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Vrije Universiteit Brussel Pleinlaan 2 B-1050 Brussels


Y R 01 • N ° 1 O CTOBER 2013


Rector Prof. Dr. Paul De Knop “VUB is a high-quality university with a rapidly growing international dimension”

Closer to Van Eyck - The Ghent Altarpiece in 100 billion pixels

VUB@CERN - Science at top speed into the future

VUB Honorary Doctorates 2013 focus on global gender equality




••• Brussels scientists have discovered an 18 kg meteorite in Antarctica? January 28th, five VUB and ULB scientists, working at the Antarctic research base Princess Elisabeth, have discovered an 18 kg meteorite embedded in the Antarctic ice cap. It is the largest meteorite found in the region since 1988. The team of scientists is a part of the SAMBA project, a collaboration with scientists from the Japanese National Institute for Polar research (NIPR) and the University of Tokyo. The team was exploring the Nansen Ice Field when they discovered the 18 kg ordinary chondrite.

••• there are similarities between frogs’ adhesive toe pads and mammal hair? A team of biologists from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel have discovered an unexpected similarity between the adhesive discs on frogs’ feet and mammal hair. Wim Vandebergh, Margo Maex, Franky Bossuyt and Ines Van Bocxlaer have studied the genes involved in the formation of frogs’ toe pads. Our scientists have discovered that proteins forming the protrusions of adhesive discs are identical to those determining the formation of mammal hair. The results have been published in the scientific journal ‘Biology Letters’. Frogs’ adhesive discs consist of thousands of microscopically small protrusions at the extremities of a finger or a toe. The animals are excellent climbers thanks to this unique structure. It also helps them to stick effortlessly to glass. It’s now a fact that proteins producing these protrusions are identical to those determining the formation of mammalian hair.

••• international language use is on the rise in Brussels? Language use in Brussels is becoming increasingly diverse and international. This is what our Language Barometer n° 3, research by BRIO - the Brussels Information, Documentation and Research Centre at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel - reveals. Scientist Rudi Janssens states: “In the past we witnessed a language based separation between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities. This has now evolved into classes of monolingual, bilingual and multilingual people.” 96 languages were used in our European capital in 2006. We found 104 active languages now. The number of Brussels residents with mixed linguistic backgrounds is on the rise, and linguistic richness is being passed onto the next generation. Combined use of French, Dutch and English has become a day-to-day reality. The introduction of new languages by immigrants is even resulting in new linguistic patterns, like in all major cities. The streets are no longer a battle field for 1 majority language and multiple minority languages. We are witnessing the development of a personal, less well defined, everyday language: French at the center and influences from multiple, other languages around it. It is an example of what social scientists refer to as: ‘glocalisation’.

••• we gained valuable insights into the cause of Alzheimer’s Disease? Alzheimer’s Disease is the most prevalent form of dementia. It affects more than 35 million people world-wide. It is generally accepted that agglutination of the amyloid-β (Aβ) protein leads to death of neurons in patients. Hitherto medication has therefore been focused on the reduction of Aβ42, one of the most prevalent and most harmful proteins. PhD student Annelies Vandersteen has qualified this conception. But in our body the Aβ protein is present in various lengths of 33-49 amino acids. Her research has demonstrated, for instance, that smaller quantities of Aβ38 can moderate the agglutination and toxic effects of the longer Aβ proteins. So, processes causing Alzheimer’s Disease are determined by an entire spectrum of Aβ proteins. The cause is actually less apparent than assumed previously. And less prevalent forms of Aβ are more innocent than assumed previously. The research results can be used in developing new treatment and medication.

••• the Center for Neurosciences has been inaugurated? The Center for Neurosciences has been inaugurated at VUB’s medical campus in Jette. It is a research facility that combines all fundamental and clinical neuroscientific research at VUB, and is co-funded by the Queen Elisabeth Medical Foundation (GSKE). The purpose of the Center for Neurosciences (C4N) is to co-ordinate and to optimise all neuroscientific research activities at VUB and UZ Brussels hospital. The research topics covered by the centre include Parkinson’s Disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, neurovirology, stroke, mental health conditions, central regulation of peripheral conditions and the impact of sports and movement on the brain.


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International Policy at VUB VUB today


Interview with Rector Paul De Knop: “It is a privilege to lead VUB”





Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Lifelong learning - international exchange programmes





CERN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Research - the Ghent Altarpiece in 100 billion pixels



European grant for research on electric car batteries



Collaboration with China pays off

Honorary Doctorates - focus on gender equality





Social engagement - VUB and UZ Brussels cyclists fighting cancer Life@VUB

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Personalia & Colofon


AKADEMOS - YR 01 • N° 1 • OCTOBER 2013


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International Policy at VUB Akademos magazine in English: highlights, events, projects and plans of last year ... an ideal opportunity to share some thoughts with you about VUB’s international policy. Jacqueline Couder, Jan Cornelis Today... • universities are embedded in international networks, • excellent research is automatically rooted in a context of international collaboration, • multi-cultural understanding and skills are within reach of all on campus (VUB: internationalisation@home), • possibilities for individual mobility have been advertised and have increased tremendously, with impulses from Erasmus programmes, and many other governmental and private mobility grant opportunities, • joint international educational programmes are arising.

Still, … • major bottlenecks for profound institutional partnerships subsist – even if they are sometimes implicit or unspoken - like: different views on access to education, social differences, poverty, underdevelopment, cultural misunderstanding, religion, … • people don’t make full use of all opportunities being offered. Hesitation exists with regards to internationalisation being a key factor for success. To a certain extent we still observe people’s reluctance to move out of their comfort zone and to have a look beyond borders.

Jacqueline Couder, Head International Relations and Mobility Office and Jan Cornelis, Vice Rector International Policy

How can universities make the difference? Universities are perfect for bridging gaps. Being “neutral” platforms, they are able to bring together parties that would otherwise never consider a conversation. They offer rational mediation and knowledge support based on scientific research. They are privileged places for taking distance from daily problems, havens for early adopters of new technologies and societal models as well as sources of new talent. But competences, experience and knowledge within one university are insufficient for understanding and modelling complex systems and situations nowadays. Therefore, in the near future, the network will become the “instrument” rather than the individual university and this network will be in essence international. In such a network, privileged partnerships are important to go beyond student exchange and occasional research synergies in, for instance: sustainable joint research groups, joint and dual diplomas for completion of integrated courses, societal and economic impact by knowledge and technology transfer, international regional development including spin-offs being created internationally and adding value to existing industry, as well as societal and cultural synergies. What is happening at VUB … a summary? Internationalisation is a priority in VUB’s university-wide strategic plan. It is to be integrated in university processes and at all levels of the quality management system: central decision centres and services, faculties, departments, educational trajectories, individual courses. We consider it our first priority and a mandatory requirement for an upcoming “institutional review”. Internationalisation indubitably requires extra attention and skills. That includes change management and monitoring. Even motivation of university staff will be reinforced by KPIs taking into account internationalisation in the career path. Outgoing mobility in the scope of regular curricula is also to be increased. The average graduating student at VUB should comply with targets set by governments of Flanders and Europe. A student is to acquire at least 10 to 15 ECTS abroad. With regards to incoming mobility, 23 % of our student population comes from abroad. 30 % of our master students and

approximately 50 % of our PhD students have a non-Belgian nationality. Increasing the success rate of our international degree seeking students is a VUB priority. An international adventure should be a positive experience. Group mobility programmes with privileged partners are a model that guarantees a match between good student quality and the right programme level for succeeding. Brussels is indubitably the best brand for advertising VUB on an international level. And VUB keeps improving its position in the rankings: Shanghai Jiao Tong Top 5 - 7 %, QS ranking 172. Our research clusters and excellence research groups are unique selling points for establishing international relationships. Our institutes like IES, IIHE, BICCS are well-known worldwide. Talking about organising technology transfer and spin-off creation, including Qbic interuniversity VC fund, often raises interest resulting in invitations for lectures and profound discussions. Hitherto summer schools have been organised as personal initiatives. We now plan a more structured approach for these, allowing ECTS allocation to activities and international recognition. We expect summer schools of a limited duration to lower the threshold for international students to study at VUB afterwards. The quality of our educational programmes is high. A lot of international alumni are successful and perfect ambassadors for VUB. Our alumni database and international event organisation in collaboration with embassies is resulting in a growing social community of VUB expats.


