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Vrije Universiteit Brussel Pleinlaan 2 B-1050 Brussels


YR 17 • N ° 5 WINTE R E DITIO N 2014-2015


VUB and Brussels Shaping the future

+ Students elect rector + PhD’s heimat + Launch of worm burger




••• VUB graphene research is research highlight in Nature Photonics? Graphene Research by the VUB Photonics Team has been selected as a Research Highlight by the renowned Nature Photonics journal. The research results have also been published in the special 2014 edition of Optics & Photonics News that highlights the most exciting peer-reviewed optics research to have emerged over the past 12 months. Graphene, a material consisting of only 1 layer of carbon atoms, is considered to be one of the most important new materials of the 21st century. It can be used for all kinds of applications from touchscreens to solar cells. The wide range of potential applications of graphene is mainly due to its unique electrical and optical properties. Within the framework of the GRAPHENICS EU project, researchers in the Brussels Photonics Team at VUB, in collaboration with scientists from the University of Toronto, have theoretically demonstrated that some of the optical properties of graphene depend strongly on the so-called chemical potential in this material. As this chemical potential can be manipulated, it is possible to control the optical properties of graphene.

••• Salamanders are threatened by fungal disease?

Graphene crystal structure

A team of scientists from Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Universiteit Gent discovered that a fungal disease has put Europe’s salamander population at serious risk. Their study has been published in Science. The team discovered the fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, in 2013 when it nearly led to extinction of the Dutch fire salamander. New research now demonstrates that the fungus is not limited to the fire salamander and in fact could pose a threat to most salamander species in Europe. The disease is highly contagious and easily transmitted between various types of salamander. The disease was brought to Europe by Asian salamanders entering the continent via the pet trade. Asian salamanders are less endangered by the infection and can survive with the fungus on their skin.

••• Europe’s health policy needs to change radically? Palliative care should occupy a prominent place in international health policy. This is one of the recommendations presented by VUB researchers on October 15th at the closing conference of two European research programmes on palliative care in the European Parliament.

VUB Professor Lieve Van den Block is the coordinator of EURO IMPACT: “Ageing and dementia figure high on the political agenda worldwide, with particular focus on prevention and management of the disease,” she states. “This is undoubtedly necessary, but we must

bear in mind that older people are at greater risk of suffering from multiple and complex conditions involving significant care needs over longer periods of time.”

••• pesticides disrupt young people’s hormonal balance? Exposure to relatively low concentrations of pesticides can have a significant influence on hormone levels and degree of sexual maturity in 14- and 15-year-old adolescents. These are the findings of a study on the influence of pesticides and in particular hormonal disruption on the health of Flemish adolescents. The research was conducted by VUB Professor Kim Croes in collaboration with partners from the Flemish Agency for Environment and Health Policy Research.

••• plastics can generate optical shock waves? Particle physicists have a hard time identifying the elementary particles resulting from collisions in particle accelerators. Researchers at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have now designed a plastic material in which special optical shock waves are generated. As a result, the elementary particles can be detected more efficiently. The method used to design this new material known as transformation optics. It is a fairly recent theory, which is a very fruitful combination of Einstein’s theory of relativity and optics, and has previously been used to construct invisibility cloaks and artificial black holes. Through this work, Vincent Ginis and his colleagues also demonstrate the many in-depth applications possible in transformation optics.


CERN - VUB at high speed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 VUB and ULB wake up Brussels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 The China Connection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


VUB on wheels .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


The Institute for European Studies - a VUB success story .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Brussels - Facts and Figures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


The Brussels Diplomatic Academy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 VUB - a researcher’s heimat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Insects on the menu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Rector elected by students . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Students work with street children in Bolivia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 In support of nature-based solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Saint V and VUB history . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

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Science at super speed There is a good chance that 4 July 2012 will go down in history as a great day for physics. This was the day when the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland announced that thanks to its particle accelerator, the mysterious Brout-Englert-Higgs particle had been found. Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) had made a substantial contribution to the sensational discovery which led to the Nobel Prize for physics 2013 being awarded to François Englert of the VUB’s sister university ULB and to British physicist Peter Higgs. Two physicists from VUB who live and breathe CERN are professor of physics Jorgen D’Hondt and the young researcher Petra Van Mulders. In September, Petra Van Mulders embarked on the greatest challenge in her young scientific career, when she was selected by CERN to lead an international group of 80 top scientists. The group collaborates on the CMS experiment (Compact Muon Solenoid) in which the Brout-EnglertHiggs particle was discovered. The Large Hadron Collidor is CERN’s flagship project, with the CMS recording the particles that are released during the collisions. Petra Van Mulders is one of the youngest people ever to take such a leading position in identifying so-called b-quarks in particle collisions. “There are two of us leading the project”, she says. “This year, I am doing this together with a colleague from a Spanish institute who was asked to lead our group last year.” When asked how the first months went, she gives a hesitant answer. “That is a difficult question”, she says. “If I look back, it was actually better than I had thought. But I am very demanding and strict with myself”. Is she also a strict manager? “For me, taking the lead means in the first place consultation and working together towards a goal. A different approach would simply not work as I am not the real head of the scientists in our group. However, I do try as a manager to ensure that there are no clashing egos and no negative competition. That does require a diplomatic approach”. b-quarks In 2006, Petra Van Mulders was awarded a Master in Physics from VUB and she then started working on her PhD on the CMS experiment in CERN. In June 2010, she obtained her PhD. Afterwards, the young academic developed an innovative method to look for new quarks. At the same time, she focused on improving techniques for identifying existing b-quarks. This resulted in CERN selecting her to lead a team of top scientists. Identifying b-quarks is important to be able to carefully examine the properties of the Brout-Englert-Higgs boson. The experiment will be started up again in April 2015 using the highest energies ever. “During particle collisions, many electronic signals are observed. We have to bring these signals together in order to identify the original particle. We specifically concentrate on reconstructing b-quarks. In half of all cases, the Brout-Englert-Higgs particle decays into b-quarks. The more accurately we can recognise all the known particles, the better will we be able to ascertain the properties of newly discovered particles such as the Brout-Englert-Higgs particle”. Petra Van Mulders

