The Life Sciences Round Table: an introduction

17 April 2019

The board of the NWO Science domain has installed seven advisory committees, one per discipline, to facilitate more effective collaboration between the management, the bureau and ‘the field’. These advisory committees, called Round Tables, consist of researchers. The Tables have allowed the research field to be organized so as to advise the Science board in the new NWO. The Life Sciences Round Table currently has 10 members, drawn from the various fields that comprise the life sciences.

Prof. Peter de Ruiter is chair of the Life Sciences Round: 

What does the Life Sciences Round Table actually do?

“The Life Sciences Round Table represents the broadest life sciences constituency – at the university, naturally, but also within the university medical centres and at research institutes at KNAW and NWO. The Table provides both solicited and unsolicited advice to the board of domain Science in order to ensure that the voice of the life scientist is heard at that level, for instance when making strategic choices to do with thematic research programmes, assessment procedures and so on. The Table also works to improve the organization of the Life Sciences field itself, for instance through the formation of ‘work communities’ and the facilitation of a possible future Life Sciences sector plan.”

What does the Life Sciences Round Table want to achieve in 2019?

“In 2018 we held initial discussions and took several steps towards improving the organization of the field and setting up five ‘work communities’. The Table has neither the presumption nor the ambition of completely covering the extensive field of the life sciences; for this reason, the focus of substantive and strategic discussions should lie with the work communities. 2019 will therefore be an important year in the establishment of these work communities.
2019 will also see the inauguration of our national life sciences conference, Life, to be held on 28 and 29 May. We are looking forward to an inspiring programme and a well-attended conference; our aim is to make Life an annual must for all those working in the life sciences.”

The members of the Life Sciences Round Table are delighted to introduce themselves.

Peter de Ruiter - chair

Peter de Ruiter received his PhD in Ecology at Utrecht University in1987. He worked at the Department of Agricultural Research (DLO-WUR), before he was appointed as full professor Environmental Sciences (UU). Thereafter he was head of the Soil Science Centre  (WUR) and scientific director of  the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (UvA). At present he is part-time affiliated to Biometris (WUR).

His research interests are in the field of (i) structure and stability in complex communities (food webs) and how this relates to the preservation of biological diversity, ecosystem functioning and environmental quality, and (ii) the occurrence of  ecological ‘tipping points’ and ‘sudden shifts’ in arid ecosystems leading to desertification and how this has impact on food security. In 2013 he received the Humboldt-Forschungspreis for ‘Ihnen Anerkennung Ihrer bisherigen herausragenden Leistungen in Forschung und Lehre‘.

Gerrit van Meer

Gerrit van Meer(1953) studied biochemistry at Utrecht University (UU) and obtained a PhD on lipids in cell membranes in 1981. After 5 years at EMBL Heidelberg and 10 years at the UU medical school, he was professor of cell biology at the medical school (AMC) in Amsterdam (5 yrs), and professor of biochemistry at Chemistry UU (10 yrs). Besides his research, Gerrit wrote reviews, organized conferences and courses, and taught students. In 2011-17 Gerrit was dean of the Faculty of Science at UU, where he is now a faculty professor. He is elected member of EMBO (2003), the KNAW (2008), and the Academia Europaea (2017).

Lubbert Dijkhuizen

Professor of Microbiology, University of Groningen. Main line of research microbial physiology and biotechnology, with emphasis on bacterial enzymes acting on starch, sucrose and lactose, prebiotic oligosaccharides, probiotic bacteria. He has published 350 papers in international journals, supervised 75 PhD students, and is listed as inventor on 28 patent applications. His h-index 60 (Web of Science) and 70 (Google Scholar).
He is Scientific Director of the Carbohydrate Competence Center, a public private partnership with 20 industries and 8 knowledge institutes, and founder of CarbExplore BV.

Gijs Wuite

Gijs Wuite obtained his PhD in biophysics in 2000. Since 2001 he leads his own group at the VU University Amsterdam and in 2009 was appointed to full professor. In his research he has successfully applied quantitative physical tools to investigate fundamental problems in biology, and to search for the unification of apparently unrelated biological phenomena. Moreover, he has been at the front of recent new and fast developments of biophysical techniques that have enabled visualization, manipulation and control of complex biological reactions. In 2018 he won the Dutch Physics Valorisation prize, for successfully launching a company based on his research.