We started a plan for sustainable relations with universities in developing countries where we have worked several years so far to contribute to capacity building, typical for VLIR-UOS projects. Affiliates play an important role in VUB internationalisation policy. With VECO (Vesalius College) we are present on the market segment of self-supporting Bachelor education, just like several international universities in Brussels. UCOS, a non-profit organisation for development aid, starts actions in developing countries in collaboration with VUB. BUA provides a full engineering master programme in English. It is also coordinating several joint projects on the ULB-VUB campuses: We can mention a visionary concept for a library and learning centre and a project to integrate campus life with surrounding communities in a Brussels area of international vocation. The Brussels Diplomatic Academy, to be launched in the last quarter of 2013 bridges the gap between diplomacy and economy/entrepreneurship. Kent University, our neighbour in Brussels for many years, pursues collaboration with doctoral schools and exchange of study modules. Reinforcement of the EhB network in southern Mediterranean countries is also pursued by VUB. This is very relevant in a Brussels context characterised by large groups of people coming in from these countries. To create a visible impact on the international scene, the scale of our institution is important. That’s why we are currently searching collaboration opportunities, starting with an alliance with UGent. We look forward to telling more about this in upcoming Akademos editions.

Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies Brussels University Alliance European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System Erasmus Hogeschool Brussel Institute for European Studies Interuniversity Institute for High Energies (ULB-VUB) Key Performance Indicator University Centre for Development Cooperation University of Ghent Université Libre de Bruxelles Vesalius College Flemish Interuniversity Council VLIR-secretariat for university development cooperation

AKADEMOS - YR 01 • N° 1 • OCTOBER 2013




Open and green access to VUB campus The winning design for the new buildings at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is creating open, green access to the campus. The winning concept provides a building complex combining classrooms, offices, a cultural centre and also housing. It has distinctive architectural features, all adding up to 1 exceptional metropolitan entity. The concept has been created by Conix Architects. VUB needs more space Due to its steady growth in recent years VUB urgently needs more space. The new site will cover approximately 25,000 m2. VUB will create 650 new student accommodations. In addition to this, the building project will provide 2,000 m2 for educational purposes, 2,400 m2 for research, 800 m2 for central services and 1,200 m2 for leisure and culture. A brand new exhibition area will be included. The famous VUB KultuurKaffee will also be sited on the new location. Construction is expected to start by the end of 2014. Buildings are to be completed by the end of 2016. The estimated cost is EUR 50 million. Conix Architects The selected agency was founded in 1979 by Christine Conix. A well-known project by Conix Architects is the renovation and expansion of the Atomium building in Brussels (2005).

Seed capital fund QBIC from laboratory to business With a capital exceeding EUR 30 million, the recently established QBIC is already one of the largest university funds for spin-offs in the Benelux. QBIC is a partnership of Ghent, Brussels and Antwerp university associations. QBIC takes a special interest in life sciences, new material development, clean technology and ICT. But QBIC is accessible for all scientific discoveries that result in products brought to the market by entrepreneurs in spin-off companies. “As research scientists, we think of new ideas and we explore the limits of what we know. It is the universities’ duty to facilitate and to coach the transformation process of some “new ideas” to “good ideas” which create a tangible impact on society and economy. QBIC is an essential

tool in this process leading to successful spin-off creation”, says Professor Jan Cornelis, instigator of the QBIC fund on behalf of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. A unique entry point VUB’s Technology Transfer Interface (TTI) provides VUB scientists with the necessary support when setting up a company: creating a business plan, composing a team and developing a network. With QBIC on board this also includes funding. |

VUB Chair to promote provision of ethical financial services The famous Belgian anthropologist Paul Jorion is the first Chair holder of the newly created ‘Stewardship of Finance’ Chair, launched in the academic year 2012 - 2013. The Chair is created to promote the provision of ethical financial services. It is supported by six major insurance companies who are striving to develop activities in a sustainable and responsible manner. The Stewardship of Finance Chair is both a study and lecturing Chair for five academic years. PhD students will study ethical financial service provision from different angles in various scientific domains, such as: economics, law, philosophy, mathematics and actuarial considerations. The study should lead to new insights into the ethics and morals of financial activities and, in particular, insurances and financial management. Lectures A series of lectures by Prof. Paul Jorion were scheduled in the academic year 2012-2013. The famous social anthropologist worked in

the American financial industry for many years. He is currently living in France and, among other jobs, is writing economic columns for Le Monde. In his lecture ‘Why stewardship of finance’, Paul Jorion discussed various subjects such as the social significance of financial institutions, the undue leniency for a value like greed in certain financial circles, the justification of charging interest with loans, the role of speculation in stock exchange transactions, and the difference between primary and secondary markets. For his definition of ‘stewardship of finance’ he was inspired by the Quaker community in

California, traditionally defining this as a service to the community. Paul Jorion concluded his lecture with the observation that those who draw lessons from the on-going financial crisis unfortunately have less lobbying power than those who do not. Perhaps, he concluded, it is time to toughen up and shout out loud: “Enough is enough!” Six major insurance companies have founded the Stewardship of Finance Chair with VUB: AG Insurance, Allianz, Baloise Insurance, Belfius Insurance, Ethias and P&V Group. More information is available at: chair/stewardship-finance

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AKADEMOS - YR 01 • N° 1 • OCTOBER 2013




“It is a privilege to lead VUB.” Prof. Dr. Paul De Knop received a renewed Rector mandate and took up a second term in leadership for the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Major objective for 2012-2016 is continuing growth of the university and, above all, at an international level. Already last year, during your election campaign, you were able to look back with satisfaction. Great progress had been made in the previous four years: more students, more scientific publications, better financial management. What are the highlights for you so far? Paul De Knop: “We have been growing for years in a row now. Our student population is very similar to populations of outstanding universities abroad. Our education quality is excellent. VUB really is alive and kicking. Even more: When you look closer at quality, we certainly deserve more students. We will achieve this in the next years. Another important highlight for me is good governance. We now have a budget plan covering periods of multiple years, with audit committees, a remuneration committee, and with a clear Overall Strategic Plan. I should also mention our cooperation with the Ghent University, with our sister university ULB and with Erasmus University College. And I’m very proud of our Career Centre, as one of the objectives of the Bologna declaration was bridging the gap between education and the employment market. I would also like to mention our ambitious building construction programme, and, last but not least, the fact that we are a financially sound university, even in today’s difficult economic context.” Talking about context, in 2013 the academic programmes at university colleges are added to the universities’ portfolio following the educational decree. VUB acquires a handful of programmes from Erasmus University College Brussels, whereas other universities acquire a lot more programmes and students. Paul De Knop: “True. We will lose part of our market share as a result of this political decision, even though VUB is doing very well. But that is beyond our control.” Does this weaken VUB’s position in higher education? Paul De Knop: “I don’t think so. But we need to point out to our politicians that a university in the capital of Europe is extremely important for Flanders and for Belgium. VUB is a high-quality

university with a rapidly growing international dimension.” The Overall Strategic Plan of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel states internationalisation as a top priority. Why? Paul De Knop: “The word “university” comes from “universitas”, the world. A university without international students and lecturers just isn’t a university. So, one should try to offer universal education and teaching. Brussels is of course the capital of Europe. We have the enormous opportunity to prepare for internationalisation by our mere presence in Brussels and being very close to European Institutions, NATO, and to all types of international organisations.” How will this internationalisation be brought to reality? Paul De Knop: ”Several plans are being put into action. First plan: research. This has always been international. Research scientists are always committed to foreign colleagues. They publish in international journals. They run international projects and so on. Second plan: education. We are working on an internal reorganisation to get

more mobility among students and lecturers, incoming as well as outgoing traffic. Our goal is to reach the 20% quota for student mobility by 2020, as stipulated by the European Union. Major obstacles in Belgium and in Flanders to achieve this are language regulations that restrain us from offering more English-taught programmes. We are only allowed to organise English programmes if we offer the same programme in Dutch ourselves, or somewhere in Flanders that programme already exists in Dutch. This means that in order to install English programmes you either have to offer programmes twice or you have to cancel Dutch programmes. A difficult situation, but we remain positive. It is an obstacle that inspires creativity and invites us to cooperate with colleagues from other universities. Our major plan in education is to establish a broad bachelor in human sciences, taught in English in cooperation with the Ghent University.” The third core competence of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel consists of societal services. How will these be affected by internationalisation? Paul De Knop: “There are a lot of other aspects of internationalisation. For instance: when we talk about housing, restaurant, staff, communication. In all these domains we will have to take internationalisation into account from now on. When it comes to societal services, we also strive to be a knowledge center and think tank for all institutions located in Brussels and for Brussels itself. We have, for example, the Institute for European Studies (IES) that specialises in European programmes and politics. We also have the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies (BICCS) when we talk about China. VUB is already active in Korea... And shortly I will be visiting Brazil alongside our Minister of Education in order to set up new partnership agreements.” I hear a lot of ambitious plans. How do you think the university will evolve in the coming years? Paul De Knop: “I expect increasing diversity in the student population. As an institution we will