Media attention “Belgian woman scientist gets top job at CERN in Geneva”, the newspapers headlined. Dozens of articles appeared about Petra Van Mulders in the national press and in popular scientific journals. She had never expected this attention. “I don’t go after this attention as I am rather introvert. When they told me that the press office of the university was planning to publicise my work to the media, I had to laugh out loud. I really did not think that anyone would pay attention to this”. So where does this great interest come from? “Looking back on it, I assume it is because of two unusual things about me - I am still young, I will be thirty in December, and I am a woman.” Mother of a four-year old In addition, Petra Van Mulders is a young mother, with a four-year old daughter. “I can’t deny that this is the most difficult challenge”, she says. “Fortunately, I am quite free to choose my own working hours which means that I am often working at home in the evening and at the same time can be with my child as much as possible. Moving to Geneva is not absolutely essential. I am not permanently at CERN but that is not necessary to lead my team as the members are spread all over the world. We talk to each other a lot via video conferencing. If there are major milestones, then of course I do go to CERN. It is there that I have seen most members of my group in the flesh”. Pushing the envelope When asked where this passion comes from she says: “When I was still at secondary school, I visited the VUB and it turned out that there was

the possibility to go to CERN for a few days during the summer holidays, under the guidance of VUB professors. So I did this and I was hooked. At CERN, we are looking for nature’s basic building blocks in order to understand the universe as a whole. That is fascinating. As a scientist, you are constantly pushing the envelope. I also find it enormously inspiring to work with scientists from all over the world, beyond the boundaries of nationality and religion, to find an answer to how the universe is structured. If things were done this way in other areas, the world would look quite different.”


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Dreaming of a single formula to describe everything Professor Jorgen D’Hondt is elected chairman of the Board of Directors of the CMS experiment, an international project involving more than 180 institutes from 43 countries. At the same time, this is a special honour for and recognition of the work of Professor D’Hondt and the six Belgian universities taking part in the experiment, including VUB and ULB. Jorgen D’Hondt is professor of physics at VUB, director of the Interuniversity Institute for High Energies and chairman of Young Academics in Belgium. Last year he was named “Young Scientist 2013” by the World Economic Forum. “Since the start in 1993, the VUB team has been involved in designing, constructing, starting and operating one of the four main experiments with the particle accelerator - the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment”, explains Professor D’Hondt. “There are about 3 500 scientists and engineers working on the CMS experiment. A series of detectors were built by the VUB at the Interuniversity Institute for High Energies (IIHE) that work efficiently within the experiment.” Jorgen D’Hondt: “We have known for more than 100 years that everything around us consists of atoms but what are the very smallest building blocks within these atoms? And which natural laws ensure that these basic building blocks form atoms? Just like Einstein at the time, many physicists, including myself, dream of finding a universal formula that describes absolutely eve-

rything. In other words, a handbook explaining how we ended up with the universe”. Basics This ambition is pursuit by CERN and especially the particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider or LHC. A hundred years ago, it was thought that protons and neutrons in the nucleus of atoms and the electrons spinning around them were the basic building blocks of nature. However, thanks to evolution in technology, in the Sixties it became possible to look inside protons, and quarks were discovered as being even more basic structures of matter. These quarks are now the standard model of particle physics and also the direction in which the LHC will continue its work.”. 40 million collisions per second Due to the lack of a cable that can transmit the data of 40 million collisions (or about 40TB) per second, only data of one collision per 100 000 are recorded on a hard disc. “A difficult selection for which physicists only get one millionth

of a second time per collision. That is why it took so long until the assumed Brout-EnglertHiggs particle was found which occurs only in one collision per 1 000 billion”. Why is this famous particle considered as the Holy Grail of the LHC? “All basic particles have mass but until recently no one could prove how this comes about. Fifty years ago, two physicists from our campus in Brussels, Robert Brout and François Englert, had published a theory which gave mass to the building blocks of the universe through the existence of a new particle. Their British colleague Peter Higgs wrote about it one month later but explicitly mentioned the particle which is presumably why it was named after him. “The invention of the mechanism is therefore due to all three of these scientists,” says D’Hondt. François Englert and Peter Higgs were awarded the Noble prize for physics for it in 2013. Unfortunately, Robert Brout did not live long enough to receive it.

Nobel prize winner François Englert (ULB) came to the VUB’s partner university in May 2014 to talk about his discovery, about the Nobel Prize and about his life as a scientist. Professor of physics Jorgen D’Hondt gave an illuminating introduction about the Brout-Englert-Higgs particle and the role CERN played in demonstrating the existence of the particle. Professor Jorgen D’Hondt


VUB and ULB:

Brussels is a knowledge hub

the Federal Police Barracks

“Brussels, wake up!” exclaimed Rector Paul De Knop at the event where the Brussels Studies Institute (BSI) revealed its research results on Brussels’ higher education institutions. Brussels is a very diverse and cosmopolitan city and the capital of Europe. So far, this is common knowledge. But it is less well known that Brussels is also a gigantic knowledge hub and not only due to the EU and NATO headquarters and its subsequent brain gain. Brussels is the largest student city in the country, with over

28,000 people working for higher education institutions, and a publication rate significantly higher than the European average. Brussels’ knowledge landscape is very diverse and promoting the city as a knowledge centre of the highest level is not such an easy task. Its heterogeneity is a real challenge in terms of realising all its potentials in regional and international technology transfer and also in terms of creating societal values and regional cohesion.

Higher education institutions are therefore getting together to learn from each other and see how they can better cooperate on a more structural basis, integrating political and industrial aspects.

“We must dare to dream of expansion, of campuses in symbiosis with the city” VUB and ULB took up this challenge and joined forces to work on a first very concrete project: extension of their campuses on the east side of Brussels. VUB and ULB aspire to creating an international student city, a ‘Cité Internationale Universitaire’ as in Paris, with the universities having an even closer connection with the city. And the time is ripe, since in just few months from now the 4 ha plot of the Federal Police Barracks next to the VUB and ULB sites is about to become vacant. Engineering and architecture students from both institutions have already constructed models of what such an international university district could look like. Rector Paul De Knop puts it this way: “We must dare to dream of expansion, of campuses in symbiosis with the city.”

Engineering and architecture students showing new ideas for the site

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VUB and China strengthen ties The ties between VUB and its Chinese partners are becoming stronger and stronger. VUB is extending its Chinese cooperation projects with an academic platform, an exchange website, privileged international partnership agreements, cultural modes of understanding and many more.

In China…

Inauguration of the Brussels Academy of China and European Studies It was a proud moment on 6 September in the renowned Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing, as Chinese Vice Premier Yandong Liu and the then EU Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou officially inaugurated BACES, the Brussels Academy of China and European Studies, and handed over the BACES nameplates to the Rectors of the four universities involved: Renmin University of China, Sichuan University, Fudan University and Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

“Cooperation with these top Chinese institutes is a major step in our knowledge exchange with China” Rector Paul De Knop: “Cooperation with these top Chinese institutes is a major step in our knowledge exchange with China, and confirms once again the potential for Belgium of a partnership with this great and powerful country.” BACES is an academic platform offering a range of common activities such as Joint Master’s and PhD programmes, seminars and courses. Research on contemporary China and China-EU relationships are its central focus. The platform is fully in line with the initiative taken by Liu and Vassiliou to launch and develop the “High Level People-to-People Dialogue (HPPD)” between China and the EU.

