2020 Student Award nominees announced

Utrecht University is proud of its students who deliver a remarkable performance in the field of their studies or beyond. Each year during the opening of the academic year, the Rector Magnificus therefore presents two student awards: one for the Best Master’s Thesis and one Exceptional Extracurriculur Achievements. The names of the students and initiatives who have been nominated for these awards have now been announced.

Nominees for Best Master's Thesis 2020

Marrit Woudwijk, Humanities, Conflict Studies & Human Rights. The Lesser Truth. Truth Construction on Remote Warfare and the Case of the US-led anti-ISIS Coalition in Syria.

Marrit Woudwijk is nominated for 'Best Master's Thesis 2020'. Picture by: Nick Chesnay
Marrit Woudwijk is nominated for 'Best Master's Thesis 2020'. Picture by: Nick Chesnay

Marrit Woudwijk was surprised by how little she actually knew and heard about the war the Netherlands waged against the Islamic state between 2014 and 2018. Nowadays, war is more and more conducted in the air, with for example drones. Consequently, people in the West feel a physical and psychological distance from these wars. However, war is still an everyday reality for those who live in the affected area. In her thesis, Marrit explores how Syrian refugees think about the bombings of their land, and how their experience relates to the way this war is being represented in the West. While in the West the war against IS is being represented as 'precise,' 'humanitarian' and 'necessary', Marrit found that Syrian refugees instead emphasized the extreme destruction and civilian casualties by the war. Marrit therefore argues a reconsideration about remote warfare and the representation thereof by giving the local voices and experiences a more prominent place.

Arif Ibrahim Ardisasmita, Graduate School of Life Sciences, Regenerative Medicine and Technology. Hepatocyte In Vitro Model: Maturation and Monogenic Liver Disease Modeling.

Arif Ibrahim Ardisasmita is nominated for 'Best Master's thesis 2020'
Arif Ibrahim Ardisasmita is nominated for 'Best Master's Thesis 2020'

Arif Ibrahim Ardisasmita has always been interested in research into liver disease and the search for a cure. However, liver patients are too vulnerable for use in research. For this reason, models that mimic liver diseases are used: so-called in-vitro models, grown in a Petri dish of liver cells. However, the multitude of research, models and methods can be overwhelming for both new and more experienced researchers: how do you choose the model which works best for your particular research? Ibrahim was faced with the same questions when he began his own research. He therefore decided to create an overview of all the in-vitro models for liver diseases and to present the advantages and disadvantages of each model. This has not been done before, and he hopes that people who – like him – aspire to cure liver diseases will no longer have to worry about the confusing morass of in-vitro models as a result.

Errikos Kounalis, Faculty of Science, Nanomaterials. Combining Metal-Metal and Metal-Ligand Cooperativity Using a Naphthyridine-based Proton-responsive PNNP ‘Expanded pincer.

Errikos Kounalis is nominated for Best Master's Thesis 2020
Errikos Kounalis is nominated for 'Best Masterthesis 2020'

Errikos was inspired by nature in his research. In various enzymes, cooperation between multiple metals or metals and the surrounding scaffold allows for challenging chemical transformations at ambient conditions. In his thesis, Errikos examined the synthesis of a scaffold that enables the combination of these two types of cooperation to interact by allowing the binding of two metals in close proximity and allowing cooperative reactivity between the metals and scaffold. This resulted in a variety of new compounds to be synthesized, including a so-called copper hydride of a never seen before butterfly-shaped geometry. Copper hydrides are known to catalyze reactions useful for the pharmaceutical industry or for designing new molecules, for example.

Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements 2020 


DOMCast is nominated for Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements
The projectmembers of DOMCast, nominated for Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements

Hugo Broersen, Luka Gabreels, Ilse Gareman, Robrecht Haex, Robin IJntema, Renée Karsten, Thomas van Roijen, Maurice Visser, Wiebe Reints, Bart Both and Kiki Ernst together form DOMcast: a podcast which answers all your questions about Utrecht's history. The response was overwhelming: the students received as many as 70 questions, ranging from Roman times to the Second World War. Based on archival research and interviews with academics, together with the help of those who posed the questions, they give a voice to Utrecht's diverse and sometimes previously undiscovered history. At the same time they promoted the connectivity between the University of Utrecht and the city it is situated in. Check out their website here.

Journal of Trial and Error (JOTE) 


Projectmember of JOTE, nominee for Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements 2020
Projectmembers of Journal of Trial and Error who are nominated for Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements 2020

Researchers are all too familiar with the phenomenon: the results of an experiment do not meet initial expectations. Perhaps the lab setting wasn't right, or the substance simply didn't do what it was supposed to do. These publications and studies often disappear into the drawer (or the rubbish bin), which means that nobody can read them. And that was a shame, thought Martijn van der Meer, Max Bautista Perpinyá, Maura Burke, Davide Cavalieri, Valentine Delrue, Sean Devine, Stefan Gaillard, Thomas Jorna, Lottricia Millett, Fleur Petit, Sven Rouschop and Jobke Visser, who together founded the Journal of Trial and Error, an open access journal for negative results and methodological reflections. By publishing these failed publications and experiments in their journal, they promote a less competitive science Moreover, their journal not only provides a platform for so-called ‘failed’ science, it also invites philosophers, historians and other humanities scholars to reflect on the of the meaning of ‘failure’ and rethink scientific success. Check out their website here.

Bagijnhof Community Composting

Projectmembers of Bagijnhof Community Composting, nominee for Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements 2020
The projectmembers of Bagijnhof Community Composting, nominee for Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements

Benjamin Stromback and Claire Dépit set up Bagijnhof Community Composting. In the meantime, Farina Shaaban, Mae Glaese, Alix Convent, Bianka Fábryová and Emil Sigmann Engh have joined the board of this project.Together with over 100 students ánd a small local café, they collect – and compost the waste of the inhabitants of Bagijnhofstraat in Middelburg. This compost is then used to fertilise Middelburg's allotment gardens. In this way, students wish to strengthen the contact between students and Middelburg residents and contribute to ensuring a sustainable and circular future for the city. Check out their Instagram here


Directors of education or research can nominate someone from their degree programme for the Best Master's Thesis student award. The student must satisfy the specified criteria. Anyone inside or outside Utrecht University can nominate a student for the Best Masterthesis or Exceptional Extracurriculur Achievements. 


Rector Henk Kummeling will announce the winners at the official opening of the academic year on Monday 31 August. Because of the measures surrounding the coronavirus, this will take the form of a hybrid ceremony, both in the Dom church and online.

More information
Student Awards