VUB Nieuwsbrief

Electronic Newsletter Monday, 20 April 2009


New insight means a breakthrough in the improvement of titanium implants

Contrary to what has been assumed up to now, the growth of the natural oxide layer that is present on titanium implants does not encourage the adhesion of proteins. Quite the opposite, in fact: the adhesion is actually considerably reduced. Eng. Isabel Van De Keere of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel obtained this trailblazing insight in her doctorate research project.


More information
Eng. Isabel Van De Keere, tel.: 02-629 32 53 of 02-629 32 55,  

Consumption of stimulants by young people drastically reduced over the past few years

Contrary to the recent alarming media reports, the use of tobacco, alcohol and cannabis among young people aged fifteen and sixteen has clearly declined in our country over the past years. This appears from a new European ESPAD study. The results were published by researchers of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel on Thursday, the 26th March.


More information
 Patrick Lambrecht, tel.: 02-629 25 27 or 02,  
 Prof. Dr. Caroline Andries, tel.: 02-629 25 28,  

Expansion of euthanasia legislation desirable according to nurses

The vast majority of nurses in paediatric intensive care units in Belgium is of the opinion that the current legislation on euthanasia should be extended to include minors. This would make it possible to legally terminate the life of a child in certain cases. In practice, euthanasia involving minors is already practised, although it is not legal. This is apparent from a study by Els Inghelbrecht and Prof. Dr. Luc Deliens of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
The study was recently published in the American Journal of Critical Care. You can download the full article here.


More information
 Prof. Dr. Luc Deliens,  
 Els Inghelbrecht, tel.: 02-477 47 49,  

Effect of the S. boulardii probiotic proven

The saccharomyces boulardii probiotic has a beneficial effect in cases of acute gastro-enteritis and diarrhoea caused by antibiotics. This has been proven by a recent research project by paediatrician Yvan Vandenplas of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Probiotics are bacteria and yeasts that have a positive effect on the host’s quality of life. Prof. Dr. Yvan Vandenplas of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel took a closer look at one specific probiotic: Saccharomyces boulardii, a yeast that he selected because it is one of the best-researched probiotics, both in vitro and in vivo. From the results of both fundamental and clinical research, Vandenplas concludes that the effectiveness of this yeast has been proven in cases of acute gastro-enteritis and diarrhoea caused by antibiotics.


More information
Prof. Dr. Yvan Vandenplas, tel: 02-477 57 80,  
(Head of the Biological Psychology Research Unit)

Brussels protein research aboard the ISS

The Discovery space shuttle which departed for the International Space Station on Sunday, the 15th March has a Belgian test on board in which both the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the ULB are participating. TV Brussel has produced this news report, quoting Klaas Decanniere, VUB researcher, and Prof. Dr. Dominique Maes of the VUB Science–Biotechnology Faculty.
This experiment should enable the researchers to examine how proteins crystallize in zero-gravity conditions. "Proteins are the building bricks of the human body. By crystallization, i.e., by creating order from chaos, we can carry out a whole series of applications," explains VUB researcher Klaas Decanniere. "In fact, we want to know precisely which processes occur during crystallization."


View the news report on TV Brussel (only available in Dutch).

HLA typing on embryos suffers from discrepancies in legislation

In seven years of HLA typing on pre-implantation embryos, scientists from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel have treated a total of 32 families, resulting in nine HLA-identical, healthy babies. Four embryos could thereby be successfully transplanted. Discrepancies in the legislation of the various European countries raise serious questions, however, with the result that the UZ Brussels mainly receives applications from abroad.