VUB Rector Paul De Knop in Shanghai

Whilst in China, the VUB delegation also visited the China Scholarship Council in Beijing. VUB has received PhD students from this institute since 2006. This cooperation has deepened and from now on the China Scholarship Council will support the double degree programme in ICTMultimedia offered by VUB and Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xi’an by means of 10 scholarships.

Reception at the Belgian Embassy. In the middle Vice-Rector Internationalisation Jan Cornelis, at right Rector Paul De Knop

In Brussels…

Launch of the VUB-China Network At the same time in Brussels, VUB launched its VUB-China Network website, thus establishing a solid platform for sharing information and resources structured around four pillars: education, research, regional projects and scholarships. The website provides news, posts events and offers practical tips and opportunities for staff & students on visiting and studying in both Belgium and China.

In China and in Brussels…

VUB’s first Privileged International Partner (PIP) Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) in Xi’an is VUB’s first Privileged International

VUB’s first Privileged International Partnership includes education and research collaboration Partner (PIP). The contract includes collaboration at education and research level and on incubators and outreach, supported by an inter-regional agreement between the Brussels Capital Region and the Municipality of Xi’an. The PIP agreement was signed in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and the then Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo at the Egmont Palace in Brussels on 31 March 2014. In the framework of this partnership VUB has already welcomed 25 NPU students

for a Summer School and 18 students for the joint VUB-NPU Master’s programme in ICTMultimedia. The joint NPU-VUB laboratory for Audio Visual Signal Processing deals with affective computing (e.g. emotion in human computer interfaces), social signal processing, multi-media analysis & computing, emotion tagging and sentiment analysis, including their application in smart health care technology.

Prestigious Chinese National Friendship Award for VUB Vice-Rector Jan Cornelis On 29 September 2014, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Prof. Jan Cornelis, ViceRector for International Policy, received the National Friendship Award of China. This is the highest honour China confers to foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to China’s economic and social progress. 100 people from 26 countries received the award in 2014. Jan Cornelis won the award for his pioneering role in cooperation between Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) and VUB.

VUB Professor Hichem Sahli becomes Guest Professor at NPU VUB Prof. Hichem Sahli became Guest Professor in NPU’s School of Computer Science. He has already contributed to setting up the Joint NPU-VUB Laboratory for Audio Visual Signal Processing, which he coordinates.

VUB Vice-Rector Jan Cornelis receives the National Friendship Award of China

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Prof. Hans De Wolf at the exhibition Master Mould and Copy Room

First in China‌ then in Brussels‌ VUB as a cultural diplomat

This year, the Cities of Beijing and Brussels celebrate 20 years of collaboration. The art and culture of both cities are key aspects of the festivities. No problem for Brussels, as its art scene is one of its most valuable assets

The exhibition Master Mould & Copy Room focuses on the artist, his work and the value of copies of his work

and it can count on VUB Professor Hans De Wolf to conceptualise it all. He used the format of an exhibition as the central venue for Belgian and local artists and scholars to meet, focusing debate around the Master (the artist), his work and the value of copies of his work. The exhibition in Beijing is called Master Mould and Copy Room and was officially opened on October 21 by Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of the Brussels Capital Region. The exhibition is hosted by the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing and will subsequently travel to Shanghai. The Chinese answer to this exhibition will be hosted by Paul Dujardin, CEO and Artistic Director of BOZAR, the renowned Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels, and will be curated by both Xu Bing and Hans de Wolf.


VUB at the First International Postgraduate Fair in Peru “Education is a key driver of national development: it generates significant social and economic benefits at the individual and the collective level, and must therefore become a generator of social welfare in our country.” Such is the foundation upon which Peru’s Ministry of Education established a new scholarship programme for postgraduate studies in 2012: La Beca Presidente de la República. VUB was the only Flemish Higher Education Institution to attend the 1st International Postgraduate Fair in November. This programme, managed by the Peruvian National Scholars Programme and Student Loans (PRONABEC), aims to contribute to equity in higher education by, among other actions, providing low-income students with access to high quality postgraduate studies abroad. Only universities in the top 400 world rankings (QS, ARWU, Times) are invited to become partners, and programmes offered must be in the fields of Science, Technology or Education. In this context, VUB’s International Relations and Mobility Office (IRMO), as the only Flemish Higher Education Institution present among 50 Universities, was invited to attend the first International Postgraduate Fair in November. The fair, organised by PRONABEC, offers potential students information about the scholarship programme and the programme’s partner institutions abroad. In addition to the fair, IRMO visited the top 4 universities in Peru: Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (PUCP), Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM), Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia (UPCH), and Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM), seeking opportunities for structural cooperation as well promoting VUB directly on campus.

The 1st International Postgraduate Fair in Peru offers potential students information about the scholarship programme and the programme’s partner institutions abroad.

VUB delegates with interested students at the fair

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Respect UZ Brussel is the hospital attached to Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Patients receive high-quality medical care, enhanced by the availability of innovative medical technologies, a strong and specialised team of nurses and (para-)medics and high-tech equipment. The patient always comes first along with respect for him/her as a person and his/her right to self-determination. UZ Brussel employs 3,500 people. It is affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. With 721 hospital beds, it can accommodate over 28,000 admissions and 400,000 outpatients every year — both from Belgium and abroad.

Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel Brussels Health Campus Laarbeeklaan 101 1090 Jette


VUB in support of social projects © Philippe Leyssens

Societal Commitment is VUB’s third pillar, alongside Research and Education. One of the ways VUB engages in the world is……by cycling! A commitment on which you will normally find our Rector leading the way. Not so this year, a hip operation kept him from joining the fray. However, there are always enough sporting staff at VUB to join in the ICT’s “Bike to Close the Gap” event as well as the 1,000 km “Fight against Cancer” bike ride.

Griet Hendrickx

Bike to Close the Gap Close the Gap is a UN-recognised NGO launched a decade ago as a final year project by four VUB business engineering students. It aims to close the digital divide in third and fourth worlds. For EUR 100, they deliver a high quality computer with software (including transportation, implementation, training, maintenance, local support and e-waste management) to Central and East Africa. In 2009 Close the Gap created the spinoff organisation WorldLoop to counter the e-waste problem in developing countries by organising local sustainable recycling of electronic waste.

