are progressing in our m/f balance but monitoring and further action remains very needed, also on the cultural aspects. Concerning the capacity building and integration of gender & diversity competence and analysis in education and research, it became clear that there is huge capacity demand in agriculture related organisations (e.g. CGIAR) as well as that capacity building will equip students to contribute to gender responsive work places and work in their future professional lives. It is a matter of taking the chances to boost WUR’s reputation and international profile by concerted effort.