EMMEPH thesis awards for spin currents, gravitational waves and ocean plastic

Physics students Alptug Ulugol, Renske Wierda and Bram van Duinen were awarded EMMEPH prizes for the best Master’s and Bachelor’s theses with a ceremony in the final part of the ‘t Hooft Colloquium. At the 2021 edition of the colloquium, William (Bill) Phillips, Nobel laureate in physics, discussed with the audience about “The Quantum Reform of the Modern Metric System”. 

Natuurkundestudent Alptug Ulugol
Alptug Ulugol

The award for the best Master’s thesis went to Alptug Ulugol. Alptug carried out his project at the Institute for Theoretical Physics under the supervision of Umut Gursoy working on the hydrodynamic behaviour of spin currents. This topic has been playing an increasingly prominent role in a variety of physical systems ranging from heavy ion collisions to condensed matter experiments. Beside the scientific relevance, the committee was also impressed with the excellent structure of Alptug’s manuscript. In addition, he managed to communicate deep theoretical concepts in an extremely clear and direct way so to make his research truly accessible even to non-experts. Alptug’s work is now being included in a scientific paper and the plan is to submit it to a peer-reviewed journal before the end of the year.

Concerning the prize for the best Bachelor’s thesis, the committee decided to split it in two, granting one prize for the Honours Bachelor’s programme (30 EC) and one for the regular Bachelor’s programme (15 EC).

Natuurkundestudent Renske Wierda
Renske Wierda

The Honors Bachelor’s prize was awarded to Renske Wierda. She performed her research at the Institute for Gravitational and Sub-atomic Physics under the supervision of Chris van den Broeck and Otto Akseli Hannuksela. Her thesis concerns lensing of gravitational waves when a galaxy is present on the path from source to detector. Based on Renske’s work, for the first time, robust estimates were obtained for the distributions of the time-of-arrival differences. Most importantly, her work elegantly demonstrated the feasibility of the method. Her results are summarized in a paper, on which she is first author, who has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Natuurkundestudent Bram van Duinen
Bram van Duinen

Last but not least, the prize for the regular Bachelor’s programme thesis went to Bram van Duinen. Bram carried out his project at the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric research supervised by Erik van Sebille and Mikael Kaandorp. The research goal was to identify sources for plastic beaching in Zeeland by using a Bayesian framework. The research topic is clearly an example of how science can be used as an input to environmental protection investigating topics of major relevance to modern society. Bram’s thesis is now submitted with minor modifications to Geophysical Research Letters.

It is worth mentioning that Alptug, Renske and Bram had the possibility to present themselves to the ‘t Hooft colloquium audience and to be addressed by the Nobel laureate. Concluding, the EMMEPH prize committee congratulates all the winners for the excellent work and impressive results they obtained in a limited amount of time.


The acronym EMMEPH, that stands for ExtreMe Matter and Emergent Phenomena, represents a group of scientists and support staff, hosted by the department of physics, addressing problems ranging from fundamental physics at sub-atomic scale to climate science and cosmology. Besides the staff members, an extremely important role in the success of the group is covered by our students. We commit to science and education having clear in mind that the way to draft the future is to prepare young excellent students to be ready for the challenges of tomorrow.