Close the Gap - launched by VUB business engineering students aims to close the digital divide But Close the Gap also helps locally by providing funds for training and infrastructure in Belgium. The Bike to Close the Gap cycling event from June this year was organised to raise money for PC Solidarity, its Belgian project.

© Philippe Leyssens

1,000 km Bike Ride to Fight against Cancer Another traditional sporting event where you will find VUB people is the 1,000 km bicycle ride over 4 days organised by Fight Against Cancer to support biomedical cancer research. This year over EUR 2.6m was raised by the 527 teams including the VUB-UZ team of 8 cyclists. Close the Gap celebrated its 10th anniversary with Desmond Tutu and jazz-legend Toots Thielemans

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A VUB success story

The Institute for European Studies The Institute for European Studies (IES) is a VUB success story. As an academic Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, it is the focal point for education and research on the European Union at VUB. Founded in 2001, IES has grown tenfold to its current size and status. As a multidisciplinary institute specialising in the EU in the international context, IES uses its research and teaching expertise to offer an educational portfolio that includes two Advanced Master’s courses as well as intensive training and online learning on the latest EU developments. The luring call of Brussels IES benefits immensely from its physical presence in Brussels. Located just a few metro stops away from the main EU institutions such as the European Parliament and the European Commission, the institute makes good use of its unique position. IES is privileged to have the expertise of nine EU officials as part of its core teaching staff, as well as international and European law practitioners, and dozens of guest lecturers from the EU institutions and international institutions such as NATO. Furthermore, IES researchers regularly provide policy advice and offer tailor-made academic expertise to various governmental authorities. Brussels truly lives and breathes the EU. For students of European Studies, there is no better place. A fact that is also not lost on American students,

who come to the IES each year to experience a semester studying at the heart of Europe. Having had agreements over several years with highranking US universities such as the University of Southern California, the IES offers a springboard for American students to experience academic and professional life in Brussels through intensive teaching as well as internship opportunities.

EU officials and international and European law practitioners are part of IES’ core teaching staff

The IES team

Famous Guest Speakers at IES

The IES biennial conference is a top event on the academic calendar Two Advanced Master’s courses The IES Advanced Master’s MSc in European Integration and Development is an evening course and thus ideal for professionals wanting to deepen their EU academic knowledge alongside their day job. Interaction and knowledge sharing among students is often high given that a significant percentage already work in EU or international institutions, as well as embassies, NGOs, consultancies, and European and international firms. For those who wish to pursue a law career, IES offers an LLM in International and European law. This is an ambitious programme with an impressive cohort of prominent alumni, including the Prime Minister of Croatia, the Director General of HR at the European Commission and the Director of the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre at the European External Action Service, to name just a few. Think tanks IES has its own Policy Brief series with timely publications on its main research themes which include environment, sustainable development, migration, defence, security, and economic governance. Furthermore, it organises regular Policy Forums and Lecture Series with guest speakers from the EU institutions, which prove popular within the Brussels scene and VUB students alike. The IES is well known in academic circles for its biennial conference “European Union in International Affairs”, the main event of its kind in the academic calendar. A book series of the same name is published by Palgrave Macmillan and institutionally supported by the IES. [Marie Tuley]

• Herman Van Rompuy, Former President of the European Council • José Manuel Barroso, Former President of the European Commission • Catherine Ashton, Former High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy • Karel De Gucht, Former EU Trade Commissioner • Olli Rehn, Former European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs • David Malone, UN Under-Secretary-General • Claude-France Arnould, European Defence Agency • General Patrick de Rousiers, EU Military Committee • Professor Jolyon Howorth, Yale University • Pierre Vimont, Executive Secretary-General of EEAS • Jamie Shea, Emerging Security Challenges at NATO • Nicola Harrington-Buhay, Former Deputy Director of the UN/UNDP Office in Brussels • Sir Robert Cooper, British diplomat • Michael Rühle, Emerging Security Challenges Division at NATO • Honorary Ambassador Johan Swinnen, Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs • Jonathan Faull, Director-General, DG Internal Market and Services • Koen Lenaerts, Vice-President of the EU Court of Justice • Johan Galtung, Founder of the discipline of Peace Studies • Andrew Feinstein, Director Corruption Watch, UK • Christine Van Den Wyngaert, Judge at the International Criminal Court • Antonio Costa, Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) • Egemen Bagis, Turkish Minister for European Union Affairs

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campus Jette

74 20

14,200 campuses


master courses


Bus 84


86,000,000 research budget

University Hospital with

721 beds 

campus Kaai



32min to Eurostar/TGV stati

 50°51’0”N – 4°21’0” E

161.38 km2




kms of metro lines

106 50+ museums



hectares of parcs and green spaces


kms of tram lines


cultural centres



London 2h00

Paris 1h20


min to Atomium


Cologne Frankfurt 3h20


 52min to National Airport Bus 12

35min to NATO Headquarters

Tram 62

 Metro 1

31min to Grand Place EU-institutions Metro 2


19min to European Parliament

VUB campus Etterbeek

Tram 3 Tram 7


.1Mio 66% 104  3,000  840 residents

of foreign origin




159  3,800  1,200  15,000 embassies


lobbyists journalists AKADEMOS - YR 17 • N° 5 • WINTER 2014-2015



Capital of Diplomacy Hosting around 3,800 diplomats and 159 embassies, Brussels has the second largest diplomatic concentration after Washington DC. However in terms of numbers of international organisations, with over 3,000 of these, Brussels ranks number one. This results in over 1,000 lobby groups, hundreds of PR and public affairs firms, and consulting and law firms offering lobbying services. Brussels hosts dozens of corporatefunded think tanks as well as several hundred ‘EU Affairs’ offices run by individual corporations. For VUB, the perfect reason to establish a Brussels Diplomatic Academy (BDA). Its focus is on economic diplomacy and international business. Gunter Gaublomme, Director of the BDA, explains why: Gaublomme: Brussels’ nickname as the Washington DC of Europe is not a marketing ploy for city branding; it simply reflects reality. This is clearly demonstrated by data provided by Invest in Brussels(1). There are 1,300 foreign companies located in Brussels and this high concentration of head offices is not surprising. Major enterprises want to be close to Europe’s decision making centre in order to attempt to influence decisions that may affect them. Here we already touch on a major link

between diplomacy and business: advocacy – better known as lobbying. To a great extent, diplomats - especially economic diplomats such as commercial advisors - and business people deal with the same subject areas and need to have the same professional qualities. Diplomats are often business initiators, facilitators, even mediators. They can’t take up such a role without understanding international business. Business people on the other hand need to be well aware of how and why diplomats operate so that they can optimise appeals to them. Both diplomats and business people need to master equivalent professional skills: lobbying, presentation techniques, negotiation skills, international sales techniques, trade fair management, etc.