concentrate on international students more than ever. At the same time we will make sure that the Belgian students’ curriculum becomes more international. The team of professors will also change in the coming years: more women, more ethnic minorities and more international professors. We will discuss whether all our professors can carry out all tasks as is expected from them now. They are at the same time confronted with increasing competition in research, professionalisation of the system, internationalisation, management functions, valorisation and more. Can they be expected to handle all of this at once? I think we should look for different types of professors. Just like the research professors we already have, we can consider teaching professors. That concept already exists in the Netherlands. They are lecturing based on research, without conducting research themselves. Academics may be opposed to this now, but it’s an idea to make the professor’s career more viable. We must pick up the discussion with the university community. If not, I’m afraid that an increasing number of professors are heading for a burn-out.”

You must be mad to become a professor these days? Paul De Knop: “Certainly not, it is still a fantastic job. But it has become more competitive than ever.” Has VUB defined certain focal points in research nowadays? Paul De Knop: “The world is becoming increasingly competitive. This also applies to scientific research. If you want to enter into competition with foreign and domestic universities, you have to focus and concentrate. VUB cannot act differently. But research groups that are no priority will, of course, still receive funds. Everyone in a qualified project must be motivated.” Another major challenge in your second term will be the development of a University Medical Campus in cooperation with UZ Brussels? Paul De Knop: “On our Jette campus you already find the VUB Medical Faculty, the UZ Hospital and even the Nursing School from the Erasmus

University College. That’s why we started shaping the University Medical Campus – UMC. Because of the growth of our activities, we will in this way be able to manage our campus more efficiently. The UMC project will have a separate governance structure with an independent chairman.” Is your family happy about your second term? Paul De Knop: “I have a wonderful and tolerant wife. But I can’t deny that the impact on our personal life is very high. My life is governed by my agenda. My children sometimes see me more often in the media than at home. This is also related to my personality. Once I start a task, I will do it thoroughly. But I can still manage. I have great colleagues and an excellent physical condition. I climb the staircase with 111 steps to the rector’s office on the fifth floor several times a day instead of taking the elevator.” [pvr]

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AKADEMOS - YR 01 • N° 1 • OCTOBER 2013




VUB and Chinese universities work together more closely

In 2012, an important Chinese delegation visited VUB. The reason for this visit was an agreement between VUB and the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange of the Chinese Ministry of Education (CSCSE). The goal of this agreement is to enhance the exchange of students. The event was a part of the EU-China highlevel people-to-people dialogue, co-launched

by Chinese State Counselor Liu Yandong and EU Culture and Education Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou. 50 representatives of 18 Chinese top universities were present when the agreement was signed by Mr. Bai Zhangde, Director of CSCSE and Jean-Pierre De Greve, former Vice Rector International Relations at VUB. Afterwards, the delegation visited the

campus Etterbeek which allowed them to see the International Office, IES (Institute for European Studies), BICCS (Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies), the greenhouse of the Department of Applied Biological Sciences and the Robotics Department.

VUB welcomes delegation from 38 Chinese top universities in Brussels City Hall In April 2013, in the framework of the EU-China high level people-to-people dialogue (HPPD), VUB and ULB jointly organised a reception in

the Brussels City Hall to welcome delegations from 38 Chinese top universities, many of which already are privileged partner universities. Two

Increasing number of students from China • The Vrije Universiteit Brussel has more than 2,600 foreign students, of whom 182 are Chinese, corresponding to 7% of the total number of international students. • 58% of the Chinese students are PhD students, 37% attend a Master programme, and 5% attend a BICCS programme (Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies).

of these partner universities, Renmin University of China and Sichuan University, both top 10 comprehensive universities in China, then visited Campus Etterbeek to discuss deepening specific academic collaboration. In recent years VUB established advanced contacts with several partner universities in China. Soon, VUB will launch the China Academic Network Brussels, an open network for academic innovation and dialogue based in Brussels.

Collaboration with China pays off “The Chinese don’t plan, they act!” Prof. Jan Cornelis has become a respected China expert in the last decades. He has been working closely together with Chinese universities and engineers for many years at VUB’s Electronics and Informatics Department (ETRO). ETRO has created very close ties with the Chinese city of Xi’an and the Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU). Jan Cornelis, now also Vice Rector Internationalisation, has recently been honoured with a prestigious Chinese Friendship Award. An interview with Prof. Cornelis and his colleague Prof. Hichem Sahli, head of the joint VUB-NPU laboratory for Audio Visual Signal Processing (AVSP) about China, VUB’s internationalisation process and student mobility. The relationship between VUB and NPU started out in the early 90s. Jan Cornelis then made his first visit to NPU, a Chinese engineering university. “The campus was situated on the outskirts of the city at that time. After a 15 minute bicycle ride we were in the countryside. But today NPU is located in the centre of this incredibly expanding city. It takes you at least 1 hour by car to reach the city limits.” The close ties between the ETRO Department at VUB and NPU are one of the powerful motivations for the ambitious agreement between the Brussels Capital Region and the city of Xi’an on education, research and new technology. The award Jan Cornelis received the Sanqin Friendship Award in 2012. It is a prestigious distinction from the province of Shaanxi for international individuals who have made a significant contribution to economic and social progress in the province. Hichem Sahli: “Our international relationship is based on friendship, mutual respect and creation of win-win situations. This

goes well beyond education and research. I also believe it to be great that we got this far this fast. We are now well prepared to respond to the European Commission’s demand for more European-Chinese partnership projects and joint laboratories.” Benefits for VUB “Being Vice Rector Internationalisation, I really applaud such cooperation”, states Jan Cornelis. “The European Commission expects 20% of our graduates to have spent a substantial part of their education abroad by the year 2020. Why wouldn’t students then choose a completely different cultural and socio-economic setting? They will gain a lot of experience and find completely different ways of thinking. But, of course, quality of education must be assured. We can guarantee that because we know our Chinese partners very well.” At the same time Chinese students – many of them being PhD students – are joining VUB. They form actually one of the largest groups amid our international student population. “And having foreign

students in our Master programmes is a multicultural enrichment for all students present”, says Prof. Hichem Sahli. “That’s why all Chinese students are more than welcome here, including PhD students.” In the area of research an international increase in numbers is also mandatory. “Counting about 120 people (110 FTE+), our ETRO Department is one of the largest departments at VUB covering a wide research domain in ICT. By working together with international partners in joint research laboratories, we significantly expand our research capacity as needed”, explains Prof. Cornelis. Differences No matter how close the cooperation, there are major differences between our Belgian approach and the Chinese one. “This may sound strange, but one can notice that Chinese plan very little”, says Jan Cornelis. “In Brussels we are much more concerned with planning. Chinese just do things, and rather quickly.” Change in China has been spectacular in the past twenty years. “Prosperity has significantly increased. A large middle class has emerged. I don’t know if people are actually happier now, but they certainly give us that impression. I think they really enjoy the fact of evolving this fast.” Meanwhile, new VUB partnership projects with several universities are in the pipeline. “Our China story is booming”, says Jan Cornelis. “Given its size, it would sound rather grotesque to claim that we cooperate with China. After all, VUB is a medium-sized university in Belgium. But we do have a limited set of very rich partnerships.”

AKADEMOS - YR 01 • N° 1 • OCTOBER 2013




VUB PhD Day 2013: Open science is the future Research results must be freely accessible to anyone who wants to examine them. That was the basic idea in ‘Open Science’, the theme for the 2013 VUB PhD Day on Friday 31 May 2013. Open house for the entire VUB PhD community once every three years is certainly not an unnecessary luxury. After all, there are about 1,350 PhD students at VUB. The number of doctorates awarded has almost doubled over the past 10 years, going from 101 in 2002 to 185 in 2012. In his opening speech, Rector

Paul De Knop appropriately stated: “Without doctorates we would have no science, no knowledge production and no university.” Open Science Video messages from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and European Commissioner Neelie Kroes

introduced a fascinating panel discussion on open science and open access, involving policy makers, experts and scientists. With great certainty one can say that accessibility of research results and research data will become increasingly important in the scientific debate.

