Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Barbara Franke Representative DI within Radboudumc and CNS Director

Date of news: 2 May 2023

Barbara Franke

As of January 1, Barbara Franke has become the representative of the Donders Institute within the Radboudumc. Next to that she was appointed as head of the department Cognitive Neuroscience at Radboudumc as of April 1.

Barbara was appointed in January 2022 as interim chair of the Donders institute, until the new governance of the Donders Institute would be in place. “When I was asked to fill the position as chair of the Donders Institute, I indicated that I would be available for the period of one year. In this period, I engaged in the preparations for the new governance structure of the Donders Institute. We also improved the communication and collaboration between centres and partners. The Donders CityLab @ muZIEum, NeurotechEU, and the Research Platform are good examples of where we made progress.”

Donders Institute Representative

In her new role Barbara is the Radboudumc representative within Donders Institute. Together with the directors of the other centres in the Donders Institute network, she will form the Strategy Board of the Donders Institute. At the same time, she will also make part of the Council of the new research organization at Radboudumc. Looking back, her role as a Donders Institute chair was the perfect preparation for this new task: “I have been working at the Radboudumc for 24 years now, and I know the organization well. This last year helped me better understand also the larger context of our setting in the Radboud University.“

In her new role, Barbara is currently visiting the different departments within Radboudumc to gather information on their ideas and needs regarding their place in the Donders community: “Our brain-researchers wear two-coloured coats with Radboudumc blue and Donders Institute red. Meeting expectations for contributions to two research-intensive institutes can be demanding. At the same time, having the Radboudumc brain research linked so closely to the more fundamental neuroscience and cognition research performed at Radboud University and the MPI is one of the features that makes our Donders Institute quite unique in the world. Finding ‘easy’ paths to facilitate collaboration of Radboudumc researchers with other Donderians, such as aligning Donders Challenges and Radboudumc Research Programs, is therefore an important goal I set for myself.”

Head of Cognitive Neuroscience department

Next to her role as representative of the Donders Community for Medical Neuroscience (DCMN), Barbara became the head of the department of Cognitive Neuroscience at Radboudumc per April 1. The department, located in the Trigon building, is home to over 150 people who are all involved in neuroscience. Barbara: “I see great potential here to do interdisciplinary research in the Donders spirit. I am so excited to be trusted to lead this beautiful department!”


Barbara: “With the Donders Institute, we have an institute on our Nijmegen campus that has the potential to be one of the best institutes for brain-related research in the world. The sheer scale of the Donders Institute and the diversity of its centres are a challenge for a director, but the enormous opportunities that result from this diversity make all efforts worthwhile. After this year of being the chair I have an even greater respect for the vision and effort of the people who have led the institute before me! Coming into the Donders Board with the task to be its chair for a year required a steep learning curve from me, and I was very fortunate to be able to rely on the experience of the Managing Director of the Donders Institute, Femke Maij. Above and beyond that, Femke has been an absolute star and a tower of strength in these challenging times of the Donders governance development. The energy, perseverance, vision, and dedication with which she fulfils her role are amazing. I – and the Donders Institute in general – have a lot to thank her for!”

“I also particularly enjoyed working with the four Theme Leaders, Stephanie, Marius, Judith, and Fleur, in developing the Research Platform within the new Donders Institute management structure. It was energizing to see them grow into their role, and I look forward to seeing them contribute more of their vision to the research strategy of the new Donders Institute.”.

We wish Barbara lots of success in her new role(s) and are happy that she remains involved in the Donders Institute!