Diplomats and international business people need to have same professional qualities So business people and diplomats have a lot in common. Is this focus unique? Gaublomme: Diplomatic academies mainly or exclusively focus on traditional or political diplomacy and those few academies dealing with economic diplomacy mainly adopt a theoretical approach.

Gunter Gaublomme, Director of the Brussels Diplomatic Academy

So yes, our focus is unique, but also our approach: our educational philosophy is clearly geared at preparing our students for the labour market, be it in diplomatic careers or in international business. In order to achieve this, our programmes have a clear practical orientation. And as we are situated in the capital of business and diplomacy, we have access to an exceptional range of practice lecturers! For the same reason, we are also well placed to offer lifelong learning products to the many diplomats and business people residing here. (1) Source: Brussels Invest & Export,

Diplomatic Causerie with British Ambassador Alison Rose

Our students benefit from a comprehensive approach and acquire a helicopter view, making them very versatile. In this regard I would like to highlight our diplomatic lunch and dinner “causeries” (informal talks/presentations). During a lunch or dinner, an ambassador elaborates on his or her country’s business climate where both the opportunities and challenges are explained.

Our focus is on business diplomacy that makes us unique BDA students China Business Development

Alternatively such “causeries” are also organised with CEOs where they explain their international business strategy or reflect their economic and business views. In short, we offer a maximum of multidisciplinary knowledge transfer – as it should be at a university – in combination with a practical orientation. This is a unique focus and also an important one because both diplomats and political scientists agree that economic diplomacy is of paramount importance.

BDA co-organises China Day 2014 On Tuesday 30 September 2014, the Brussels Institute of Contemporary China Studies (BICCS), Renmin University, Fudan University and Sichuan University organised China Day in cooperation with Brussels Diplomatic Academy (BDA) and Cercle International Diplomatique et Consulaire (CIDIC). The 2014 event took place in the prestigious setting of the Castle of Oppem, home to CIDIC President, Baron Ernest de Laminne de Bex. This high level meeting presented new views on EU-China relations in terms of politics, economics, finance and the environment.

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VUB and its young scientists…. a researcher’s heimat VUB has always been a research oriented university, with about 11% of the total student population pursuing a PhD. VUB offers PhD studies in no less than 36 disciplines and three established Doctoral Schools offering PhD students a structural framework for acquiring and developing research and teaching skills. One-to-one PhD agreements and application procedures are often at high cost for both the PhD student and the institution(s) involved, in terms of both time and money. VUB’s International Relations and Mobility Office (IRMO) is therefore working on a PhD mobility structure that is more practical and in

follows: “We are convinced that the competences, experience and knowledge within one single university are insufficient to understand the complexity of some research subjects and global problems, to model them and to design solutions. Therefore, we are gradually developing the university network as a basic instrument

VUB is reaching out to other universities to build partnerships of structural exchange, research synergies and joint educational programmes line with VUB’s “Universitas” vision, by building PhD cooperation networks. Vice-Rector for Internationalisation Jan Cornelis puts it as

to fulfil our functions.” In order to construct this network, VUB is reaching out to other universities to build part-

nerships of structural exchange, research synergies and joint educational programmes. In the case of PhD programmes for example, VUB has concluded agreements with three universities in Europe: the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia and the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. Outside of Europe, VUB only recently concluded two important agreements: • In September, VUB signed an agreement with Cuba defining the general framework in which VUB and Cuban PhD students can obtain a doctorate from both parties. • In August, VUB signed a collaboration agreement with the Organization of American States (OAS). This agreement

The OAS-VUB agreement ceremony

Internal networks - the NSE PhD network Once enrolled at VUB there are networks to care for the students at different levels, such as the NSE PhD Network. This is an organisation formed by and for PhD researchers from the Faculties of Engineering (IR) and Sciences (WE). The organisation is part of the NSE Doctoral School and supported by the two faculties. The NSE PhD Network has three main goals: 1. to enhance social contacts between PhD researchers in the different departments 2. to help new PhD researchers with general questions 3. to inform Master’s Degree students about possible PhD research

is an enormous step towards structured mobility. OAS and VUB have agreed to collaborate closely together by offering PhD education to students from the 35 American countries in the OAS network (North and Latin America and the Caribbean). It envisages that, as from this academic year, for four years, 60 students each year from North and Latin America and from the Caribbean will pursue their doctoral studies at VUB. Doctoral students in the domains of Public Health,

Educational Sciences and Engineering will take the lead.

tuition fee waiver and general health insurance during their stay. However, candidates must

With the PhD collaboration agreements, VUB’s PhD population will grow with 25% With this collaboration, VUB’s PhD population will rise to approx. 14% after 4 years. Students are supported by OAS services and VUB offers a

show a very strong academic track record and demonstrate scientific excellence. The first students are expected in early 2015.

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“So far, I’m loving my stay here! I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world, even the harder and not so fun moments. I still (or even more) like my research. Brussels grew on me much more than I ever expected in the beginning. So, to sum it up – if you are a 110% dedicated to your research – you have all the opportunities to “live” your research. But if you want to mix it up with some social activities – this is probably one of the best places in Europe for you to do it.” Nevena Hristozova, Bulgaria VIB/VUB PhD student MSc Biotechnology of Natural resources, University of Helsinki

“VUB and in particular the Institute for European Studies has provided me with the best possible support. I found great friends, brilliant scholars to discuss my work with, and a very inspiring working environment. Since VUB supports mobility, I even received a scholarship for 10 months to study in China! Returning from China, I had a very good talk with the academic director of IES. He said that I could stop looking for an academic home as I had already found it at IES. He used the German word ‘Heimat’. And that’s what VUB has been and still is for me – ‘Heimat’. My initial plan to return to Frankfurt never materialised.” Steffi Weil, Germany PhD alumna IES “Why did I choose Belgium? I think Belgium chose me :) I did my Master’s here and it was possible to start a PhD at the Marine Biology Laboratory. I managed to do my Master’s here because I was selected to get a VLIR-UOS scholarship, also for this PhD. So, I am right to say that Belgium has chosen me.” What does it mean to you to study in the heart of Europe? “For somebody like me, coming straight from one of the poorest countries in the world, it is a privilege, even a great honour to be able to study in the capital of Europe. Already studying in the capital of Madagascar is a kind of big achievement and honour but there is no word for this one - “graduating from the capital of Europe” - it is awesome. I also like very much the fact that I am receiving a high quality education and not a very limited one like in Madagascar.” Hajaniaina Andrianavalonarivo Ratsimbazafy, Madagascar VLIR-UOS PhD Student, Department of Biology, APNA Laboratory, Marine Biology