Blended learning: new educational methods to successfully combine work and study At VUB 1 out of 10 students is a working student. Offering high-quality programmes to people who combine work and study is consequently a high priority. VUB puts strong focus on blended learning: combining on-campus education with independent online study at home or elsewhere. For Prof. Nadine Engels and Prof. Chang Zhu of the Education Department blended learning is a real asset if you have very diversified target groups for a particular learning programme. Prof. Zhu: “A combination of traditional face-to-face lectures and online learning activities is stimulating for all students, but especially rewarding for working students. You get maximum return out of PointCarré, the online VUB learning platform. And by incorporating interactive tools, like blogs and discussion forums, working students feel much more involved with their fellow students. Research has shown that a higher level of involvement makes sure that students don’t give up too easily.” Flexibility For working students it is very important being able to rely on high level flexibility and easy access to any matter relating to their courses. Blended learning enables them to study anytime and anywhere. Prof. Engels states: “There is no need for them to make their way through traffic every evening. At the same time they keep in touch with their fellow students. Blended learning is entirely focused on individual student needs. Prof. Zhu adds: “It provides people of all ages and of all

professions with the opportunity to get into higher education. Does it mean we will soon enter an age without professors in auditoria? No, the presence of lecturers will remain important. But their role will shift from transferring knowledge to facilitating: being a person who guides students through their learning process.”

Prof. Chang Zhu

Prof. Nadine Engels

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More than 30 disciplines

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel offers 30 high-quality English-taught graduate programmes. All degree programmes are accredited by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO).



Generation under Construction: Brussels-Chengdu-Lubumbashi - a new VUB Student Exchange Project “Generation under Construction” is a new exchange project between students of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the Sichuan University in China and the University of Lubumbashi in DR Congo. Over the course of 3 years the students will be guests in each other’s country to exchange and debate on international issues concerning their generation. VUB students will be welcoming their Chinese and Congolese fellow students in the summer of 2014. The students will stay for three weeks. The University Centre for Development Cooperation (UCOS), based at VUB, will be coordinating and guiding the whole project.

VUB is elected coordinator of new Erasmus Mundus projects: CARIBU and EU-CHINA DOC In July 2013 the European Commission decided on funding for the next generation of Erasmus Mundus projects. As experienced coordinator, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has been chosen to run two projects: CARIBU and EU-CHINA DOC. CARIBU, a major project with a budget of almost EUR 4 million, is an exchange programme in which 8 EU institutions and 12 educational institutions in Africa, Carribean and Pacific countries, the so-called ACP, are participating. Jimma University in Ethiopia is

co-coordinator. As many as 210 people will receive a scholarship to study or gain experience at a university in Europe. Also, professors from EU countries will travel to Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific to lecture and to conduct research. CARIBU aims to create an academic network for international cooperation; where best practices with regard to research are exchanged between institutions, and individual participants gain experience that will stimulate their future scientific career.

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel is also coordinator of the Erasmus Mundus project EU-CHINA DOC. This project will facilitate EU-China cooperation in doctoral education. It aims to facilitate dialogue, exchange of views and specific cooperation between European and Chinese stakeholders in doctoral education.

The Institute for European Studies IES is an academic Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence and a policy think tank that focuses on the European Union in an international setting.

IES offers: Advanced Master Studies • Master of Laws (LLM) in International and European Law: • MSc. in European Integration and Development (Euromaster): Summer School on European policy-making:

E-learning Modules: Training: an intensive training seminar on the EU institutions and the EU policy process: Research: Opportunities for PhDs:

Postgraduate Certificate in EU policy-making:

Educational kit for light science: Photonics Explorer The Brussels’ photonics team of Vrije Universiteit Brussel recently presented the ‘Photonics Explorer’, an educational kit for secondary schools in light and lighting technology. The kit enables secondary school students to experiment with high-tech components such as lasers, LEDs and optical fibres. The educational kit has been developed under supervision of Professor Hugo Thienpont at the B-PHOT research group of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel: “If Flanders aims to continue taking a lead in economic and social innovation, we need to make people familiar with concepts like critical thinking, experimental learning and entrepreneurship already at an early age. The ‘Photonics Explorer’ certainly contributes to this. It allows students to create their very own experimental constructions using the latest technology.” The kit has been developed with financial support from the European Union. The telecom company TE Connectivity will equip one hundred schools in Flanders with it.

AKADEMOS - YR 01 • N° 1 • OCTOBER 2013 15



Honorary doctorates focus on gender equality

“My first academic degree!” Kim Clijsters declared at the end of the ceremony on 28 May. Kim Clijsters was one of five women awarded an honorary doctorate by VUB. According to Rector Paul De Knop, Prof. Londa Schiebinger (Stanford University, United States), Prof. Cecilia Jarlskog (Lund University, Sweden), Prof. Carol Gilligan (New York University, United States) and International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda are amid the world’s most influential people. By deliberately selecting women for this year’s honorary doctorates, VUB aims at increasing gender equality in the academic world and beyond. Londa Schiebinger, Professor of History of Science at Stanford University USA, was the first laureate in 2013 to receive a VUB honorary doctorate. When answering to the question if feminism has changed the world of science, Schiebinger acknowledged that clear progress has definitely been made, but there’s still a long way to go. Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda Unfortunately International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda was unable to attend the award ceremony. However, the audience was

presented with a video of her acceptance speech in which Fatou Bensouda explained sincerely that she is committed to tracking down and prosecuting anyone suspected of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. And that she will bring people to justice. “I am happy to see that VUB recognizes the great work of the international court with regards to women rights,” concluded this lady lawyer from Gambia. Victim of the Taliban During the ceremony the university also announced that it is offering a full scholarship

and accommodation to Malala Yousafzai if she desires to study at VUB. Since the age of 11, this youngster from Pakistan has been fighting for the right of girls to education. She grew into a forceful women’s rights campaigner in Pakistan. On 9 October 2012 she was shot in head and neck in an assassination attempt by the Taliban. She recovered from her injuries at a London hospital. Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and has recently been elected one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.

Matter and Anti-matter Physicist Cecilia Jarlskog from Lund University in Sweden, the next laureate, explained the essence of matter and anti-matter in the universe in a fascinating way (Where has all the anti-matter gone?) during a face-to-face interview. In a Different Voice Laureate Prof. Carol Gilligan from New York University was praised for her major role in gender research. Since the publication of her book “In a different voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development”, the psychology professor has become a key player in the gender debate. What is her message? It’s crucial that everyone’s voice is heard! Joachimam The last VUB 2013 honorary doctorate was awarded to tennis champion Joachimam Clijsters, the official name of Kim Clijsters on her diploma in Latin. She was awarded the doctorate because of the amazing impact she has had on people. Kim sparked a boom in memberships at Belgian tennis clubs. Kim Clijsters commented: “I am very proud that I have inspired youngsters to play tennis”. When replying to the question “Why should we invest in top-level sport in combination with education?”, Rector Paul De Knop said: “We should never ask intelligent people who also have a talent for sports to make a choice.” Strong signal Professor Londa Schiebinger expressed her gratitude on behalf of all five honorary doctors. She completed her brief and powerful message with three suggestions for improved gender equality in the academic world and beyond: 1. The participation of women in science, or Fix the number of women; 2. Gender bias in scientific institutions, or Fix the institutions; 3. Gender dimension - gendered innovations - in research and innovation, or Fix the knowledge. In the following speech the Flemish Minister of Education Pascal Smet expressed his satisfaction with VUB’s decision to award the 2013 honorary doctorates to women. He stated: “This is not only recognition of the achievements of these women, but today VUB also expressed the ambition to be a university with a real gender plan.”

Fatou Bensouda

“I’ve never expected this. It’s a great honour. I have never been aware of having created such a positive image throughout my career. But one can only experience something like that afterwards, through the people you meet.” Kim Clijsters in the newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen

AKADEMOS - YR 01 • N° 1 • OCTOBER 2013 17



Walter Van Doninck, Vice Chairman of the Board at CERN Physicist Prof. Dr. Walter Van Doninck of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel was appointed Vice Chairman of the Board at CERN on 1 January 2013. CERN is located near Geneva in Switzerland. The team runs the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, Large Hadron Collider (LHC). At CERN scientists research the utmost elementary particles of nature. The Board of CERN is the highest governing body of this world-renowned research institute. Prof. Van Doninck (born in 1948) is Research Director of the Fund for Scientific Research in Flanders (FWO). He studied physics at former RUCA in Antwerp and at VUB. He obtained his doctorate at VUB in 1977. Prof. Van Doninck has been involved in the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment with LHC at CERN since 1992.

