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Ten new members for The Young Academy

January 16, 2024

In 2024, The Young Academy will again welcome ten new members. They represent the full breadth of science and scholarship, and their research covers a wide variety of topics, ranging from needle-free injection to the philosophy of technology and natural protection from the sea.

In Dutch

The ten researchers will be officially installed as members of The Young Academy on Tuesday 26 March 2024. During their five-year membership, they will champion projects focusing on science policy, interdisciplinarity, internationalisation, and the relationship between science and society. All the new members have proved themselves academically, and gained their PhD less than a decade ago.

The new members are:

Bas Borsje (climate adaptation and hydraulic engineering, University of Twente)

How can the Netherlands stay dry as the climate changes and sea levels rise? Bas Borsje explores how we can protect ourselves from the sea by natural means. He studies ecosystems that slow down waves and that grow along with rising sea levels, such as marshes and mangrove forests. These ecosystems lie outside the dykes and can be deployed all over the world. His pioneering research is at the interface between hydraulic engineering and ecology. He is convinced that we should embrace nature instead of fighting against the water.


David Fernandez Rivas (technology for medicine and chemistry, University of Twente)

David Fernandez Rivas develops solutions to societal problems with the aid of microbubbles and various other technologies, particularly in the medical field. One of his inventions is the needle-free injection of drugs and vaccines. This makes it a lot easier to administer injections to people who have a fear of needles, whether they are children or adults. His invention also helps reduce pollution, given that some 44 million needles are currently used every day. Fernandez Rivas is also a guest lecturer at the Erasmus University Medical Centre (Rotterdam) in the field of new drug delivery technologies and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA). He is also the founder of two academic start-ups, FlowBeams (needle-free injection) and BuBclean (for ultrasonic cleaning).


Romy Gaillard (paediatrics, Erasmus MC)

It is becoming increasingly clear that the very first phase of life has a major impact for our health and the likelihood of diseases later in life. Romy Gaillard investigates how the growth and development of a child in the womb and in the very first weeks of life, just after birth, can be optimised so as to reduce the risk of chronic diseases later in life. Using the results of large-scale population screening, she develops new prevention and intervention strategies that focus on the very first phase of life, and tests them within the population. Gaillard's aim is to maximise the impact for the health of future parents and children, with the involvement of various scientific disciplines.


Valentijn Karemaker (mathematics, Utrecht University)

How can we solve number theory problems (equations) with geometric techniques? That is the main question in arithmetic geometry, Valentijn Karemaker's field of research. She uses connections between number theory and geometry to answer questions such as whether equations have solutions, and if so, how many? And how do the answers to these questions change if the equations change a bit? Karemaker is currently investigating how equations and their solutions behave when we utilise modular arithmetic, which is applied in cryptography, for example.


Olya Kudina (philosophy of technology, Delft University of Technology)

Olya Kudina explores the dynamic relationship between technologies and human values, specifically how artificial intelligence influences and can strengthen democracy. For example, how these technologies can be developed sustainably, although the principles of “sustainability” are not static and evolve during interaction with technologies such as artificial intelligence. Kudina's research spans philosophy, design and computer science, and combines theoretical and empirical work.


Stéphanie van der Pas (mathematics, Amsterdam UMC)

The actual cause of a phenomenon can be difficult to determine. Vegetarians live longer than people who eat meat, and offenders are less likely to re-offend after community service than after a prison sentence. So does that mean we should stop selling meat and close down the prisons? That would be extremely reckless, because such conclusions are based on observational data without any actual experiments having been involved. As a mathematician, Stéphanie van der Pas investigates what kind of data we can and cannot use to discover valid causal relationships. This will enable us to answer more questions from a wide range of scientific fields – such as medicine, psychology, and economics – without the need to collect data specifically for this purpose.


Saskia Peels (Ancient Greek language and literature, University of Groningen)

Saskia Peels researches religion in ancient Greece. She is particularly interested in what “believing in the gods” meant for the Greeks, and she is currently analysing what “holiness” meant for them. Together with colleagues, she is working on an online database about Greek religious practices over time. Peels is also collaborating on a monograph about rituals in which people imagined they were interacting directly and closely with the gods, and religious imagination during those rituals. To answer her research questions, she makes use of insights from other disciplines such as cognitive linguistics, psychology, and artificial intelligence.


Ward Rauws (spatial planning, University of Groningen)

Climate change, the energy transition, and an ageing population – these are all challenges that call for radical changes to our cities. Ward Rauws investigates how spatial planners can guide these changes despite having only limited influence. He also analyses how planners can make smarter use of the ingenuity of residents and users and the know-how they have gained from experience. This creates a new perspective on the social significance of spatial planning: planning interventions and policies serve not only to solve problems that we know and understand, but also to prepare cities for the unknown and unexpected.


Fenneke Sysling (history, Leiden University)

What can we learn from the science of the past? Fenneke Sysling is a historian of science and colonialism, and researches the role of ordinary people as research objects, influencers, and users of scientific knowledge. She focuses in particular on the former Dutch colonies. Sysling is currently leading a project on medical experimentation on humans in South-East Asia during colonial times.


Joris van der Voet (public administration, Leiden University)

Unclear, inconsistent, or impractical political objectives make the work of civil servants not only more complicated but also more political. Joris van der Voet conducts experimental behavioural science research on decision-making and behaviour in the public sector – ranging from top civil servants who determine policy to public professionals delivering public services. With his team, he studies how official decision-makers divide their attention in order to understand and prioritise social problems, and to generate policy solutions for tackling those problems. In collaboration with public sector employees, van der Voet develops the knowledge needed to align policies and public services more effectively with people's needs, abilities, and expectations. 



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