“So far my PhD has been a great learning experience with a lot of temporary ups and down. I definitely enjoy the challenging nature of a PhD, the independence and the stimulating environment of like-minded individuals. The fact that we are located in the heart of Europe is very important to me, as it causes many important, international events to take place here since it is a very central hub and easy to reach. For me personally, it is also a great asset since I am very fond of travelling and do not hesitate to make use of the sophisticated transport network available from and to Brussels.” Jens De Pelsmaeker, Belgium VIB/VUB, Joint PhD student, Brussels Photonics Team

“My advisor (Dr. Abebe Beyene) graduated at VUB some years ago and always told me good things about VUB. He told me about the facilities of the university, how the professors are friendly, how the university is free as the name indicates. All those things made me decide to come to VUB and do my PhD. For me it is like a dream come true. I also have the feeling to travel to all EU countries just by being in Brussels.” Moa Megersa Guta, Ethiopia CARIBU PhD student


VUB launches the worm burger Eating insects is the sustainable answer to animal proteins

You had to be really quick … on October 9th the first 400 VUB buffalo worm burgers had all been snapped up in no time. Restaurant manager Philippe Merckx, who is constantly looking for sustainable food solutions, was very happy with this first try-out: “We are always looking for sustainable alternatives to meat. With our vegetarian meals we only reach part of the student population. This way we also force meat eaters to make a shift towards sustainable food.” Students’ reactions were already encouraging. One economics student described them as “a bit like a vegetarian burger, but still more like a real hamburger.” But why eat insects? The question should be: why not eat insects? Only in Europe and North America are insects not eaten; 80% of the world’s cultures eat insects. And if you just consider the logic of bugs as food, from an ecological, financial, nutritious and global perspective, they already start to seem a lot more flavoursome…

“Brussels university becomes the first commercial kitchen to serve up insect-based food” - The Independent -

TASTE - the killer argument In Africa, Latin America and Asia, crickets and worms are eaten as they are, simply because they taste delicious (nut taste). Several top chefs have already experimented with insects on the menu. Mentality change needed However, all these valuable arguments fall down because Westerners look upon insects as dirty bugs. A change of mentality is needed. Belgium is taking the lead as it is the first EU member state to allow the sale of insect-based food products. Last year, the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) published a list of about ten insects that are fit for human consumption. Since then this new brand of meat is slowly starting to take off. Vrije Universiteit Brussel, always a pioneer, is the first industrial kitchen in Belgium to put insects on the menu. Will the rest of the country follow and will Belgians soon be eating fried grasshoppers with their famous chips?

Nutritional argument Most edible insect species have a high nutritional value, are easy to digest and rich in essential amino and fatty acids, iron and vitamin A, B2 and D. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) promotes insects as a valuable food source. Ecological reasons Eating insects is good for the environment. Most insects produce a great deal less greenhouse gases than cattle. To produce the same amount of protein, insects require twelve times fewer nutrients than beef and half as many as chicken. Even more important: it takes up to 1,000 times less water to raise insects, and they can even grow during extreme droughts. But insects can do even better: they can be fed with….waste! Mealworms, for instance, survive on wheat chaff, a by-product of wheat that is of little use to mankind. Sustainable persuader The world population is spiralling out of control and an increasing number of people want to eat meat. 70 percent of all arable land is currently being used for animal feed crops and 20 percent of all greenhouse gases can be directly attributed to cattle breeding. Bugs are the sustainable answer to animal proteins.

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VUB students elect Rector As from 2015-2016 all VUB students will be able to directly participate in Rector elections. This decision, taken by the university board, is part of a whole set of new regulations aiming to make VUB more transparent and gender friendly. The aim of this pioneering regulation on participative democracy is to raise students’ commitment to their university and its functioning. Their votes will count for 10% of the total amount of votes. To compare: professors’ votes count for 65%. VUB Students will be able to use their new rights for the first time at the 2016 Rector election.

VUB introduces ground breaking new courses When it comes to education, VUB has always been a pioneer, always ready to meet upcoming needs in society and go beyond the obvious. It certainly continues on this pathway with the introduction of a Multilingual Master’s in Linguistics and Literature and a universitywide course on how to take a stand on key societal issues. As from this academic year, VUB is launching a unique English-taught Multilingual Master’s programme. Reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of the city of Brussels, the programme consists of six languages in total (Dutch, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish) and students can choose to study one or two languages in depth. The programme targets students with a

Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics and Literary Studies and will lead to the first English language Master’s Degree in Linguistics and Literary Studies in Belgium.

become the focus: sustainability, privacy and big data, genetic engineering, end of life care, etc. The theme will be discussed by experts from a variety of disciplines.

Critical citizens Next academic year all VUB students, regardless of their choice of study, will be able to subscribe for the Dutch language course ‘Reasonably Headstrong: Reflecting on Humanity and Society’.

“It is essential that our students become critical citizens”

The aim of this course is to teach all VUB students how to identify and understand different views and opinions in current scientific and public debates, while preserving a critical attitude. Each year a different social issue will

Rector Paul De Knop: “It is essential that our students become critical citizens, able to think about important social questions without prejudices or dogma.”

VUB Sports Management top in Europe for the second time The VUB postgraduate Sports Management programme has been rated Europe’s number 1 and world’s number 2 in the 2014 Postgraduate Sports Course rankings by the internationally renowned magazine SportBusiness International. The rating is based on satisfaction of alumni with sports management programmes.

VUB receives ‘European Master’s in Translation’ label The master’s course ‘Master of Arts in Translation’ delivered by the VUB Faculty of Arts and Philosophy has been selected for the ‘European Master’s in Translation’ (EMT) Label, a label that is only awarded to the best master’s courses for translators in Europe. VUB is now entitled to join the EMT network for the next five years. The EMT network promotes the exchange of best practices between universities, thus aiming to improve employability of graduates and the creation of a truly European job market for skilled translators.

UNICA Student Conference

Students from European capitals unite Students from all over Europe, including twelve VUB and ULB students, made it happen in Lausanne! And by creating a UNICA student board at the end of the conference, they even ensured follow-up on their ideas and proposed actions. A board that, according to ULB delegate Nicolas Dewalque, “will help projects discussed during the conference become more concrete and will help ‘make it happen!’ The conference with the motivational title ‘Make !t Happen!’ took place in October.