Reggy van der Wielen

Reggy has an academic background is in Human Nutrition (Wageningen Agricultural University, NL 1989), with a PhD from the same University (“Vitamin Intake and Status of Elderly Europeans”, 1995). After his PhD graduation, Reggy joined Unilever where he worked for 20 years in various R&D functions (a.o. Project Leader Nutritional lipids; Project Leader Nutritional Immunology; Department Director Nutrition & Health Enhancement; Innovation Programme Director Heart Health – Becel; Department Director Sensory, Cognition & Behavioural Science; Science & Technology Director Taste & Flavour). In 2016 Reggy joined Royal FrieslandCampina, one of the worlds’ largest Dairy Cooperatives, where he is responsible for Corporate Research and Process Technology Development.

Guido van den Ackerveken

Guido van den Ackerveken (1967) is professor in the Plant-Microbe Interactions group in the department of Biology at Utrecht University. He obtained his PhD in Phytopathology at Wageningen University in 1993. Before starting in Utrecht in 1999 he was abroad for 5 years as a post-doc at the CNRS Institut des Sciences Végétales near Paris and as a research associate in Genetics at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. He is fascinated by plant disease, understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying plant disease susceptibility, and how that knowledge can be translated to improve crops and protection methods for sustainable agriculture. In his role as chair in Translational Plant & Microbial Biology (2016) he is active in increasing the societal impact of academic research.

Liesbeth Bakker

Liesbeth Bakker is a wetland and wildlife ecologist studying ecosystem functions and services, food webs, restoration ecology and rewilding. She is particularly interested in the impact of wildlife on biodiversity, ecosystem functions and landscape structure in relation to global change and human pressure. She is a senior scientist at the Department of Aquatic Ecology of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) and the chair of the Centre for Wetland Ecology.

Katherina Riebel – vice chair

Katharina Riebel studied Biology at the Free University Berlin, graduated with a PhD at the University of St Andrews in Scotland in 1998 and then moved with a Marie-Curie personal fellowhip to the University of Leiden, where she now works as an assistant professor in Animal Behaviour at the Institute of Biology. Her research aims to understand how complex animal signalling evolved by investigating which factors affect learning how to produce, recognise and choose among complex learned mating signals like bird song. She has a broad interest in organismal biology, behavioural and evolutionary sciences and has been board  member of the Netherlands Society and European Board for Behavioral Biology, jury member of the Dutch Zoology and chair of the JJ Groen Prize and currently on the editorial board of Biology Letters.

Niels Anten

Niels is chair holder Crop and Weed Ecology at Wageningen University. The research of Niels and his group focusses on understanding the ecological mechanisms that determine the functioning of crop ecosystems to help provide a scientific base for more sustainable food production. Emphasis is on multi-species crops. This research unravels mechanisms of plant-plant and plant-pest and plant-climate interactions using a combination of experiments, game theory and advanced modelling. Niels did his PhD at Utrecht University, then did post-docs  at Tohuku (Japan) and Stanford Universities after which he returned to Utrecht as assistant professor. Since 2012 he holds his current position as chair holder.

Joost Gribnau

Joost Gribnau received his PhD at the Erasmus University Rotterdam (1999), and did his postdoctoral training at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research / MIT (Cambridge, USA). In 2004 he started his own research group at the Erasmus MC, and became professor of Epigenetics in 2012. In 2015 he was appointed chair of the department of Developmental Biology at the Erasmus MC. Joost is EMBO member since 2015, and received several awards, including the Huygens-Descartes Price, an ERC Consolidator Grant, Dutch NWO VIDI and VICI grants and a Career Development Award from the Human Frontiers Science Organization. Main research interests of his laboratory are related to sex chromosome biology and stem cell biology. His research group studies the mechanisms directing initiation of X inactivation, and spreading of the long non-coding RNA Xist in the context of embryonic development and cell differentiation. His research group also hosts the Erasmus MC iPS core facility, and is involved in the development of novel technologies to study the epigenome.

Source: NWO