Walter Van Doninck with King Albert II and Federal Minister for Climate and Energy Paul Magnette at CERN - © CERN

VUB@CERN Starting out in 1993, the VUB team has been involved in design, construction, starting up and operating one of the four major experiments with the particle accelerator: the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment (CMS). About 3,500 scientists and engineers from 182 institutions in 42 countries are working on the CMS project. VUB scientists have set up a series of detectors at the Interuniversity Institute for High Energy (IIHE), now operational in the CMS experiment. In addition, a gigantic set of computers with almost 2,000 computing units and more than 1,000 TB of hard disks were assembled at the VUB computing centre for data processing of proton collisions. In both 2007 and 2008, VUB PhD students were awarded the annual CERN award for best doctoral paper relating to the CMS experiment.

This is quite an achievement, as more than 800 doctoral projects from 182 universities or institutes from 42 countries are active in the experiment. About 20 VUB scientists cooperate as a team in the CMS experiment, often in a leading role. “Several important results carry a VUB label. VUB scientists are key players in development of several reconstruction techniques to optimise analysis of collisions. The team also holds leading positions in management,” explains Prof. D’Hondt, who is Secretary of the Board of Directors in the CMS experiment. Also Freya Blekman and Steven Lowette of the VUB team won two Odysseus mandates. These are scholarships providing financial funds to set up a research connection at a Flemish university with research scientists having a career outside Flanders.


charting the invisible universe


HEP@VUB is in the spotlight worldwide. HEP@VUB brings together experimental (IIHE) and theoretical (TENA) particle physicists and stands for ground-breaking research in astroparticle physics, physics of particle collisions and theoretical high energy-physics. HEP@VUB research scientists use several complementary methods to study physics in the highest energy scales having had an impact immediately after the big bang.

Large Hadron Collider and decades of research from, among others, our VUB team, the alleged Brout-Englert-Higgs particle was finally discovered in July 2012.

Physics in particle collisions Where do electrons and quarks, building blocks of matter, obtain their mass? Thanks to the

Astroparticle physics Thanks to global cooperation a huge telescope of 1 cubic kilometre of ice was created on the

South Pole in 2010. It was named IceCube. It equals 400 times the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza and is equipped with 5,160 light sensors, buried in the ice at depths up to 2.5 kilometres. IceCube detects neutrinos and gathers data on extreme high-energy physical processes in the universe. The telescope is synchronised with satellite data 24 hours a day. The Interuniversity Institute for High Energy (IIHE, by ULB and VUB) in Brussels has one of the largest IceCube analysis centres in Europe. If a special event occurs, VUB researchers get a message from NASA. Then they examine if the event is involving highenergy neutrinos. Theoretical high-energy physics How can we combine quantum physics and gravity? The answer to this question could be string theory. The VUB team is investigating if string theory could define the big bang. In addition, they are using techniques from string theory to simplify extremely difficult calculations in more conventional physics.

Creating an inspiring future together! The Vrije Universiteit Brussel establishes a platform where academia meets society and business. Let’s talk and learn from each other. Fellowship VUB will initiate action to increase employability of graduates, stimulate research projects and improve innovation capacity and competitiveness.

Fellowship VUB Academia meets society

AKADEMOS - YR 01 • N° 1 • OCTOBER 2013 19



Closer to Van Eyck:

The Ghent Altarpiece in 100 billion pixels Research by Professor Ann Dooms and her colleagues at the Electronics and Informatics Department (ETRO) enables millions of web surfers to see the finest details in facial expressions, hair, pearls, robes and more. The famous ‘Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ by the Van Eyck brothers has withstood many trials: the Iconoclastic Fury, a theft in the nineteen thirties and Second World War. The painting has never been safe, not even in a bulletproof glass cage in the Cathedral of Saint Bavo in Ghent. Since 1986, the paint is showing new cracks due to fluctuations in temperature and humidity, improper lighting and poor air quality due to crowds of visitors. But the resulting craquelure in the painting can now be studied in detail on the website ‘Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece’. The site shows an amazing digital reproduction of the Mystic Lamb painting in no less than 100 billion pixels. The opening image on the site shows all 12 panels of the 15th century painting. After 8 double mouse clicks the visitor disappears completely into the sheepskin. This enormously high resolution is a great aid when it comes to restoring the damaged masterpiece, a task started in the autumn of 2012. Mathematics VUB has been responsible for the digital image processing for the website. Professor Ann Dooms: “We developed an algorithm to automati-

cally weld together images at certain points.” Prof. Dooms manages the Multimedia Forensics research team, a part of the IRIS research group at the ETRO Department of VUB. The focus of her scientific research is discovering or even inverting various operations that a picture, or its source, has been submitted to. The team focuses on 3 specific facets: security or authenticity of digital images based on watermarks, perceptual image quality and digital analysis of paintings. Contact was made with Prof. Ron Spronk, who was performing a large-scale digitalisation operation of the Ghent Altarpiece. The photographer recorded the painting in overlapping blocks. An algorithm – a mathematical formula – was designed to automatically link the different picture blocks. “The photographer’s overlapping images are actually welded together by the algorithm that finds corresponding points in the various complementary pictures. This is not an easy task from a mathematical perspective. Differences in exposure and focus, for instance, must be aligned in order to create an overall fit. The processing of data, however, is quite easy. One simply feeds images to the algorithm.” Universum Digitalis, a VUB-ETRO spin-off company, was also involved in website design and

Prof. Ann Dooms

implementation. This team was facing another challenge: how can you bring images of approximately 4 gigabytes into a living room over the Internet? Universum Digitalis successfully managed to display the huge amounts of data from the Ghent Altarpiece on computers and mobile devices anywhere: with JPEG 2,000 file format it’s even feasible to immediately zoom in on the smallest detail. Conservation This research on digital image analysis by VUB offers exciting possibilities for museums and art historians. Research in museums often focuses on conservation. Digital imaging technology is an excellent tool for this. You can monitor conditions in which an artwork is kept. You can also use it to do repairs. In addition, the technique offers a non-invasive method for exploring style and history of a painting, even in signatures. After renovation of the Ghent Altarpiece, which will take about three and a half years, the artwork will be photographed and studied again. In the future, Ann Dooms intends to continue forensic research on all panels of the Altarpiece. “A current hot topic is whether one can ever discuss perceptual quality of a picture without actually knowing the original work. A bokeh portrait, (bokeh: quality when being out-of-focus, “blurry” parts of an image rendered by a camera lens) for example, is often experienced as very beautiful. But a computer has great difficulty measuring quality when combining sharp and “out of focus” areas. We must learn to translate the perception of beauty into an algorithm. Is this a target for the future or is it not feasible? Time will tell. This R&D project is done by a larger, international and multidisciplinary team. Main partners in the project are: VUB (Ann Dooms, Bruno Cornelis, Gabor Fodor), Duke University (Ingrid Daubechies, David Dunson), UGent (Aleksandra Pizurica, Tijana Ruzic, Ljiljana Platisa, Maximiliaan Martens), Museum of Fine Arts Brussels (Frederik Leen), Canvas Claessens (Philippe Huyvaert) and Queens University (Ron Spronk).

Detail from the Music-making Angels

‘Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ by the Van Eyck brothers

International recognition for two VUB research scientists

Jeroen Raes - photo VIB

In 2011, the science community has praised the work by Jeroen Raes on the composition of intestinal flora as being the scientific ‘breakthrough of the year’. With his colleagues from other European research institutions, Jeroen Raes demonstrated that one hundred thousand billion bacteria in our bowels can be grouped into three types of intestinal flora Bacteroides, Prevotella and Ruminococcus. These types are named according to the bacteria that dominate the intestines in that particular type. It is yet unclear if people actually move from one dominant group into another during their lifetime. “But the three intestinal types can provide an explanation as to why the ingestion of medicines and food differs between people,” explains bio-IT specialist Jeroen Raes, “After all, communities of bacteria affect the conversion of food into energy and the production of vitamins in the intestines. This knowledge could be the basis for customised therapies. The patient’s intestinal type could in this way become a determining factor for treatment and dose.”