More information
 Dr. Hilde Van de Velde, tel.: 02-477 66 96,  
 Prof. Dr. Inge Liebaers, tel.: 02-477 68 68

The Darwin Year is the theme of the second edition of CAMPUSTALKS

150 years after the publication of ‘On the Origins of Species’, CROSSTALKS aims to make an interdisciplinary contribution to the Darwin Year by organising another CAMPUSTALKS. On the 8th May 2009, Jean-Michel Claverie, Professor of Medical Genomics and Bioinformatics from Marseille (and author of 'Bioinformatics for Dummies') will hold a lecture ‘On viruses and their contribution to the evolution of life on this planet’, followed by a panel discussion with four of Belgium’s most prominent biologists, Prof. Em. Nicolas Glansdorff (VUB), Prof. Em. René Thomas (ULB), Prof. Em. Raymond Hamers (VUB) and Prof. Em. Nicky Roggen (VUB).


Pecha Kucha
A second panel of speakers opens up the biological topic to other disciplines via the Pecha Kucha format, whereby speakers can make use of 20 slides, with a maximum duration of 20 seconds each. Experience with the previous edition on the 25th March indicates that the formula is bound to guarantee an animated sequence of up-tempo presentations with a great sense of relevance and humour.


Pecha Kucha speakers
 The Evolution of Social Ties - Tom LENAERTS, Associate Professor, Bioinformatics and modelling, ULB/VUB
 Bacterial Altruism - Lode WYNS, VUB Research Vice Rector
 Earth history reflected in DNA - Franky BOSSUYT, Head of the Amphibian Evolution Laboratory, VUB
 Evolving Ethics - Katinka QUINTELIER, The Moral Brain Research Group, UGent
 The Criminal Other - Jenneke CHRISTIAENS & Els DUMORTIER, Department of Criminology, VUB
 Laws of Mass Action - Chris VAN SCHRAVENDIJK, Biomedical Sciences, VUB
 Some surprise presentations


The Darwin ‘Campustalks’ will be held on the 8th May 2009 at the Etterbeek Campus, between 3 and 7 p.m. You can enrol separately for the two sessions. The event is free of charge, but registration is obligatory and can be carried out via

Unsuitable stem cells can be traced much faster

Genetic mutations in human embryo stem cells could lead to carcinomas in transplantation patients, but Dr. Claudia Spits and some of her colleagues of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel have now found a way of tracing mutations quickly and accurately, thereby ensuring that only suitable cells will be used.
The complete article can be found on  


More information
Prof. Dr. Karen Sermon, tel: 02-477 46 35 of 02-476 39 63,  

Official start of the Flemish Supercomputer Centre

The Flemish Supercomputer Centre officially started operations at the end of March. Supercomputing is a crucial technology for the twenty-first century. Fast and efficient computing power is indispensible for superior scientific research, industrial development and the competitive positions of our companies. The Flemish government and the five university associations have therefore jointly decided to set up the ‘Vlaams Supercomputer Centrum’ (VSC).


Supercomputer infrastructure
This centre will unite the local computing clusters of the Flemish Universities into one network, and expand this with a computing cluster that will compare positively in an international context. The VSC aim to make a high-performance and user-friendly supercomputer infrastructure and extensive expertise available to all Flemish researchers from the participating associations, from research institutes and from the industrial world in Flanders.


Flemish Government gives the green light for a new academic course: European Master of Disaster Medicine

On the 16th January 2009, after a long procedure, the Flemish Government approved the recognition of the academic European Master of Disaster Medicine (EMDM) course, a new Master-after-Master programme in the relatively young academic discipline of disaster medicine and medical disaster management, which the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy is now entitled to start from the academic year 2009-2010.


Cooperation with an Italian university
This involves an inter-university education in English offered by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in cooperation with the Italian Università del Piemonte Orientale and a number of international partners. The EMDM covers 60 ECTS credits and offers a varied and modern programme with a mix of interactive live-in sessions and distance learning.


More information 
Please contact the following persons for more information about the EMDM:
Prof. Dr. Michel De Backer (GF-KRIT), responsible person for the VUB programme
Mr. Frank Gladines, Department Head for Quality Assurance and Accreditation (file manager)


And visit the EMDM website.

