Alumnus of the Month

Alumnus of the Month is a column in which we highlight an alumnus with a special job or achievement.

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December 2021: Chris Stapper

Chris Stapper

Autarkeia, the Alumni Association Utrecht Philosophers, celebrated its 25th anniversary on 12 December. A good reason to congratulate chairman Chris Stapper (Philosophy in Business, 2010) and put him in the spotlight as Decembers Alumnus of the Month.  As befits a philosopher, he still has some questions: is he really more interesting than the treasurer who has been there since the beginning, the loyal members who have remained involved all this time, or the young alumni who enthusiastically post Instagram Stories?  Those involved thinkers are exactly the reason why Chris became involved with the association: 'When I started studying philosophy, it felt like coming home. Such nice people! I was glad that the alumni association offered the chance to stay in touch. And if you really want something, you have to contribute to it yourself'. Fortunately, good ways have been found to stay in touch in a meaningful and relaxed way, even in times of corona: a reading club has been started, the lectures of teachers and lectures by fresh graduates can now be followed online and watched via the youtube channel.

Chris does not only spend his free time 'gathering groups of people around a subject that concerns them all', but that is also what he does every day as Community Manager for Rabobank. 'You're only as smart as all the information you can find', he says. That is why he asks such a collection of people to look at complex issues, each from their own perspective, with their own knowledge and background. 

Meaningfulness is the most important issue of these strange and confusing times, Chris thinks. Our way of life has suddenly changed and will change even more. We will have to reinvent ourselves. Live 'smaller', find satisfaction in everyday things, form an identity separate from our work. His tip for the coming, not too festive, Christmas break in lockdown is therefore to (re)read Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

November 2021: Karin Bergstein

Karin Bergstein

“What students come up with and what they do, I find very inspiring. For example, Student Awards for Exceptional Extracurricular Achievements from years ago are still on my mind.” Karin Bergstein (Medical Biology, 1991) will miss meetings with young people the most after she retires as a member of the Supervisory Board and chair of the Audit Committee of Utrecht University.

She was a supervisor for eight years. But she will remain an alumnus forever. Although her studies and career do not connect seamlessly - Karin ended up in financial services and not in medical biology - the programme has brought her a lot. “Among other things, your analytical thinking skills are stimulated to an incredible degree. I still feel a lot of passion for the programme and the field. Working alone in a lab does not suit me. I am more of a team player and I love working with a group of people to create something beautiful together.”

Farewell as a member of the Supervisory Board does not mean a definitive farewell as far as Karin is concerned. “Soon I will no longer be found at meetings of the Supervisory Board, but I will probably attend alumni activities more. Utrecht runs through my life like a central thread. I return there again and again and feel a warm, lasting bond with the city and the university.”

October 2021: Sophie van Gool

Portret van Sophie van Gool

Until a few years ago, Sophie van Gool (University College Utrecht, 2012), economist and entrepreneur, worked for a major consultancy firm on the ‘Zuidas’, a rapidly developing business district in the city of Amsterdam. She assumed that in the Netherlands, men and women are treated and paid equally, but she soon discovered the reality is different. At her firm, only one of the top 25 employees was a woman. ‘This isn’t right’, thought Sophie, and she decided to start her company Salaristijger (‘Salary tiger’), together with fellow University College Utrecht alumnus Erwin Hieltjes. Their mission: to close the pay gap in the Netherlands. They offer practical advice and coaching to women on how to make the most of their salary negotiations. They also provide advice to employers on monitoring and reducing the income gap.

This summer, Sophie’s book ‘Waarom vrouwen minder verdienen – en wat we eraan kunnen doen’ (Why women earn less – and what we can do about it), was published. In her book, Sophie explores the reasons for the persistent income inequality between men and women, the consequences, and possible ways to change this situation.

Earlier this year, University College Utrecht published an interview with Sophie and Erwin. Read the interview here.

September 2021: Theo van den Broek

Alumnus van de maand Theo van den Broek
Alumnus of the month: Theo van den Broek

'How do I get more review experience?' Alumnus Theo van den Broek (Medicine, 2006) has come up with a great answer to this question: he started his own online scientific journal Journal of Life Sciences with an accompanying postdoc community. Theo wants to give young researchers the opportunity to gain experience in reviewing scientific articles. This is something they’re expected to learn, but proves difficult to practice.

‘Can't we start a journal where scientists can submit articles and both experienced and less experienced postdocs can review them as training?’ During his postdoc time in Boston, this idea grew into the broad open access Journal of Life Sciences. A scientific platform supported by PhD students and postdocs. Scientists can add articles for free, as long as they meet the scientific and ethical criteria. All articles are assessed by young postdocs under the supervision of more experienced colleagues. With his platform, Van den Broek contributes in an innovative way to the development of scientists and the deepening of science. Theo: ‘Hopefully we can combine training with good quality research.’  

After having worked in America for several years, and a PhD and postdoc later, he has now settled down at UMC Utrecht. Here he is studying medical microbiology. In addition to his clinical and research work within the hospital, he started as member of the board of the young Dutch Society of Immunology (young-NVvI). In this role he wants to continue to give PhD students insight into the future that awaits them after finishing their PhD-track. 