Research by Prof. Jan Steyeart (VUB – Flemish Institute for Biotechnology VIB) was one of the highlights in ‘365 days: 2011 in review’, issued by the prestigious Nature journal. Together with scientists from Stanford University, Jan Steyaert published a complete 3 dimensional atomic structure of a ‘GPCR in action’: the beta-2-adrenergic receptor (beta-2-AR) coupled with its G protein. It was a major step in understanding how these receptors work. It is therefore also important for development of new medicines. About one third of already approved medicines and hundreds of medicines currently being developed are using these G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR). The GPCRs act like molecular switches passing on messages from the outside to the inside of a cell. GPCRs are situated at the surface of cells in the body. They pick up signals from both outside of the body – like odours, flavours or light – and from inside the body, such as neurotransmitters and hormones. Once signals have been transmitted to the inside of a cell, the GPCRs activate intracellular G-proteins that, in return, trigger a large number of biochemical cascades. It was not yet known how G-protein coupled receptors link binding signals from outside the cell to the activation of the G-protein within the cell. That was an important obstacle in understanding how it works so far. Jan Steyaert - photo VIB

Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies The Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies is a leading European research group for multidisciplinary study of contemporary China. Besides solid academic research BICCS has developed advanced training programmes for graduates: • China Business Development • Chinese Business Law • Contemporary China Studies • Investing in the EU – Benelux as a gateway



European grant for research on electric car batteries The VUB research group, Mobility, Logistics and Automotive Technology Research Center (MOBI), has received a grant of EUR one million from the European Commission for development of electric car batteries. “This European grant will enable us to employ 4 extra researchers over a period of 3 years. The project has therefore been named ‘BATTERIES2020’, states Prof. Joeri Van Mierlo from MOBI. switched reluctance motors. On the Go4SEM project, we will be studying and promoting the role of European SMEs in new value chains for electromobility in world-wide growth markets, such as China, India and South Korea. The ReSkills project will focus on other aspects, such as the training and educational requirements of the new renewable energy market.

Thierry Coosemans, Peter Van den Bossche, Noshin Omar and Joeri Van Mierlo in the battery lab

Noshin Omar states: “Our researchers will be testing some 400 innovative NM C lithium batteries in MOBI’s battery laboratory.” European Confidence The fact that Europe has so much confidence in MOBI’s expertise is due to the leading role which the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has always played in the field of electric cars. MOBI has now grown into an interdisciplinary research group of 50 researchers and 100 research projects. According to Prof. Van Mierlo: “Over the last 5 years, this has resulted in a turnover of EUR 12 million, 30% of which came from

contractual research. Our main strength is that we are a multidisciplinary group and not only have in-house experts on batteries and technology, but that we are also highly skilled in the ecological and business aspects of transport in general, and electric vehicles, in particular. This versatility gives a strong image at European level.” Prof. Thierry Coosemans, who is in charge of the European projects at MOBI, confirms this. This year we also clinched 3 other European projects, for a total of half a million euros. As part of the SyrNemo project, we will perform an LCA – Life Cycle Analysis – on innovative

Second Life Prof. Peter Van den Bossche, who specialises in standardisation, states: “The success of electric vehicles will very much depend on the further development and improvement of the batteries. After all, they determine the action radius of the electric vehicle. However, other aspects are equally important, such as research into a ‘second life’ for the batteries. A battery actually comes to the end of its life when it only has 80% of its capacity left. But that type of battery could still be useful elsewhere such as: storing excess electricity from wind turbines. In order to achieve this, we will have to develop standard test procedures to give the batteries a ‘health check’.” This approach could drastically alter the cost of electric cars. According to Prof. Van Mierlo: “The batteries considerably hike up the cost of electric vehicles. However, if it were possible to sell on the battery – as soon as its efficiency drops – for other purposes, then it all becomes considerably cheaper.”

Close the Gap launches E-Waste recycling center in Africa Close the Gap, an influential NGO that was launched a decade ago as a final year project of four VUB Business Engineer Students, opened the first E-Waste center for Discarded Electrical and Electronic Devices, WorldPC, in Nairobi, Kenya. This center is a first in the whole of the East African Union (EAC) and can process cathode ray tube monitors and television sets through a fully-automated specialised processing machine with a length of 12 metres. Second life for PCs For many years, Close the Gap has been giving old computers a second life by using them for development aid in Africa. Since it was launched, more than 200,000 computers have been processed and re-used by Close the Gap in either sustainable ICT projects in the south or for environmentally-friendly processing. An extra challenge is: when the second life of these PCs is over, they also increase the mountain of electronic waste in Africa, including all the toxic substances that are present in PCs and monitors. WorldPC should make an end to this by setting up a network of local, regional and international partners who are responsible for collecting and recycling electronic waste. Close the Gap expects the initiative to be self-sustaining by 2015. “If we can demonstrate that the concept works, we then intend to expand

the activities to Kenya’s neighbouring countries, and, in time, we hope that the model will be adopted by the local authorities.” states Close the Gap. Following the inauguration with Neelie Kroes in Kenya, a strategic partnership with the Recupel nonprofit organisation was also signed. Recupel’s CEO, Peter Sabbe, has officially promised to financially support WorldPC by cofunding the growth plans of this new spin-off for a period of 3 to 5 years. From its start-up, Close the Gap has been supported by VUB who provides for the accomodation on campus ground.

Neelie Kroes at the opening of the E-Waste Center in Nairobi

Successful exit for VUB spin-off NMDG, a spin-off at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, has been acquired by the American company National Instruments. NMDG is specialising in high-frequency measurement, analysis and modelling of high-frequency compo-

nents, circuits and systems. The company was founded in 2003 by Marc Vanden Bossche and his colleagues. The company is rooted in VUB. Vanden Bossche and the other staff members will be transferred to the National Instruments

organisation, known for the NI LabVIEW™ software and for modular, PXI-based measuring instruments.

New progress has been made in the treatment of tuberculosis Scientists under the supervision of Joris Messens (VUB/Flemish Institute for Biotechnology) have discovered that Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium causing tuberculosis, boasts an ingenious defence mechanism against oxygen. This knowledge is impor-

tant in the search for a tuberculosis treatment. Every year, some 9.4 million people become infected with tuberculosis and 1.7 million people die from the disease.

AKADEMOS - YR 01 • N° 1 • OCTOBER 2013 23



VUB and UZ Brussels cyclists fighting cancer A 1,000 km bicycle ride to support the fight against cancer during 4 days. This is the goal of the annual 1,000 km trip of the organisation “Kom op tegen Kanker” (Fight Against Cancer). This year, 4 VUB teams were present: 2 VUB university teams and 2 UZ Brussels teams from the Brussels university hospital. For the cyclists this ride is more than just a sporting event. After all, social commitment is one of VUB’s core values. Rector Paul De Knop: “For me - being a keen sportsman - this is a great challenge. I’m forced to work out intensively during the next few weeks and to prepare myself both mentally and physically. However, the sporting aspect is just a matter of secondary importance to me. The main facet is our participation in this event supporting the fight against cancer. Scientists, including our own VUB researchers, do an incessant study in treatment of this horrific illness. Drawing attention to their fight against cancer deserves our wholehearted support.” Lieven Annemans, Prof. of Health Economics, fully agrees with the Rector. “Besides the vast personal pain, this disease is harmful to and a blot on our civil society. In recent decades cancer treatments have vastly improved but they have also become very expensive. This is why more

attention must be paid to prevention by embracing a healthy lifestyle and supporting a healthy environment.” The objective of the 1,000 km ride remains unchanged: companies, associations and groups need to engage teams to cycle 1,000 km in 4 phases or days. Every team must raise EUR 5,000 to participate. The entire sum will go to “Kom op tegen Kanker” (Fight Against Cancer) and will be used to fund cancer research. This year, VUB has collected EUR 23,000.

Respect UZ Brussel is the hospital attached to the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Patients UZ Brussel is the university hospital with Universiteit Brussel. receive high-quality medical care,affiliated enhanced bythe theVrije availability of innovative Our patients receive high-quality medical care, enhanced by availability of innomedical technologies, a strong and specialised team of nurses and (para-) vative medical technologies, a specialised team of nurses and (para-)medics, and medics and high-tech Thecomes patient always first along with high-tech equipment. Theequipment. patient always first, with comes great respect for him/ respect for him/her as a person and his/her right to self-determination. her as a person and his/her right to self-determination.