International Relations

First Summer Academy on ‘Minorities in Eastern Europe’ at the Leibniz University Hanover

This summer, the Leibniz University Hanover is organising the first Summer Academy on ‘Minorities in Eastern Europe’ from the 30th August to the 13th September. This programme is intended for Ph.D. students and advanced masters. Interested parties must pass a selection procedure, for which enrolment is possible up to the 15th May 2009. Please consult the Leibniz University Hanover website to register and for more information. More details are also available from this folder.

Portuguese Cultural Experience through a summer course at Fernando Pessoa University

This summer, the Fernando Pessoa University will once again organise a ‘Porto Cultural Experience’ summer course in the Portuguese city of Porto between the 17th and the 31st July 2009. Interested in updating your knowledge of the Portuguese culture, and your general know-how on culture? Then this summer course may be something for you. The courses are held in English and are based on four central topics: Portuguese Architecture, Portuguese Traditional Cultures, Portuguese Culture and Legacies, and Transnationalism and Transculturism. You can enrol up to the 30th June 2009. More details about this programme are available in the folder and on the Fernando Pessoa University website.

Yemen College of Middle Eastern Studies summer course

The Yemen College of Middle Eastern Studies is again organising various summer courses this year, in June and July: An intensive Arabic course, Tribe, Gender, and Islam in Contemporary Arabia, Democratic Reform and Human Rights in the Contemporary Middle East.


Registrations up to the 1st May 2009. More information is available on the Yemen College of Middle Eastern Studies website.



‘Transatlantic Relations from the Perspective of Central Europe’ European summer school in Prague

The EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy (which is involved in the European integration process, among other issues) is organising the ‘Transatlantic Relations from the Perspective of Central Europe’ European Summer School (ESS) in Prague, from the 11th to the 21st July. This summer school focuses on policy similarities and differences between the various European Union member states, and how they compare with the policies of the United States of America. The course places particular emphasis on the exceptional situation of Central European countries such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. The course also attempts to find an answer to the question of how topical the split between Old Europe and New Europe still is.
Visit the EUROPEUM website or this folder for more information.

Seventh International Human Rights Academy

The International Human Rights Academy is a human rights course that is organised on an annual basis in South Africa, under the auspices of the Universiteit Gent, the Universiteit Utrecht, the University of the Western Cape, the American University Washington College of Law, the University of Pretoria and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. This year, the Academy will take place in the Fountains Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa, from the 17th to the 31st October. The various courses offer superior legal education in comparative international human rights, with an emphasis on the practical aspects of various fields.
Registration until the 15th May 2009. All necessary information can be found on the Academy website and in this folder.

Roche Continents workshop in Salzburg, Austria

The third edition of this workshop is intended for students of the science, music and art disciplines, aged 20 to 29, and will take place from the 4th to the 10th August 2009. All costs will be financed by Roche, and the maximum number of participants is limited to 100. The Roche Continents website will provide you with more information on the selection procedure and the activities, as well as this brochure which is also available for review at the secretariat of the International Relations and Mobility Department (IRMO).

Third transatlantic IP Summer Academy in Italy

This co-organisation by the Bocconi University (Milan), the University of Trento (Trento) and the Scula Superiore Sant’Anna (Pisa), with the support of the European Patent Office (EPO) and various other European and American universities, will be focussing this year on IP in fundamental research. The lectures will be held in English by prominent academics and researchers from ten European countries, Canada and the USA. Visit the Summer Academy Helpdesk ( for more information and registrations.

Summer School ‘Environmental and Resource Management' in Ljubljana, Slovenia

This summer school will take place from the 19th July to the 2nd August 2009 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and is a joint initiative by several universities. It brings together students and academic staff from partner organisations, including the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, with the aim of studying environmental issues in an interactive and intensive manner.