August 2021: Boris Albrecht

Alumnus van de maand Theo van den Broek

Boris Albrecht (BSc Law, 2018) is the secretary of the Corps Museum & Archives Foundation and the initiator of the new exhibition "Heel Utrecht loopt uit!" (All of Utrecht turns out!) at Het Utrechts Archief (The Utrecht Archives). The exhibition is one of the many activities to celebrate this year's lustrum of Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht.

Albrecht: "The whole city used to be dedicated to the lustrum. Decorated buildings, parades in the streets and events for all inhabitants. In the period between 1901 and 1966, large and impressive lustrum celebrations took place. It was a special and historic event, which showcased the close bond between the city, the university and the student.

Since the 1980s, the Utrechtsch Studenten Corps has built up an archive of thousands of objects and as many as 25,000 photos. As the USC used to be the only student association closely involved in organising the lustrum celebrations, it also included many photos of the lustra. With support from the Utrecht University Fund and others, this entire photo archive has now been digitised so that it can soon be made accessible online. It was an enormous job. Then, in cooperation with Het Utrechts Archief, the exhibition 'Heel Utrecht loopt uit! was created. 

The exhibition can be visited until 30 November 2021 in Het Utrechts Archief.

June 2021: Alexandra Cloherty

Alexandra Cloherty

Alexandra Cloherty (MSc Infection and Immunity, 2018) is a PhD candidate at the Authophagy-directed Immunity group at Amsterdam UMC. She recently won the national final of FameLab, an annual science communication competition.

FameLab is an initiative of the British Council, in which young researchers give a short pitch about their research without using slides. Cloherty's research focuses on autophagy, a natural mechanism our bodies have evolved to "clean up" viruses. In the contest, she explained this by means of a plush HIV virus and a garbage bag.

Cloherty will represent the Netherlands in the international FameLab final this fall. Watch the winning pitch on YouTube.

May 2021: Edwin Pos

Edwin Pos

Edwin Pos (BSc Biology, 2008; MSc Environmental Biology, 2010; PhD Biology 2018) is an assistant professor and scientific director of the UU Botanic Gardens. He was recently named New Scientist science talent 2021.

Pos received the title for his research on biodiversity, for which he combines adventurous expeditions in the Amazon region with complex mathematical techniques. The jury praises the originality of his research, in which he breaks with traditional approaches and expands "the toolbox of ecologists".

The award includes 2,500 euros, as well as the opportunity to further bring attention to his research via New Scientist.

April 2021: Louise Autar

Louise Autar (BA Liberal Arts and Sciences, 2015; MA Gender Studies, 2018) is a lecturer at the departments of Language and Culture Studies, Liberal Arts & Sciences and Gender Studies at Utrecht University. She recently received the Diversity & Inclusion Award 2020 at our university for her efforts in multiple areas for diversity and inclusion.

In addition to her work as a teacher, Autar organized, among other things, the Un/Divided conference for students who want to take action to increase diversity and inclusion at Dutch universities. From this conference emerged STAR (Space to Talk about Race), a platform for students of color.

The Diversity & Inclusion Award was established in 2019 by the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion platform. The prize includes an amount of 2500 euros, which Autar can spend on projects in the field of diversity and inclusion within UU. The video of the ceremony can be viewed back.

March 2021: Selma de Mink

Selma de Mink

Selma de Mink (BSc Physics and Astronomy; Mathematics, 2005; MSc Astrophysics and Space Research, 2005; PhD in Astronomy, 2010) has been scientific director of the prestigious Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik in Garching since the beginning of this year.

Previously, she was awarded Hubble and Einstein grants from NASA and worked at Harvard University, among others.

Last month she appeared in de Volkskrant (article in Dutch), talking about the impact of the corona crisis on her work. Earlier this year she was interviewed in Trouw (article in Dutch) about her new position.

February 2021: Lucien van Vuuren

During the recent Onderwijsparade, Luciel van Vuuren (BSc Veterinary Medicine, 2010; MSc Veterinary Medicine, 2014) received the prize for Teacher Talent of the Year.

Van Vuuren works at our university as a lecturer in Anatomy and Physiology. According to her students, she brings the sometimes tough material to life. Furthermore, she is very involved with the curriculum and through her practical experience as a veterinarian she can explain well why certain knowledge is relevant.

The award will be presented during the upcoming Dies Natalis, which, like the Onderwijsparade, will take place in an adapted form because of the corona measures.

January 2021: Andries Tunru

Andries Tunru (BSc Psychology, 2011) is a comedian and improvisation actor. Last month he took part in the popular quiz De Slimste Mens ('The Smartest Human'). 

Although he just did not win, he did have a record: as the first participant, he was the day winner of the popular program for seven days in a row. Tunru picked up his loss by recording a cover of the song 'Samen zijn' together with winner Rob Kemps, the answer with which the quiz was eventually won. 

If the corona measures allow it, Andries Tunru can be seen this year in various Dutch theaters with his own cabaret program or as part of the improvisation duo Beperkt Houdbaar.

See also the Alumni of the Month of 2020 and 2019.