Shuangyin Wang received an exceptional excellence award from China

Shuangyin Wang, a PhD candidate who recently finished his PhD study in Henk Stunnenberg’s lab, has received a prestigious prize from the Chinese government for excellent PhD candidates abroad.

This prize is for the best 500 Chinese PhD candidates who obtained scholarships from foreign universities and institutes and worked or are working for their PhD studies outside China. Among this year’s 500 students worldwide, Shuangyin Wang ranked number 1 and therefore received the ‘Exceptionally Excellent Prize’ and US$10,000 for his achievement.

On 20 April, Shuangyin Wang, his PhD supervisor Henk Stunnenberg and the president of Radboud University Daniël Wigboldus attended the ceremony in the Chinese Embassy in the Hague to receive this prize. Shuangyin Wang is current doing his postdoctoral training with a Rubicon award in the Weizmann Institute in Israel.

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Several prestigious prizes were awarded to our researchers. We are proud of their achievements and congratulate the winners wholeheartedly. Here you can find a selection of the award highlights in 2018.

RIMLS highlights 2018


Dolatshahi-Pirouz, Van Heeringen and Van de Veerdonk Passion and confidence: three Vidi awards granted RIMLS (interview)

RIMLS researchers Alireza Dolatshahi-Pirouz, Simon van Heeringen and Frank van de Veerdonk were each awarded an NWO Vidi grant. The secret to their success? A research idea they are passionate about and the unwavering confidence that they are the only ones who can do it justice.

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Dolatshahi-Pirouz, Van Heeringen and Van de Veerdonk Passion and confidence: three Vidi awards granted RIMLS (interview)

RIMLS researchers Alireza Dolatshahi-Pirouz, Simon van Heeringen and Frank van de Veerdonk were each awarded an NWO Vidi grant. The secret to their success? A research idea they are passionate about and the unwavering confidence that they are the only ones who can do it justice.

Q1 The € 800,000 grant will enable you to develop your own line of research, as well as set up a research group in the coming five years. What will you be studying?

RIMLS is known for being one of the best institutes for orthopedic research in Europe
Alireza Dolatshahi-Pirouz is researching bone defects, specifically osteoporosis which is the most common disability among today’s elderly. “Biomaterials could be used to mend the defects, but you need to find one that is both tough and self-healing. Testing each option can be a long and tedious process. My goal is to develop a method of testing thousands of such therapies in a single experiment.”
 
Alireza was working at the Technical University of Denmark before transferring to Radboudumc. “RIMLS is known for being one of the best institutes for orthopedic research in Europe. I also wanted to be able to team up with clinicians which is why I wanted to work at a medical center.”
 
Frank van de Veerdonk will be researching complications of influenza. “I’ll be looking at secondary infections like aspergillus fungal infection as well as life-threatening inflammation. It relates to the research I did as a Veni recipient, in which I looked at similar complications in the rare chronic granulomatous disease. If I can identify why these complications happen it could lead to treatment that can save lives during a severe flu season.”

Q2 You’ve both had a personal grant for young researchers before this. Did that make the application process less stressful?

“Oh no, it’s equally stressful,” says Frank. “You have to start all over again trying to convince people of your idea. You have to be focused, concise and specific but also not too detailed. I enjoy the creativity that goes into thinking up goals and visualizing the design. I did a lot in my head, but due to circumstances, I was very late in actually writing my proposal. At first, two of the three jurors rejected it. Due to a direct rebuttal, the committee gave me an interview, but I came in knowing two were critical of my proposal. It was a tough interview, and I didn't know what to expect."
 
“I found the most difficult, putting the idea clearly into context and how to make clear to the committee what you want,” says Alireza. "Once you know that, the writing process is easy. Preparing the interview is challenging. You have so much you want to tell and only ten minutes to present your idea. Your proposal gets critique, and beforehand I wrote down all the questions I thought they might ask and prepared the answers. I’m grateful to Radboudumc’s Department of Valorization. They helped me prepare for the interview, offering advice and techniques.”

