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Prizes galore for young talent at Dies Natalis Festival for Alumni

In a packed Grotius Hall, family and friends came together to pay tribute to young talent at Leiden University. The celebration was part of the annual Dies Natalis Festival for Alumni and gave dozens of visitors the chance to get to know a new generation of academics.

An outstanding thesis, impactful research, the most impressive report or the best research question. The LUF encourages ambitious students to get the best out of themselves. This is all possible thanks to the support of many donors and various named funds. Below are the winners of the prizes awarded in Leiden on Saturday 10 February.

Leiden University Thesis Prizes 2024

First prize

Charlotte van der Voort (Classics and Ancient Civilisation, Faculty of Humanities)
Speaking Silences: Silence Substituting Speech in the Later Platonic Tradition

Second prize Juliane Klaura (Governance of Sustainability, Faculty of Science)
Animal Lives Embodied in Food Loss and Waste
Third prize Bente Meijer (Public International Law, Leiden Law School)
A response to the unanswered call for justice from the Yazidi women: What viable possibilities exist for obtaining justice for the Yazidi women by establishing a hybrid tribunal?
Charlotte van der Voort and President of the Executive Board Annetje Ottow

‘A previous laureate on this stage, Charlotte won first prize in the 2022 Leiden University Thesis Prizes with her Dutch Studies Master’s thesis. She now excels once again with her accessible and stylistically impressive thesis about meaningful silences in Greek philosophy. The topic invites reflection and lingers long in the mind’, said the thesis prizes jury. Curious about the jury’s verdict on the other winners and nominees? Read the 2024 Leiden University Thesis Prizes jury report online (in Dutch). 

The thesis prizes are supported by the Minerva Class of 1957/1961/1965/1973 Alumni Fund. The first prize is €3,000, the second prize €2,000 and the third prize €1,000. The university and the Leiden University Fund (LUF) are grateful to the Minerva alumni for their donations to the fund. Special thanks went to the jury for their unwavering commitment.

Schild-de Groen Research Prizes 2024

First prize

Joey Zuijdervelt (Faculty of Science)
Glioblastoma cells recruit and reprogram macrophages in zebrafish orthotopic model

Second prize Androniki Pouliopoulou (Faculty of Science)

Multiple Low Dose Approach as an Effective Strategy for Inhibiting the PI3K/AKT/mTOR Axis in Hormone Receptor Positive/HER2 Negative Breast Cancer

Third prize Noah Helderman (LUMC)

High Dimensional Immune Profiling of Colorectal Carcinomas from Patients with Lynch Syndrome Reveals Immune Diversity between Mismatch Repair Mutation Groups

Androniki Pouliopoulou, Jaap Koster, Ewa Snaar-Jagalska and Noah Helderman

The jury had the following to say about the winner: ‘The report on a tricky in vivo study of the interaction between cancer and immune cells was of a very high quality. Both content and design were excellent. Joey’s drive and creativity shine through in the report and his personal note. The supervisor’s cover letter emphasises his tremendous enthusiasm and motivation and how a lot of personal input went into shaping this research.’ Unfortunately, Joey could not attend the ceremony. His thesis supervisor Ewa Snaar-Jagalska proudly accepted the certificate and flowers on Joey’s behalf.

The Schild-de Groen Fund aims to support scientific research into the prevention and treatment of common forms of cancer. It provides three annual student prizes for a publication or thesis relating to cancer research: of 1,500, 750 and 500 euros.

2024 LISF Prize

Winner Anne Wagemakers (Faculty of Archaeology)
The Archaeozoological Remains of Castillo de Albarracín
Honourable mention Margot Zeelenberg (Medicine/LUMC)
Student Research Project: Using Zebrafish to Develop Combination Therapies to Overcome Drug Resistance in AML
Honourable mention Justin Slager (Medicine/LUMC)
Exploring Inflammatory Properties of Breast Cancer Cells Undergoing TGF-
β1-induced Epithelial-mesenchymal Transition (EMT)
Rachel Schats and Anne Wagemakers

The LISF Prize was awarded by Rachel Schats, Chair of the LISF Committee. She had a good word for everyone, but one report with a video stood out. ‘Anne, for your research master’s you went to Spain to study archaeological animal bones at a medieval fort. You found several unusual animals, including a vulture and the bones of small dogs that may have been kept as pets. You describe your experience really well in the report and even more so in the film that you made. You also touched on the things that didn’t go so well: you wanted to discover differences between Muslim and Christian bone assemblies but when you arrived the boxes turned out not to be labelled properly anymore. Unfortunately, this is part of doing research but it clearly did not discourage you. You say that this experience has made you sure you want to do a PhD in this field and the Committee sincerely hopes you will be given this opportunity.’

Each year many students go abroad with a LUF International Study Fund (LISF) grant. On returning home they write a report on what they have learned, researched and discovered. This report is automatically entered for the LISF Prize. The winner receives not only 1,000 euros but also gets to speak at a Cleveringa meeting abroad.

Janneke Fruin-Helb Grant 2024

Winner Naomi Vos (Medicine/LUMC)
Identification of Modifier Elements in the GALT Genomic Space that Play a Role in Speech Acquisition
Honourable mention Sander Rooijakkers (Faculty of Humanities)
The Wendell Family: Ethnically Dutch New Yorkers in an English Colonial Society (1670s-1760s)
Honourable mention Carola Ruschel (Faculty of Archaeology)
Unearthing the Joint Pain of the Past: An Osteoarchaeological Investigation of Osteoarthritis on Medieval Skeletal Remains from Satricum, Italy
Carola Ruschel, Naomi Vos and Sander Rooijakkers

‘When my nephew was born I finally had a tangible goal in mind: improving the life of my nephew and other galactosemia patients.’

Rachel Schats also had the honour of announcing the winner of the Janneke Fruin-Helb Grant. ‘Naomi, you did research in Boston into the metabolic disease galactosemia and the possible speech and language-acquisition delay in children with this disease. To research the link between galactosemia and certain genetic variants, you used different databases and the medical history of patients in the Boston Children’s Hospital. The need for the study and the possible implications were really clear.

‘But what touched the Committee in particular was your personal motivation. Your nephew was diagnosed with galactosemia in 2018. “Ever since I was little I dreamed of becoming a researcher. The only thing I didn’t know was in which discipline. When my nephew was born I finally had a tangible goal in mind: improving the life of my nephew and other galactosemia patients.” You have clearly contributed to this with this project and we are certain that you will do this much more in the future.’

The Janneke Fruin-Helb Grant was established to offer extra attention and financial support to outstanding LISF research proposals. Candidates with a very creative and high-quality LISF research project are eligible for the grant. It is named after A.M. Fruin-Helb, the former LUF director (1989-2003) and co-founder of the LUF International Study Fund (LISF).

Leiden University Fund congratulates the winners and nominees for their outstanding achievements. All photos from the award ceremony can be seen in our online album.

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