Academic awards festival closes academic year

The academic year 2015/2016 was brought to a close on Friday afternoon with the awarding of the Academic Year prizes for the best completed PhD (Stef van den Elzen, visualization of networks), design project (Iok-cheong Wan, optimization of a timber factory) and thesis project (Eline van Haaften, recovery of damaged cartilage). This year for the first time the Marina van Damme Grant was awarded during the closing ceremony. The recipient was BMT alumna Lisanne van Oppen, now a PhD candidate at the Radboud University Medical Center.

The winners were announced in the Blauwe Zaal by the Rector Frank Baaijens, after which they were given the opportunity to present their projects to the assembled public.

The thesis project conducted by Eline van Haaften won the award for best Final Project of 2016. As a BMT student, she studied the recovery response of cartilage taken from an abattoir when it was subjected to various mechanical deformations. Van Haaften discovered that certain genes in the surviving cartilage cells were activated with the aim of promoting the recovery process, although in the cell cultures she studied, there was no actual subsequent recovery. She is now a PhD candidate in TU/e's  Soft Tissue Biomechanics and Tissue Engineering group. Because she could not make it to the ceremony, Van Haaften was represented by her supervisor Keita Ito.

The best Design Project was the work of designer-in-training Iok-cheong Wan from Hong Kong. As part of the PDEng program Design and Technology of Instrumentation he examined the production process of chemically treated softwood. Fast-growing coniferous wood from temperate regions can be made harder and more moisture-resistant by a chemical process known as acetylation, which gives the wood qualities more akin to those of tropical hardwood. For the company Accsys Technologies, Wan developed an improved production process.

The best PhD candidate (the winner of the Doctoral Project Award) this year was Stef van den Elzen. In the Algorithms and Visualization group of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science he investigated how connections in dynamic networks can be visualized interactively. His visualization methods help to distil useful connections from a wide range of data sets. In his work, Van den Elzen combined automatic methods with interactive techniques. He is now working as a visualization architect for the TU/e spinoff SynerScope.

This year was also the first time that the Marina van Damme Grant was awarded during the closing ceremony. This grant was set up by its eponymous donor - who herself has enjoyed a successful career as an engineer - to give a helping hand to ambitious female engineers. The sum of 9000 euros must be spent on education intended to facilitate a significant career step.

The happy winner was Lisanne van Oppen, alumna of the TU/e program Biomedical Engineering, and currently at the Radboud Academic Medical Center in Nijmegen, where she is working on her PhD research on targeted drug delivery. The grant funds will enable Van Oppen to spend three months in Barcelona, where she will gain a thorough introduction to new imaging techniques, including super-resolution microscopy.

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