Q3 And then, two months after your interviews, you finally receive an email with the answer. Take us through that.

“Somehow, one second before I opened the email,” says Alireza, “I knew it was going to be an acceptance letter. No, no huge party after I got accepted. It was a weekday. A beer after work was all.”
 
Frank was at the outpatient clinic when the email arrived and he just quickly opened it between patient visits. “As I said, I was unsure due to the criticism I’d had before. I was so happy when I discovered it was positive.” The grant gives the opportunity to allocate more time to research. “50-50 is what I want. Patients give me input I can’t get from literature.”

Q4 Why do you believe you – and not your competitors – were awarded this grant? In other words, do you have tips for future applicants?

Both researchers couldn't answer why they and not others got the grant. "I'm sure that everyone who got as far as the interview has strong CV’s and interesting ideas,” says Frank. “It’s a personal grant, so you need to convince the committee that you and no one else is the best person to bring it all together. Just don’t get discouraged. I’ve also written plenty of proposals for grants that I didn’t receive.”
 
Both believe that passion is the single most important element as it’s what will keep you motivated in your academic career. “You need to truly believe in your idea,” says Alireza. "Don't try applying with an idea that you think the selection committee wants. You need to be enthusiastic about what you do. Things always go wrong in research and without passion, you’ll give up.”

Q5 And the other Vidi recipient at RIMLS?

NWO also awarded a Vidi grant to RIMLS researcher Simon van Heeringen. He is looking into how a fertilized egg cell develops into a complete organism with many different cell types. How is this encoded in the genome? The molecular biologist will compare the development of different animals. Using ‘big data’, his team will train computer algorithms to understand cellular decisions.


Rubicon awardees Settling into research life somewhere new (interview)

Five young RIMLS researchers were awarded a Rubicon grant in 2018. This gives them the opportunity to gain experience at top research institutions outside of the Netherlands. They packed their bag and departed to Australia, Canada, Denmark, and Israel. What are their feelings about working abroad?

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Rubicon awardees Settling into research life somewhere new (interview)

Five young RIMLS researchers were awarded a Rubicon grant in 2018. This gives them the opportunity to gain experience at top research institutions outside of the Netherlands. They packed their bag and departed to Australia, Canada, Denmark, and Israel. What are their feelings about working abroad?

Q1 Radboudumc still employs two of the Rubicon awardees. What are they researching?

In September 2018, Siroon Bekkering traveled to the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia. "I'm studying the development of cardiovascular disease in obese children. Specifically, the role of the innate immune system in the development of cardiovascular disease at a young age."
 
Kalijn Bol is now researching at the National Center for Cancer Immune Therapy at Herlev University Hospital in Denmark. “I’m studying the immune landscape in fresh tumor samples and exploring strategies to overcome mechanisms detrimental to the antitumor immune response in uveal melanoma.”
 
Although awarded the Rubicon grant, Kalijn didn’t accept it, taking a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship instead as the award money is higher. 

Q2 How did you settle into research life there? Could you mention a pro and a con?

“It takes some time to start somewhere new, which is both a pro and a con,” says Siroon. “Nothing works the same as in my previous lab. Settling into research life takes longer, but also made me creative, thinking about other ways to achieve the same thing and meet with a lot of people to make things work.”
 
For Kalijn it was a big step to go from being a clinical, medical oncologist in training to being a full-time researcher in the lab. “As expected, the start was slow with lots of paperwork and learning new techniques. Luckily, my new colleagues are very helpful and fun to be around. But now that the ethical approvals are in, the real work has finally started.”

Q3 What is different about research abroad?

People are way more relaxed here than in the Netherlands.
According to Siroon, the pace of work is slower in Australia. “People are way more relaxed here than in the Netherlands. The politics are also somewhat different. They have different view on publishing and rather publish more small papers than save it for a higher impact journal. This affects the way they set-up their research.”
 
As Siroon, Kalijn also experiences less pressure to publish. “At the Radboudumc, a PhD candidate should obtain three publishable articles. In Denmark, they don’t have to publish so data can be ‘saved’ for a higher-impact paper.”
 