UNICA, the Network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe, has held these Student Conferences since 2010. VUB and ULB work together to prepare their students for the conferences, thus offering their students the opportunity to practice their debating skills and at the same time have a say in European higher education politics. “Here, we got to share thoughts on higher education in Europe with some 200 other students,” explains VUB student Elisabeth Teugels. VUB student Emel Kiliç adds: “We are able to experience the differences between our own and other universities, which inspires us to see where we are doing well and where we could still improve.”


The place of inspiration for the biennial UNICA Student Conference was the Swiss Université de Lausanne and, according to VUB student Lynn Minot, an ideal place to combine hard work and leisure, a perfect venue for making good ideas ‘happen’: “Each day of hard work was well rewarded: a concert and standing buffet at Les Docks, a wonderful boat trip between France and Switzerland and of course Swiss cheese fondue at les caves de Beaulieu.”

At the conference, students presented concrete action plans, voted on by all participants: “The UNICA Student Conference is a chance for us students to have our voices heard,” VUB delegate Kristýna Michková says, “It is an opportunity for us to come up with proposals for projects and ideas on how to implement them.” VUB and ULB students returned from an inspirational experience, full of ideas and concrete action plans. In the words of VUB student Lynn Minot: “All there is left now for us to do is implement the fruits of our labour in our university and make it happen!”


UNICA aims to promote academic excellence, integration and co-operation between member universities throughout Europe. It seeks also to be a driving force in development of the Bologna process and to facilitate integration of universities from Central and Eastern Europe into the European Higher Education Area.


“The UNICA Student Conference is a chance for us students to have our voices heard”

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VUB reaches out to Bolivian street children In September, 20 Master’s students in Psychology travelled to La Paz and El Alto in Bolivia for a 6 month internship. In Bolivia, the students work with street children, collect data for the VUB research group and write their thesis. This is all organised by VUB Professor Loots and a small team of coordinators. The students and their coaches planned for months ahead, preparing their thesis, following Spanish courses and raising money to cover their expenses. In Bolivia, the students also write a book, make a movie and report to the VUB community via blogs. The students are both observing and actively involved. Since 1997 VUB has had a good relationship with Bolivian universities, more specifically the universities in La Paz and Santa Cruz, and mainly involving PhD students. This project goes far beyond any prior projects though: 20 students will be working on 4 projects, each having their own coordinator, with all budgets covered by VUB. But Prof. Loots is ambitious: he wants to set up a deployed, sustainable project over the next 5 to 10 years. Also in his private life he cares deeply for the street children of Bolivia: in August groups of Belgian basketball players and coaches travelled to Bolivia to set up a basketball programme in 6 locations. In subsequent months a full basketball school for street children is to be created. The 12 most committed players will be invited to Belgium for a tournament and a summer camp in 2015. After this international summer camp in Belgium, a new and structural Street Basketball School is to be created in Bolivia to involve and coach children on an ongoing basis.


Aquatic ecology research in Africa in support of nature-based solutions Research by the VUB Biology Department has focused for decades on aquatic biology and management. The department specialises in nature-based solutions for conservation of aquatic resources in tropical countries.

VUB alumnus Dr. Abebe Beyene Hailu receives Prize for Tropical Limnology In October 2014, Dr. Abebe Beyene Hailu, VUB-alumnus, received the Jean-Jacques and Berthe Symoens Prize for Tropical Limnology from the Belgian Royal Academy for Overseas Sciences for his original research contribution in Tropical Limnology. He has worked in the field of river water quality with his PhD promoter Prof. Ludwig Triest since 2006.

Prof. Ludwig Triest and Dr. Abebe Beyene Hailu

What are nature-based solutions? Nature-based solutions aim to use nature in tackling challenges such as climate change, food security, water resources, disaster risk management, etc. It also aims to integrate societal factors such as poverty alleviation, socio-economic development and efficient governance principles.. Rift valley lakes and papyrus swamps in Eastern Africa In Africa, water bodies are often directly used for harvesting natural resources thus putting pressure on ecosystems, as for instance in the case of fishing activities in open lake areas. Lake margins and wetlands are also under pressure of land use: encroachment of settlements and crop production. In Eastern Africa, the VUB Biology Department led by Prof. Ludwig Triest has a cooperation arrangement with Ethiopian and Kenyan institutes. The focus is on aquatic ecology in rivers, wetlands, lakes and dams, more specifically on local genetic resources such as papyrus, noxious invasive weeds such as water hyacinth and on aquatic ecosystem health. The VUB researchers, in cooperation with Jimma University, Ethiopia, use a suite of organisms such as algae, small animals and fish to monitor the quality of water bodies. These organisms reflect and integrate the conditions for aquatic life more effectively than the mere measuring of pollutants: the ecological quality of a water body rises when its biodiversity is higher and more sensitive species are noted. For his research on Ethiopian rivers, Dr. Abebe Beyene Hailu won the Prize for Tropical Limnology awarded by the Belgian Royal Academy for Oversea Sciences.

VUB is coordinator of CARIBU, a major EU-exchange programme with a budget of almost EUR 4 million, in which 8 EU institutions and 12 educational institutions in the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) are participating. Jimma University in Ethiopia is co-coordinator. CARIBU aims to create an academic network for international cooperation and provide scientific career stimulation for the individual participants. ACP researchers receive a scholarship to study or gain experience at a university in Europe and professors from EU countries travel to ACP countries to lecture and conduct research.

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Why 20 November is the most important day of the year Every year on 20 November, students, former students and members of staff of the Brussels sister universities VUB and ULB commemorate the foundation of their alma mater by Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen. Exactly 180 years ago, on 20 November 1834, the university opened its doors. As always, the Verhaegen commemoration began with a series of floral tributes, including at the founder’s grave and the National Shooting Range, where tribute was paid to 18 students and alumni of the university who were executed during WWII. The Brussels university always fiercely opposed the Nazi ideology. In the afternoon there was a common academic session in the medieval decor of Brussels Town Hall, hosted by Mayor Yvan Mayeur. Students on the street However, the absolute highlight of ‘Saint-Verhaegen’ is the traditional student procession through the streets of Brussels. On 20 November the students rule the city and do what they like doing: sing student songs, drink beer and have a great time. Night of Illuminations The Brussels sister universities VUB and ULB celebrated their 180th anniversary with a grand banquet and a series of concerts in front of the Royal Palace in Brussels. That took place during the Night of Illuminations on 9 May 2014. For the Vrije Universiteit Brussel it was a double anniversary, since it had existed as an autonomous Dutch-speaking university for 45 years. The Vrije Universiteit Brussel arose out of the French-speaking Université Libre de Bruxelles. The Brussels university was founded in 1834 by PierreThéodore Verhaegen, a Brussels lawyer of Flemish origin. Verhaegen wanted a university that would be independent of Church and State and where academic freedom would reign. A university based on the principle of Free Inquiry. In the nineteenth century, French was the dominant language of academia. In the second half of the nineteenth century, a Flemish student association was established (Geen Taal, Geen Vrijheid [No Language, No Freedom]), which demanded, among other things, a course in Dutch Legal Language. Only in 1935 did Doctorate in Law become properly available in both languages. In 1963 students could take courses in Dutch in almost every faculty. New university 1969-1970 was the first academic year of the autonomous Vrije Universiteit Brussel. In the 1970s the Vrije Universiteit Brussel built two brand-new campuses: a main campus (Etterbeek) and a medical campus (Jette). In the first year, 950 students enrolled. Their number rose so spectacularly that the predicted maximum of 5,000 students had been exceeded after just 10 years. The number of students has now grown to 14,200, 21 per cent of which are foreign students. After all, as a university in the capital of Europe, VUB has a strong international vocation, with more and more courses in English.

