20 December 2017

Trophies for the best Master’s and Bachelor’s theses in Biology

Darwins 2017 for Emma van Grinsven and Mariska Simpson

De Darwins

This year’s Darwins trophies for the best Master’s and Bachelor’s theses by Biology students both went to students from Utrecht University. Emma van Grinsven received the Darwin trophy for the best Bachelor’s thesis, and Mariska Simpson was presented with the award for her Master’s thesis. Van Grinsven also won the prize for the best BSc presentation. The Darwin trophies are awarded each year during the annual National Biology Students Conference.

After a preliminary selection by each of the university’s student associations, a total of 25 Bachelor’s theses and 15 Master’s theses entered the competition. The scientific jury brought this number back to three each. In addition to their thesis, the six finalists had to distinguish themselves at the conference by their presentation and the questioning by the jury, that was composed of Dr. Sander Gussekloo (University of Wageningen), Dr. Peter Klaren (Radboud University Nijmegen), Leen den Oever (Director of the Nederlands Instituut voor Biologie), Dr. Sharon Kolk (Radboud University Nijmegen) and Prof. Tinka Murk (University of Wageningen).

Emma van Grinsven
Emma van Grinsven

Chairperson Dr. Sander Gussekloo says that the jury was very impressed by the organised manner in which Emma van Grinsven had described her research in her thesis and her presentation at the conference. “It was easy for anyone to understand, with figures that added to the story.” She also provided clear answers to the jury’s questions.

Emma van Grinsven completed her Bachelor’s in Biology at Utrecht University with a research project in the group led by Matilde Galli at the Hubrecht Institute. She showed that there is a causal relationship between polyploidization of a cell and an increase in cell size. She then went on to study the mechanism behind this relationship. This didn’t lead yet to a conclusive explanation, but she did come up with one plausible theory.

Van Grinsven is currently working on her Master’s in Cancer, Stem Cells and Developmental Biology. For her Master’s thesis, she is once again working in Matilde Galli’s lab, where she conducts research into polyploidization in the model organism C. elegans.

Mariska Simpson
Mariska Simpson

Mariska Simpson received a Darwin trophy for her Master’s thesis about the positive feedback mechanism in the protein inositol requiring protein 1 (IRE1), which plays a major role in cellular stress reactions. She conducted her research at Harvard Medical School under the supervision of Dr. Wayne Lencer. Her supervisor in Utrecht was Prof. Hans Clevers.

In her Master’s thesis and presentation, the jury felt that Simpson excelled at communicating the complex process that she studied. “She masterfully explained both the process and her research step-by-step. And in answering the questions, it was clear that she had a thorough understanding of the subject”, according to jury chairperson Sander Gussekloo.

Like Van Grinsven, Simpson will continue her research at her old internship organisation. Now a PhD candidate, she will study the involvement of IRE1β in the modulation of the proliferative response and stem cell function of the intestinal epithelial cells at Harvard Medical School.

Landelijk Overleg BiologieStudenten

The successful third National Conference for Biology Students, and the selection of the Darwin trophy winners, was organised by the Landelijk Overleg BiologieStudenten (LOBS). The LOBS consists of representatives from Biology student associations throughout the Netherlands. Every year, the LOBS also organises a national Biology Master’s Event, and the next edition will be held on 19 January 2018. See: http://www.lobs.eu/nl/