The main difference for Kalijn was trading her patients for tumor samples, culture hoods, and fancy machines. “Although research life is always more flexible than the clinic, in Denmark the work-life balance is vital, and the official working hours are short. But of course, days in the lab can be long depending on the experiments to be done.”

Q4 What are you hoping to attain during your two-year grant? And what are your plans after that?

“During my time in Australia,” Siroon says, “I hope to find more insight in how obese kids get cardiovascular disease at such young age. Also, I would like to find out whether a change in BMI – for example, losing weight – changes anything in their phenotype.” After her time there she plans to come back to Radboudumc to conduct research in the lab of Mihai Netea, Leo Joosten and Niels Riksen. “I recently obtained a junior-postdoc grant from the Dutch Heart Foundation, which will give me the opportunity to continue my research from March 2020 onwards.”
 
Kalijn hopes to understand why uveal melanoma hardly responds to immunotherapy, while its cutaneous (skin) counterpart is highly responsive. “Hopefully, better insights in the immune landscape of uveal melanoma will lead to the first effective treatment for metastatic uveal melanoma in the long run. I also want to improve my laboratory skills to improve my impact as a translational researcher.” After the project, Kalijn plans to return to Radboudumc to finish her final year of medical oncology training.
 

Q5 And what are the other three Rubicon awardees doing abroad?

Shuang-Yin Wang transferred to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. “The research for the grant is to dissect heterogeneity of tumor immune environment at high resolution to understand why tumor (immune)therapy only works on some patients. The main aim is to provide tools for predicting tumor response, markers for rapid and effective tumor subtype characterization, and in-depth models that can lead to improved treatment.”
 
Christian Büll is at the Copenhagen Center for Glycomics at the Copenhagen University in Denmark. Like Kalijn, he also gave up his Rubicon grant for a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship. “A dense layer of glycans (chains of sugar molecules) covers every cell in the human body,” he explains. “But many of their biological functions are unknown. Therefore, I’m developing a library of cells with each cell displaying a unique glycan type to enable the discovery of the biological functions of glycans in the natural context of the cell.”
 
Robin van der Lee started at the University of British Columbia in 2017 and will continue in Canada at least until his Rubicon grant ends in 2020. There he’s developing bioinformatics methods for prioritizing non-coding variants that disrupt gene regulation by evaluating their impact on transcription factor binding sites. “We apply these methods to patient genomes, primarily in cancer and in rare pediatric disease cases from the BC Children's Hospital.”


Kika Young investigator award for Kirsten Vrenken

Kirsten Vrenken, PhD candidate in the group of Frank van Leeuwen, theme Cancer development and immune defense, has received the Tom Voûte Young Investigator Award. This price is awarded each year by Kika (kinderen kankervrij) for excellent research in the area of pediatric oncology.

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Kika Young investigator award for Kirsten Vrenken

Kirsten Vrenken, PhD candidate in the group of Frank van Leeuwen, theme Cancer development and immune defense, has received the Tom Voûte Young Investigator Award 2018. This price is awarded each year by Kika (kinderen kankervrij) for excellent research in the area of pediatric oncology. Kirsten presented her research about the role of EMT transcription factor Snail2 in neuroblastoma.

Although Kirsten recently switched to the Van Leeuwen group at the Princess Máxima Center in Utrecht to complete her research, she has done most of the work for her research at the Radboudumc, on the basis of a RIMLS personal grant she aquired in 2014. 
 

René Bindels received Robert W. Berliner award

The Robert W. Berliner Award for Excellence in Renal Physiology recognizes distinguished lifetime achievement in renal physiology research.

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René Bindels received Robert W. Berliner award

The American Physiological Society awarded the Robert W. Berliner Award for excellence in renal physiology to René Bindels, theme Renal disorders. The Robert W. Berliner Award is the most prestigious award of the American Physiological Society (APS), Renal Section. It recognizes distinguished lifetime achievement in renal physiology research.
 