UZ Brussel Brusselemploys employs3,400 3,400 people. is affiliated the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of UZ people. It isItaffiliated with with the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of the Vrije the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Having beds, 721 hospital beds, we manage more admissions than 28,000and admissions Universiteit Brussel. With 721 hospital it can accommodate over 28,000 400,000 and 400,000every day patients everyfrom year,Belgium both coming from Belgium and from abroad. outpatients year — both and abroad.

Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel, Laarbeeklaan 101 - 1090 Brussel



“Student or Professor, everyone is equal in the VUB Orchestra” The Symphony Orchestra of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel was founded twenty years ago. It is once again preparing for five major autumn concerts in Flanders and Brussels. “What makes the orchestra unique is that it is open to everyone”, says inspirer and current vice chairman Prof. Jacques De Ruyck. “From student to emeritus, from soloist to fifth flutist; for us, everyone is equal.” Since 2012, the VUB orchestra has been strengthened by sister university ULB.

The five concerts that have been scheduled for the end of November and early December are inspired by the ‘”European Year of the Citizen”. The programme includes works by Verdi, Berlioz, Copland, Williams and Zimmer. “Every

year, we thoroughly consider the theme of the concerts, and then look for fitting music”, says Prof. Jacques De Ruyck. “We also perform works that are seldomly heard. The music is accompanied by a ‘spoken part’, with poetry

or prose performed by a recitalist.” One of the strengths of the VUB orchestra is that rehearsals do not take place every week throughout the year, but are concentrated in the period October-December. The really hard work takes place in November, during two long training weekends at a secluded location. There, the concerts get their final shape. “These intense preparation sessions with conductor Jurgen Wayenberg ensure that the level is very high”, says Jacques De Ruyck. But even if the level is very high, and some of the musicians are really excellent, we have never aspired to be a professional orchestra. The unique atmosphere remains the key element. We don’t mind the occasional off-key note, as long as you make music.

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The Artificial Intelligence Laboratory is celebrating its 30th anniversary The VUB Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (AI Lab) was founded thirty years ago. Prof. Luc Steels, one of the founders of the AI Lab, is internationally renowned as a pioneer in artificial intelligence research. “Nowadays, artificial intelligence is omnipresent, Luc Steels states, but back then, no-one thought that it would have such an impact in the future.” The anniversary celebrations included an opera performance entitled ‘Casparo’, composed by Prof. Luc Steels himself. The opera tells the story of a robot which still has some defects, but whose owner longs for a robot equal to a human being.

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••• there are many different varieties of feathered dinosaurs?

IRSNB-KBIN/P. Golinvaux

Philippe Claeys from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Pascal Godefroit from the Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences have published a description of a new theropod dinosaur in the highly reputable magazine Nature Communications: ‘Reduced plumage and flight ability of a new Jurassic paravian theropod from China.’ Their article explains that the plumage of feathered dinosaurs from the Middle Jurassic period varied greatly. Feathers could be long or short, grow thickly or thinly. Did they glide? Did they run? The properties of the plumage basically dictated the way of life of the various feathered dinosaurs. This study proves that feathered dinosaurs occupied a wide range of ecological niches.

••• the nano force of light can be amplified by up to 200 times? Researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel have devised a new method to amplify the nano force of light on matter. Nowadays, the smallest of items, such as molecules, can be moved by light, but otherwise this nano force of light remains limited. However, as a result of research carried out at VUB, this force can be amplified by up to 200 times. Vincent Ginis, who has applied for funding from the FWO (Fund for Scientific Research), and Prof. Irina Veretennicoff have designed – in collaboration with co-authors Dr. Philippe Tassin and Prof. Costas Soukoulis (Iowa State University, US) - a new method to drastically enhance the optical forces. The technology

makes use of one of the very latest insights into electromagnetism, i.e. transformation optics, by giving light the illusion that the waveguides are actually positioned closer to each other. This analytical and digital work represents a major step towards manipulating optical components with the aid of optical forces. In the future, this could lead to vast improvements in the operation of smartphone touch screens, greater efficiency in the operation of artificial muscles, and micro-motors, controlled by light.

••• the first complete history of Dutch language has been published in English? Roland Willemyns, Professor Emeritus at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, has just published the first complete history of the Dutch language in English, entitled ‘Dutch: Biography of a Language’. It is a highly readable overview of the Dutch language founded on scientific research, and covers all historical, geographical and social aspects. More than 22 million people speak Dutch, especially in The Netherlands and in Belgium, but also in Suriname and Antilles. The story told by Prof. Willemyns is one of linguistic contact and conflict. It is published by Oxford University Press.

••• low-skilled people suffer from a negative body image? Low-skilled people are shorter, heavier and have a more negative body image compared to highly educated people. Sociologist Dieter Vandebroeck has just completed a five-year research project on how Flemish people experience their bodies and their body image. Supported by the Fund for Scientific Research (FWO), he has carried out a comparative study into dietary, nutritional and sports practices based on nine population surveys performed in Belgium between 2004 and 2010. Low-skilled people are more likely to describe themselves as “fat”, systematically give themselves lower scores on attractiveness and weight and report the biggest difference between their body as it is and the body they would ideally like to have. This study therefore demonstrates that ‘feeling good about your body’ is not just a question of genetic coincidence or an individual’s personality, but that it also has a significant social factor.

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• Political scientist DIDIER CALUWAERTS received the Frank Boas research grant. The Fulbright Commission for Educational Exchange between the United States and Belgium awards this prestigious scholarship annually to promising researchers who demonstrate academic excellence, social commitment and public leadership. Didier Caluwaerts already received the Jean Blondel PhD Award from the European Consortium for Political Research in 2012. Caluwaerts obtained this prize for his research on deliberative democracy in a deeply divided Belgium. • Cardiologist Prof. PEDRO BRUGADA (VUB and UZ Brussels) has received a gold medal from the European Cardiology Society. Brugada is considered to be one of the leading cardiologists in our country. The Catalonia-born specialist even has a syndrome named after him: the Brugada syndrome, a condition in which the electrical activity of the heart is disrupted which increases the risk of sudden death. The European Cardiology Society is the largest association of heart specialists in Europe. • The world famous VUB alumna Prof. INGRID DAUBECHIES was recently honoured twice. The award of both the title of baroness and the Nemmers Prize highlight the leading position that Ingrid Daubechies occupies in her field. She gave her name to the Daubechies wavelets: mathematical formulas that are of great importance in image processing and especially in image compression. They are used in many everyday applications, such as digital cinema. • During the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America, held in Charlotte North Carolina, the president, Georges H. Davis, granted the status of “Fellow” of the society to PHILIPPE CLAEYS for his professional contribution to the science of Geology; an honour only conferred to a limited number of members. • Prof. THIERRY VANDEN DRIESSCHE received an Outstanding Achievement Award at the end of last year during the 20th edition of the annual conference of the European Association for Gene and Cell Therapy in Versailles. He is head of the Department of Gene Therapy and Regenerative Medicine at VUB. He also is a laureate of the Prof. Dr. Baron Marc Verstraete Prize. This prize awards original scientific work in the field of haemato-angiology. • Prof. PETER IN’T VELD of the VUB Diabetes Research Centre in Jette has been appointed visiting professor and winner of the Dr. Josiah Brown Memorial Award 2012 in Diabetes Research by the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). The prize was awarded for his work in the field of the pathogenesis and histopathology of type 1 diabetes. • Prof. JOHAN SCHOUKENS was awarded a prestigious Advanced Grant by the European Research Council. The European Research Council (ERC) Grants awarded by the European Union offer outstanding research leaders the opportunity to conduct groundbreaking high-

risk research. The award of an ERC Grant to Johan Schoukens is a recognition of the importance of the fundamental research that is being carried out at the VUB Centre for Data Based Modelling and Model Quality Assessment. • During the latest American Society of Hematology meeting in Atlanta, USA, two researchers from the Faculty of Medicine, BRENDA DE KEERSMAECKER and ELS VAN VALCKENBORGH, won a Junior Award (of 50,000 USD each) from the International Myeloma Foundation. • The biennial grant from the Germaine Eisendrath Dubois Cancer Fund has been awarded to MATHIAS D’HUYVETTER, a PhD student in the ‘In vivo Cellular and Molecular Imaging Laboratory (ICMI)’ research group of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of VUB. • MICHAËL DE DEYN, who graduated last year at the ES-Faculty in the M.Sc. Management, has been a laureate of the 2012 SD Worx Thesis Award (HR & Law). • BARBORA WOUTERS (Art Science and Archaeology) is laureate of the Jacques A.E. Nenquin Prize 2013. The jury was impressed by the interdisciplinary character of Wouters’ research and the combination of micro-morphology and archaeology, the opening up of the research towards new areas of concern and the strong methodological foundation of the thesis. • RUBEN DE PAUW of the Chemical Engineering (CHIS) Department came second for the UDIAS prize with his thesis “Extreme