Practical information
 Information about the various programmes is available from the University of Ljubljana website.
 Registration up to the 15th May 2009 at the International Relations and Mobility Department (IRMO)
 Additional information can be obtained from Mrs. Sergeja Mitiè ( or Prof. Dr. Franc Lobnik (Head of International Summer School 'Environmental and Resource Management') (

Doctoral research seminars 2009, Slovenia – EMUNI call

In May, the Slovenian EMUNI University is organising various seminars regarding doctoral research. The following topics are on the agenda:
 De-pollution of the Mediterranean Basin (from the 4th to the 16th May 2009)
 University Systems (from the 18th to the 30th May 2009)


Registration forms and applications for grants are available from the EMUNI website. More information can be found in the poster and in the folder.


Rector clarifies the Vrije Universiteit Brussel’s plan for the future

In March, speaking at the Etterbeek and Jette campuses, Rector Paul De Knop clarified the General Strategic Plan that had received the green light from the Board of Directors on the 17th March.


United efforts
The General Strategic Plan is an ambitious plan for the future with a single goal: To ensure that the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has the future it deserves. A lucid plan with clear priorities/objectives is important, but the implementation of these priorities is obviously even more important. For this reason, the rector counts on all employees. Because we have to create the future of our university together.
The presentation (only available in Dutch) by the Rector can be found here.

Successful participation of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in SID’ins

In March, the SID-IN that took place in Antwerp brought the 2009 series of education fairs to a close. The participation of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel was indeed a success. For the 5 fairs, we registered a total of 1,887 interested final year students. This is an increase of no less than 13.4 % compared to 2008, the previous record year. The fairs that were organised at a further distance were thereby particularly successful. While Haasrode remains status-quo (but remains the largest by far), Roeselare (+57.8%) and Ghent (+34.8%) in particular showed an increase. The number of registered visitors also increased in Ghent and Antwerp, by 13.9% and 9.3% respectively.


Peter Swinnen, Doctor of Arts

The composer Peter Swinnen received his arts doctorate on the 3rd of April. This is the second arts doctorate within the Doctorate of Arts Platform, which is also known as the Brussels’ Model.


In addition to his thesis, Peter Swinnen, composer and department head of the Koninklijk Conservatorium van Brussel (Royal Conservatory of Brussels), wrote the original score ‘La chute de la maison Usher (The Fall of the House of Usher)’, based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe and the silent film of the same name by Epstein. Both parts of this doctoral project at The Platform were presented to the jury.

Dissertation wins Stijn Bannier the 2008 Music Thesis Award

Stijn Bannier (a member of the VUB research group Studies on Media, Information and Telecommunication (SMIT) of the IBBT) has won the 2008 Music Thesis Award with his graduation thesis 'De gamer als hybride performer' (New Media and Digital Culture study, Utrecht University). According to the jury report, Bannier describes 'the world of the gamer from within', with plenty of 'momentum and flexibility.'


the Music Thesis Award is granted by the Muziek Centrum Nederland (Dutch Music Centre) to the author of the best graduation thesis on music in the broadest sense of the word, on an annual basis. The winner is awarded five hundred euro.
Don’t hesitate to surf to the NUvideo website video (only available in Dutch).


Raf Brouns wins the VNN Eli-Lilly Neurology Award

On the 14th March, in Leuven, the Eli-Lilly Neurology Prize of the ‘Vereniging van Vlaamse Neurologen’ (VVN) (Society of Flemish Neurologists) was awarded to Dr. Raf Brouns, employed at the UZ Brussel Neurology Department, for his research into the role of procarboxypeptidase U (proCPU) in the case of an acute stroke. Activation of proCPU inhibits the fibrinolysis (the beneficial effect of thrombolysis). He found a relationship between the use of proCPU and the infarct volume and mortality in patients who received intravenous thrombolytic therapy. These results suggest that proCPU inhibitors could potentially have an added value for thrombolytic therapy in the case of a cerebral infarct.


An opportunity to participate in a scientific congress
The ‘Vereniging van Vlaamse Neurologen’ awards the ‘VVN Eli-Lilly’ prizes annually in recognition of original scientific documents in the field of neurology (either clinical or experimental), biological psychiatry, neurosciences and clinical psychiatry, psychotherapy and humanitarian sciences that have not yet been published. The awards are intended to offer the winners the opportunity to participate in a scientific congress.