René Bindels received the award on 23 April 2018 during an official ceremony at the annual meeting of Experimental Biology 2018 in San Diego.

Peter-Bram ‘t Hoen and colleagues won Dutch Data Prize 2018

Stan Gielen (president NWO) handed out the Dutch Data Prize to the BBMRI-Omics data collection. BBMRI-NL, the Biobanking and Biomolecular resources Research Infrastructure in the Netherlands, directed a program for the large scale collection of molecular data from samples in Dutch biobanks.

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Peter-Bram ‘t Hoen and colleagues won Dutch Data Prize 2018

Stan Gielen (president NWO) handed out the Dutch Data Prize (Nederlandse Data Prijs) to the BBMRI-Omics data collection. BBMRI-NL, the Biobanking and Biomolecular resources Research Infrastructure in the Netherlands, directed a program for the large scale collection of molecular (DNA, RNA, protein, metabolite) data from samples in Dutch biobanks.

The partners in BBMRI-omics, including Peter-Bram ’t Hoen (CMBI), theme Nanomedicine, made these data collections accessible to the scientific community and facilitated the discovery of new disease mechanisms.  

The jury report states: ‘BBMRI-omics is the result of a unique collaboration between a large number of researchers in Dutch research centres and a large number of Dutch biobanks. The resource provides a new dimension to the use of data in the medical sciences”.  Bas Heijmans, the researcher from LUMC’s Biomedical Data Science department coordinating the application, explains how the prize of € 5,000 will be spent: ‘BBMRI-omics was recently extensively revised and updated. We will use the money to organize trainings for young researchers so that they can get even more out of the dataset”.  

BBMRI-Omics includes data from the Genome-of-the-Netherlands and the Biobank-based Integrative -Omics Study. These studies facilitated the study of the impact of genetic variants on the epigenome, the RNA, and the ultimate clinical phenotypes. Tens of publications resulting from these studies demonstrated the opportunities for studying and prevention of disease. The collaborative projects also helped to build up expertise required for future big data projects and their underlying infrastructures.

Video X-omics

Royal decoration for Jo Berden

Jo Berden contributed significantly to the field of kidney diseases in general and in particular to renal disorders with an immunnological basis such as kidney inflammation in systemic lupus erythematosus.

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Royal decoration for Jo Berden

Jo Berden was appointed by His Majesty as Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion, a highly prestigious decoration.

Jo Berden worked from 2002 until his retirement in 2013, as head of the Department of Nephrology. He contributed significantly to the field of kidney diseases in general and in particular to renal disorders with an immunnological basis such as kidney inflammation in systemic lupus erythematosus. He is also a highly appreciated teacher in local, national and international education and training activities.


Shuangyin Wang received an exceptional excellence award from China

Shuangyin Wang, a PhD candidate who recently finished his PhD study in Henk Stunnenberg’s lab, has received a prestigious prize from the Chinese government for excellent PhD candidates abroad.

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List of awards

A selection of other awards received by our RIMLS researchers in 2018.

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List of awards

RIMLS awards festival with twelve winners
In 5 categories RIMLS young researchers received an award and bonus during the New Year's drinks” Best PhD thesis award, Best Master thesis award, Breakthrough paper of the year, Best MIC image, Travel grants to visit a scientific meeting or to perform a work visit.

Cancer development and immune defense

RIMLS award for Bert van der Reijden
Bert van der Reijden received the RIMLS award 2018 for his long-lasting and dedicated commitment to the RIMLS Graduate School.

Rare cancers

Eva-Leonne Göttgens received an Early Career Investigator Award
Eva-Leonne Göttgens has received an Early Career Investigator Award during the annual meeting of the Association for Radiation Research 2018 in Belfast.

Theme Vascular damage

The Einthoven dissertation award for Siroon Bekkering
At the 2nd Translational Cardiovascular Research Meeting, Siroon Bekkering, theme Vascular damage, was awarded the Einthoven Dissertation Award, an award for the best cardiovascular dissertation.

 

 


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