Eindhoven's Rubicon winner now postdoc at ETH Zurich

Research funding bodies NWO and ZonMw have awarded sixteen newly graduated PhDs Rubicon grants, enabling them to gain experience at a knowledge institution outside the Netherlands. Almost 40 percent of the grant applicants were successful, among them Bregje de Wildt, who took her doctorate in November from the TU/e's Biomedical Engineering department. She is now conducting bone research at ETH Zurich, having secured a two-year postdoc position there.

photo Freidensonphoto / Shutterstock

Nine men and seven women have become the new Rubicon grant laureates. Seven have chosen to go to the United States, two have decided on the United Kingdom and the others are destined for South Africa, Israel, Canada, Switzerland, Ireland, Portugal or Belgium. Most of them will be abroad for two years.

Bregje de Wildt is one of the recipients of the Rubicon grant. She was a doctoral candidate in Associate Professor Sandra Hofmann's group at TU/e's Department of Biomedical Engineering. She completed her PhD in November of 2022. Since March she has been engaged by the highly reputed ETH Zurich (see the main photo, ed.).

"During my doctoral research at TU/e I worked on 3D in vitro models for human bone remodeling, working with miniature bones, as they are called," explains De Wildt. "I focused mainly on the osteoclasts and osteoblasts, the cells that respectively break down and build bone. We could make these cells produce and break down bone-like tissue, but we couldn't really regulate the process. In our bodies, we have osteocytes in our bone tissue and these control the activities of the osteoclasts and the osteoblasts. Our osteocytes are embedded in bone tissue and within this tissue they form a long network that they use to control the processes of breaking down and producing bone. In the Rubicon project I'll be using 3D bioprinting to develop an in vitro human bone model. (It'll be in a culture dish.) This new bone will contain osteocytes and they will be connected up a network. This is an important point. Often research on osteocytes involves animal experiments because these cells are so firmly embedded in the bone that they are very difficult to study outside the (human) body. Using miniature bones, it becomes possible to test medicines used in the treatment of human bone conditions, and this makes animal experiments redundant."

As to her choice of ETH, she has this to say: "I wanted to do this work at ETH because the laboratory where I'm now working does bone research at every level, and you need this if you want to fully understand bone tissue and how it responds to its environment. So, for example, they work with animal experiments, computer models, clinical data and in vitro models. Besides this, the lab uses a variety of printing methods to develop its in vitro models. The cells are embedded in these models, just like osteocytes are embedded in human bone."

2022's last round

The third and last round of Rubicon grants in 2022 drew 42 applications, 38.5 percent of which were successful. Every year the funding bodies NWO and ZonMw award approximately sixty Rubicon grants.

The Rubicon grant is popular. Since 2005 this grant has been giving young Dutch scientists the opportunity to spend a year or two outside the Netherlands. But anyone who misses out on one need not despair. The grant has not been demonstrated to have a significant effect on a person's scientific career.

Rubicon grants third round 2022



Rubicon grants

Erasmus MC


Nederlands Kanker Instituut


Prinses Máxima Centrum voor kinderoncologie


Radboud Universiteit


Rijksuniversiteit Groningen/MC 


Technische Universiteit Delft


Technische Universiteit Eindhoven


Universiteit Leiden 


Universiteit Twente


Universiteit van Amsterdam


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam




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