Deirdre Cabooter wins the Halasz award

Eng. Deirdre Cabooter has won the prestigious Halasz award for her participation in the 34th High Performance Liquid Chromatography congress (HPLC 2009) in Dresden, Germany. The award, with a value of 600 Euro, was awarded by the Halasz Foundation. Deirdre Cabooter is working in the Chemical Engineering & Technology (CHIS-IR) research unit under the supervision of Prof. Gert Desmet.




Elisabeth Robert has won the VLIZ Thesis Award for Marine Sciences

Every year, the Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ) (Flanders Marine Institute) grants an award to two Master Thesis’s. Both fundamental and applied research in all disciplines of Marine Sciences are considered for this award. This year, one of the two awards was won by Elisabeth Robert of the General Botany and Nature Management research unit ( for her thesis ‘Hydraulic architecture of Avicennia marina (grey mangrove) along an ecological gradient in Gazi Bay, Kenya’.


More information
More information on the VLIZ award can be found on the VLIZ website.
More information on Elisabeth’s thesis subject can be found in this document.

Griet Neukermans has won the prize for the best poster at the Youth Contact Day of the Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee

Griet Neukermans, marine researcher at the Management Unit of the North Sea Mathematical Models (MUMM) and voluntary contributor to the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, recently won the prize for the best poster at the Youth Contact Day of the Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ) in Bruges on the 6th March.


The subject of her poster was ‘Vertical variability of suspended matter and its influence on remote sensing reflectance’. More information can be found on the Management Unit of the North Sea Mathematical Models website.

Kathleen Mooren wins the ZONTA Prize with her dissertation on the use of the Internet for health information by female sex workers in Antwerp

With her dissertation ‘Information technology and ‘the oldest profession’: pas de deux or pas du tout? Do female sex workers in the private houses and open-scene prostitution in Antwerp make use of the Internet for health information?’, Kathleen Mooren, who has recently graduated as Master in Health Management and Policy at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, was crowned as the winner of the annual prize awarded by the ZONTA Club Brussel Sablon. The prize was presented in the Convivium of the Etterbeek campus on Thursday the 5th March.


Do sex workers look for health information on the Internet?
Sex workers have an increased risk of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, violence, unwanted pregnancies and alcohol and drug abuse. Due to a number of barriers, it is often difficult for them to access both preventative and curative regular health care (and other assistance), and the information available is often insufficient to meet their specific needs. Kathleen Mooren investigated whether the Internet provides an opportunity to offer sex workers adequate information about various health aspects. She also specifically looked into the extent to which sex workers make use of the Internet to inform themselves about health issues.


Foreign websites
The investigations of Kathleen Mooren (promoter: Fred Louckx, co-promoter: Elke Leuridan) demonstrate that a number of mainly foreign websites exist that could offer relevant health information to sex workers. These sites have often been developed with the participation of sex workers themselves. The majority of the prostitutes in her study have an easy access to the Internet and they also use it regularly to find information on general and sexual health.

Dr. Eng. Guy Van der Sande receives the Ignace Vanderschueren Prize

On Friday, the 6th of March, Dr. Eng. Guy Van der Sande received the 2008 Ignace Verschueren Prize for his doctorate research ‘Simple models for complex photonic structures: An analytical approach to the physics of VCSELs and photonic crystals’. His promoter is Prof. Dr. Jan Danckaert, and Prof. Dr. Irina Veretennicoff is his co-promoter. This prize, with a value of 10,000 euro, provides additional support to young, post-doctorate researchers with regard to the further development of their scientific career.

VUB project on cancer research by Prof. Leyns is awarded 500,000 euro support

The Fournier-Majoie Foundation has awarded 500,000 euro of financial support to two Belgian research projects for the diagnosis and follow-up of two types of brain cancer. The foundation announced this on Monday. The projects relate to Prof. Dr. Luc Leyns from the Cellular Genetics laboratory of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Prof. Jo Vandesompele and Dr. Joëlle Vermeulen of the Centre for Medical Genetics of the University of Ghent. According to the foundation, this support will make it possible to ensure the continued efficiency of the started research project from the development stage up to its implementation.