1834: foundation of ULB 1891: first course in Dutch (Dutch Legal Language) 1969-70: start of autonomous VUB 1971: construction of University Hospital 1973: opening of first buildings on main campus (Etterbeek) 1986-87: start of Vesalius College 1990: foundation of UNICA (network of universities of European capitals) 2010: Brussels University Alliance (VUB & ULB) 2011-12: start of BRUFACE - Brussels Faculty of Engineering (VUB & ULB)

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VUB welcomes 22 new Fellows 22 people from industry, economy and politics became VUB Fellows in September. They were warmly welcomed by Rector Paul De Knop who pointed out that the VUB Fellows – 49 in total – are much more than just a loose network. He described them as a powerful web with VUB at its centre, a web with strong connections and with the common goal of progress as its glue. University Fellowship Coordinator Prof. Hugo Thienpont emphasised the enormous added value of the Fellows in helping to bridge the gap between Academia and Society.

VUB alumnus wins prestigious Human Rights awards Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan, a leading human rights lawyer from Bangladesh, has been awarded several prestigious Human Rights Awards in recent months, inluding the 2014 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and the 2014 Martin Ennals Human Rights Award. Mr. Rahman Khan is an alumnus of the IES-VUB PILC programme, now the LLM International & European Law coordinated by the Institute for European Studies (IES). He is very appreciative of his studies in Brussels: “My master’s programme in International Legal Cooperation at VUB helped me very much to understand the international legal regime, humanitarian and human rights law and the legal developments at the European Union. I also had the opportunity to be part of a network of friends, where the bonds of friendship are still strong. The network is still a strong support-base for me and my family in these trying times.” Mr. Rahman Khan established a nationwide network of human rights defenders in Bangladesh. He is a founder and the Secretary of the human rights organisation Odhikar, one of the most trusted watchdog organisations in the country, which monitors issues such as restrictions on freedom of expression, abuse by security forces, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, border killings, violence against women, and elections.

VUB researcher wins ESCoP Early Career Publication Award

VIB/VUB welcomes Nobel Prize winner 2012 Brian Kobilka

Kobe Desender, PhD student at the Research Group Cognitive Psychology (COPS) has won the yearly Early Career Publication Award of the European Society for Cognitive Psychology (ESCoP). The awarded publication, entitled “Feeling the conflict. The crucial role of conflict experience in adaptation”, was published earlier this year in Psychological Science. The paper shows that the subjective experience of a conflict is crucial for subsequent adaption to that conflict. It offers a new way of looking at the human cognitive system and why it exerts cognitive control. Prof. Eva Van den Bussche (VUB) and Dr. Filip Van Opstal (ULB) provided guidance to Kobe Desender for the publication.

On October 1st, Brian K. Kobilka, Professor of Molecular & Cellular Physiology at Stanford University, visited the VIB Structural Biology Research Centre at VUB. Brian Kobilka, together with Robert Lefkowits, received the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of G-protein-coupled receptors. This visit was very special, as Jan Steyaert and his colleagues from the VIB Department were involved in the pioneering work that led to Kobilka’s discovery of these receptors. Prof. Kobilka gave a lecture on structural insights into G-protein coupled receptor signalling.

Prof. Peter Schelkens received the IEEE 2014 Best Associate Editor Award Prof. Peter Schelkens received the 2014 Best Associate Editor Award for his editorial contributions to the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Transactions on Circuits and Systems for Video Technology. This scientific journal is ranked on 1st among the most influential journals and conferences in the domain of multimedia and covers all aspects in the field of video technology and video systems.

European Corrosion Medal for VUB Professor Herman Terryn VUB Professor Herman Terryn of Vrije Universiteit Brussel has won the European Corrosion Medal. He received the medal for his excellent contribution in the understanding and prevention of metal corrosion. Terryn is professor in material sciences and part of the VUB research group SURF, where corrosion is researched in many different ways: from the atomic structure of metals to online-monitoring of corrosion in wind turbines, for example. One of the latest breakthroughs of SURF, in joint research with Universiteit Gent, is on self-repairing layers for metals. The new paints will enable the metal to restore itself in case of scratches or other minor damages.

VUB Communication Studies student wins first Digital Innovation Challenge from London School of Economics Emilie Maccarini, student in Communication Studies at VUB has won the first Digital Innovation Challenge from the prestigious London School of Economics. She received the prize for her essay “Gamification: educating the angry bird”, a critical essay on the limited success of gamification amongst Generation Y. Emilie won a study trip to London where she presented her essay at the annual Social Study of Information Technology Conference.

VUB Professor Lieve Van den Block receives the EAPC Early Researcher Award Professor Lieve Van den Block has won the Early Researcher Award 2014. The award has been presented annually since 2009 by the European Association for Palliative Care and is awarded to young researchers in the field of palliative care who make exceptional contributions to research and/ or academic education. Lieve Van den Block received her PhD in Medical-Social Sciences from VUB in 2008. In the coming years, she intends to focus on a number of projects, including the coordination of PACE: a project for comparative research on the effectiveness of long-term care centres across Europe.

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AKADEMOS - YR 17 • N° 5 • WINTER 2014-2015 31

Come and write your success story

in Brussels

29 bachelors - 74 masters - 22 advanced masters

Akademos december 2014 ENG  

+ VUB and Brussels: Shaping the future + Students elect rector + PhD’s heimat + Launch of worm burger

Akademos december 2014 ENG  

+ VUB and Brussels: Shaping the future + Students elect rector + PhD’s heimat + Launch of worm burger