30 March 2019

Research on potassium channels awarded with Vliegenthart Thesis Award 2018

Felix Kümmerer wint Vliegenthart Scriptieprijs

During the University Day of Utrecht University on 30 March 2019, the Vliegenthart Thesis Award 2017 was awarded to Felix Kümmerer (24), student Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences. Kümmerers thesis, titled ‘On the Molecular Determinants of Modal Gating Shifts in Potassium Channels’, struck the jury because of the impact of the work. Kümmerer wins an amount of 2000 euro that is free to spend.

Potassium channels

Kümmerer's thesis deals with the effects of potassium channels in living cells. An interesting subject according to the jury, which also praises the impact of the research. The jury: "This research is about 'understanding nature' because Kümmerer points out the importance of using highly advanced techniques in a complex system, such as that of a specific protein (KcsA) in the cell membrane." The thesis also gives suggestions for possible future research.

I learned that research is like a team sport, which requires the interplay of different team members with different skills. Also, most projects will lead to new research questions.
Felix Kümmerer, winner Vliegenthart Thesis Award 2018

Honorable mentions

In addition to the main prize, two honorable mentions were awarded, each with a value of 500 euro. The first honorable mention is for the thesis of Biomedical Sciences student Adriana Martínez Silgado (24). Her research into Wnt signaling resulted in new insights, that may lead to possible applications in cancer research, in particular in colorectal cancer. The jury calls it remarkable that a student in this phase of her career writes a thesis that is so readable and gives a clear and complete explanation of Wnt signaling.

Esther van Loon (30), alumna Science and Business Management, receives the second honorable mention. Van Loon wrote her thesis on how to respond to the high drug prices that contribute to rising healthcare costs. The jury appreciates the work because Van Loon "tries to make a difference, while at the same time remaining realistic and objective with respect to government and industry."

Vliegenthart Thesis Award

The Vliegenthart Thesis Award was instituted to mark Prof. Dr Hans Vliegentharts retirement as chairman of the Utrecht University Fund in 2004. The idea was and is to show a talented student to the world outside and especially the alumni community. The prize consists of 2000 euro and is awarded in turn in the disciplines of the Humanities, Life Sciences, Science and Social and Behavourial Sciences. This year, it is the turn of the Life Sciences.


The submitted theses are assessed by a jury of variable composition, but under the permanent chairmanship of Prof. Dr. J.F.G. Vliegenthart (Professor emeritus of Chemistry). The jury of this edition: Prof Willem van Eden (Infectious Diseases and Immunology), Prof Maarten Egmond (Professor emeritus Applied Enzymology), Dr Petra de Graaf (Assistent Professor and researcher Urology), and Prof George Kowalchuk (Ecology and Biodiversity).