young people in Katanga in Congo, for which UCOS and Agence Future established a partnership. • The End-of-Life Care research group of VUB and UGent has won two of the six EAPC poster awards during the 13th world congress of the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) in Prague. The two award-winning studies are the study by Dr. CHARLOTTE BENOOT and Prof. REGINALD DESCHEPPER about the experiences of cancer patients who are living alone and the study by Prof. JANE SEYMOUR, Prof. LUC DELIENS and Prof. JUDITH RIETJENS about palliative sedation in three European countries. • CAMILLE CLAEYS, researcher at the Department of Criminology at VUB, received the Jura Falconis prize. She received the prize for her master thesis “The rights of minors with regard to their personality file: Legal guarantees and confidentiality of the personality file in the context of handover.” The prize is awarded every year by the legal scientific student journal Jura Falconis, with the support of the law firm Linklaters Ldt and the publisher Larcier. • Basketball player EMMA MEESSEMAN will play for the Washington Mystics in the WNBA. Meanwhile, Emma will continue her studies at VUB as top sport student in Physical Education and Movement Sciences. • VUB PhD student VINCENT GINIS, associated with the Applied Physics (APHY) research group, has been awarded a scholarship from the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation

VUB students win the European Diplomacy Championship At the end of 2012, the MUN Society Belgium, a team of young diplomats consisting of students from different Belgian universities, including VUB, won the European Diplomacy Championship in Oxford for the fifth time in a row. This championship is regarded worldwide

as one of the most prestigious academic competitions for students. Model United Nations (MUN) is a United Nations simulation in which students debate ‘hot topics’ in international politics.

Performance Liquid Chromatography (EPLC): The path towards unseen performance for liquid chromatography using extreme pressure”. • Two teams of law students of VUB obtained the first and second place of the final of the ‘National Moot Court Competition 2013’. The first place went to CHARLOTTE STYNEN and ELINE ULRIX, who may now call themselves the “Best litigants in the country”. The second place was won by OLIVIER DINET and NOË SCHELLINCK. • On 8 March, International Women’s Day, the announcement was made that VUB alumna Dr. MAYA VAN LEEMPUT is the laureate of the very first ‘WFSF President’s Outstanding Woman Futurist Award’. She receives the award for her great efforts for Maono, a project involving

Engineers (SPIE). It is the second time that the metamaterials research at the VUB has been awarded this internationally renowned prize. • PHD STUDENT JULIEN COUSIN SAINT-REMI was awarded the Green Chemistry poster prize at the Ghent Bio-Economy Summer School 2012 for his contributio “Recovery of biobutanol from ABE-fermentations with zeolites”. Julien Cousin Saint-Remi is PhD student at the Department of Chemical Engineering (promoter: Prof. Dr. Eng. Joeri Denayer), where he is developing new and innovative techniques for the downstream processing of bio-based products. • Prof. RIK PINTELON received the 2012 Joseph F. Keitley Award in Instrumentation and Measurement for outstanding contributions in electrical measurements. Rik Pintelon has

played a pioneering role in introducing system identification to the instrumentation and measurement field as a modern approach to solving measurement problems. • MARIA TZEDAKI, PhD student with the SURF research group, has won the award for the young researchers’ best verbal presentation at the ‘VI International Symposium on Aluminium Surface Science and Technology - ASST’ international conference in Sorrento, Italy. She was awarded the prize for her contribution ‘In-Situ Study of Gas Transport through Al(OH)3 Gels During AC Processing’. The subject explored insitu electrochemical experiments conducted in the Double Line in the Synchrotron in Grenoble. • ARLETTE VERLEYEN, Director of the Facilities Department of the UZ Brussels, received ’The award of Facility Manager of the Year 2012’. The award, presented by the Belgian delegation of the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), is a highly coveted award in the world of facility management. • NICKY DRIES (PE Faculty) has won the FWO ACERTA Scientific Price with her doctoral thesis in the Psychological Sciences: “Different ladder, different story? Dissecting the talent management paradox within the framework of the postmodern career.” • PIETER GEERAERT, doctor at the UZ Brussels, was granted a B.A.E.F. fund, and will move to the NIH (National Institute of Health) in Washington D.C. for 2 years. There, he will study the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis using the latest ‘state of the art’ imaging techniques. • CEM TINTIN, a PhD student in Economics and Doctoral Researcher at the Institute for European Studies at VUB, obtained a ‘best paper award’ at the ABSRC Conference in Venice, Italy. The ABSRC Conference is an important international gathering of business and business-related sciences scholars and educators. Cem Tintin won the award last March for his entry “Foreign Direct Investment Inflows and Economic Freedoms: Evidence from Central and Eastern European Countries”. • Prof. FREYA BLEKMAN is Senior CMS LPC Fellow since 1 January 2013. This prestigious title is granted by the board of governors of the LPC – the American LHC Physics Center, also known as Fermilab – to support outstanding researchers working on the CMS, i.e. the Compact Muon Solenoid: a particle detector at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN. • MIGUEL D’HAESELEER, a neurologist in training at the UZ Brussels and PhD student in the Centre for Neurosciences (C4N), was presented with the European Charcot Foundation Young Investigators Award, in Marbella for his study regarding the role of endothelin-1 in the reduced cerebral blood supply in multiple sclerosis patients. • MARIE LAMENSCH, PhD Researcher (IES), has won the TEI Award 2012 (“TEI Award for the best short publication on European and/or International Tax Law 2012”), granted by the

Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law (WU Vienna) and the Tax Executive Institute, as a joint effort. • Prof. ALEXANDER SEVRIN (Department of Physics) was accepted as an ordinary member of the Class of Natural Sciences of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts. This makes him the fourth member from VUB after Charles Hirsch, Irina Veretennicoff and Luc Steels. • On Friday, 7 December 2012, researcher INGE MANNAERTS (Labo Liver Cell Biology, LIVR) was presented with the BASL research grant for her work entitled: ‘Modulation of liver fibrosis by liposome mediated selective targeting of hepatic stellate cells’. This prize is awarded annually by the “Belgian Association for the Study of the Liver”. • HARRY ZEKOLLARI, PhD student in the ‘Ice and Climate’ group of the Department of Geography (promoter: Prof. Dr. Philippe Huybrechts) won the first prize for the best poster-video presentation at the 2012 International Glaciological Society Symposium on Glaciers and Ice Sheets in a Warming Climate in Fairbanks (Alaska, USA) with his contribution: 3-D Higher-Order modelling of Vadret da Morteratsch (Switzerland). • Researcher RIK VOSTERS, associated with the Faculty of Language and Literature and the Centre for Linguistics, has received the 2012 Award for Linguistics. The jury of the Royal Academy for Dutch Language and Literature

commended Vosters’ doctoral thesis as “a penetrating study of the history of the mentality of the Southern Netherlands in the early nineteenth century.” • ILKE ADAM (senior researcher at the Institute for European Studies, VUB) received the Charles Ullens Award for her migration and integration research for her doctoral thesis “Au-delà des modèles nationaux? Les politiques d’intégration des immigrés des entités fédérées belges” (Beyond national models? Integration policies for immigrants in the Belgian federal entities). • JANA BENS won the thesis prize of the Flemish Regulator for the Media with her master thesis ‘Do children understand the language of e-advertising?’ The thesis is a study of the advertising literacy of 9 to 12-year-olds with respect to new online advertising. • ELLEN VAN DROOGENBROECK won the Prize for the Best Marketing Thesis in Flanders with her thesis ‘The difference in the use of colour in advertising in times of growth and in times of recession’. • VUB alumna Dr. DANIËLLE DE VOOGHT was presented with the first Joop Witteveen Award of the University of Amsterdam. Historian Daniëlle De Vooght received the prize for her book ‘The King Invites: Performing Power at a Courtly Dining Table.’ In her book she describes how the Belgian kings in the nineteenth century used the eating culture at their court to maintain their networks.

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AKADEMOS - YR 01 • N° 1 • OCTOBER 2013 31


29 bachelors 74 masters 24 advanced masters

keep on growing....VUB

English Version Akademos  
English Version Akademos