The cross-disciplinary PhD awards, jointly presented by the FWO (Scientific Research Fund) and BiR&D (Belgian Industrial Research & Development), are 4 prestigious awards for excellent doctoral work . There are 2 awards in Science & Technology and 2 in Life & Health Sciences and each is worth 5,000 euros. Both prizes in Life & Health sciences went to researchers from Ghent University and both from our faculty!
What is the cross-disciplinary PhD award?
The Belgian Industrial Research and Development Board (BiR&D) attaches great importance to industrial valorisation and societal relevance. BiR&D is the association of international industrial companies having major R&D operations in Belgium. Its mission is to stimulate and improve both the attractiveness and the effectiveness of R&D execution. With the patronage of BiR&D, the FWO and the Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique – FNRS annually awards the BiR&D Cross-Disciplinary PhD Thesis Award, in recognition of a PhD thesis that presents an original and cross-disciplinary contribution with potential industrial valorisation and societal relevance. In 2022 four prizes are awarded, two in the domain of “Life & Health Sciences” and two in the domain of “Science & Technology”. The winners of these prizes will also have the chance to give a presentation to the board members of BiR&D.
Who won the PhD awards?
Eline Lievens with her PhD on ‘The relevance of muscle fiber typology in sports’
Why do fiber types matter? Every individual has a unique composition of two muscle fiber types: slow and fast fibers. Based on the ratio of these fiber types, we can divide the population into three distinct muscle fiber typology groups: the myotypes. Your own myotype is relevant for multiple aspects of sports, such as talent identification, race characteristics, training prescription & injury risk. Understanding the basics of these myotypes is therefore useful for every sports practitioner. However, the ‘gold’ standard to determine your muscle fiber typology is an invasive muscle biopsy, hampering the determination of the myotype in athletes. Therefore, in this thesis a non-invasive way to estimate the muscle typology was further optimized. This technique, also called the ‘muscle talent scan‘, was invented in 2011 by Prof. Wim Derave (promotor of Eline Lievens) and uses an MRI-scan to measure a fast-twitch muscle metabolite. Thereby, this thesis bridged the gap between nuclear physics and sport science, endorsing its cross-disciplinary approach.
During my PhD, I also engaged in science communication and explored the first steps of industrial valorisation. I am proud to see that this approach led to this prestigious award.Eline
Bram Van Den Eeckhout with his PhD on ‘Development of IL-1β AcTakines: towards new adjuvants in vaccination strategies’
While the current generation of vaccines can raise strong and long-lasting antibody responses, their ability to activate T cells – specialized components of our immune system with the potential to eliminate virally infected cells and tumors – remains poor. In our lab, we developed a novel technology that allows for safe and efficient use of cytokine activity to stimulate the immune system in the context of vaccination. As such, my PhD work might contribute to the design of new vaccines and could advance the field of cancer immunotherapy.
Being awarded with the BiR&D Cross-Disciplinary PhD Award is a great honor and I am proud that the quality and valorisation potential of my PhD is recognized. This appreciation drives me to continue my research on vaccines and adjuvants.Bram
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