Brain tumours
The work of Prof. Leyns is aimed at patients with glioblastoma brain tumours, which represent about 50 % of all brain tumours. The research by Prof. Jo Vandesompele and Dr. Joëlle Vermeulen is concentrating on the risk determination of neuroblastoma patients. The two research projects were selected by a jury of international specialists following a call for projects in cooperation with the Centre for Philanthropy of the King Baudouin Foundation.


New blood is doing well here: We need your help to continuously occupy one bed between the 25th March and the 25th April


In the run-up to the Campus Event on Saturday the 25th April, the medical campus of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Jette Campus, has organised a blood donation campaign that will run for a full month. This initiative started on the 25th of March, with the cooperation of the Red Cross. After all, the Jette Campus offers education with a social relevance, stimulating awareness and confidence in its students, as well as a sense of social necessity and responsibility.


Do you also have a social conscience?
Then come and visit the blood transfusion centre at the Jette Campus and donate blood between the 25th March and the 25th April. If we can manage to keep one bed continuously occupied during the opening hours of every working day for the entire month, this will result in a total of 640 donors, donating no less than 256 litres of blood. You can reserve your place via the Red Cross website or by telephone on 02 477 67 17.


A good example is half the work
The picture shows the first donors, from left to right: Francis Vander Mynsbrugge (Department Head of the Jette Campus, Erasmus University College, Brussels), Prof. Alain Dupont (Dean of the Medicine and Pharmacy Faculty, Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Dr. Jan Schots (Medical Director and Chief Physician of the UZ Brussel) and Dixie Van De Wiele (HealthCity Club Manager). The first three have just donated blood, while the last was still donating when the picture was taken.


Free performance by Lapaz
You can donate blood up to and including the day of the Campus Event itself, the 25th April. All campus partners will open their doors on that day to enable future students to have a taste of their future. In addition to information about the different study options, demonstrations and sports intermezzos, a free performance by Lapaz is also on the day’s programme. You can find more information on (available in Dutch only).



Bio Spin-Off Day: How to start my own spin-off?

Under the umbrella of the BioSCENTer (K.U.Leuven), a study day will be organised on the start-up of spin-offs in biotechnology and biomedicine on the 29th April. The central questions during this session will be: What are the best contacts to make if I want to start up a spin-off in biotech or biomedicine? How do I proceed? Which business plan should I write? What should be my role models? What are the critical factors with regard to capital, niche markets and intellectual property? How can I make a difference?


Like minded
This unique event is aimed at all masters, doctorate students and researchers in science, biomedical science and engineering. If you would like to meet a lot of ‘likeminded’ people in order to ask questions in connection with role models and leading experts, be sure to attend this Bio Spin-off day.


Practical information
 Wednesday, the 29th April 2009 from 1 p.m.
 Location: Thermotechnisch Instituut (Thermo-Technical Institute) (near the Kasteelpark), Arenberg 41, Heverlee
 Participation is free of charge, but registration is obligatory and can take place via the BioSCENTer website.
 When developing your concrete plans, you can call on the Technology Transfer Interface of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel for assistance.

Knowledge for Growth is focussing on ‘Trends and New Markets in Life Sciences’

Knowledge for Growth is the annual Life Sciences meeting of FlandersBio and will take place on Thursday, the 7th May 2009 at the ICC in Ghent. This year’s edition is focussing on ‘Trends and New Markets in Life Sciences’. The main ingredients for this symposium are networking, scientific lectures, science, technology and a poster exhibition. All Flemish universities and various research institutions will present their research and technology in the academic lounge, indicating their potential commercial applications.
You will find all the information you need regarding the programme, abstracts, the location and how to reach it on the Knowledge for Growth site.