Collegezaal in het Maria Montessorigebouw
Collegezaal in het Maria Montessorigebouw

Winners Study Awards 2023 announced

The Study Award is an annual prize for students who have written a thesis of exceptional quality. The theses are written in the previous academic year.

The Study Awards will be presented during the Opening Academic Year on 4 September 2023. The winners of the Study Awards and abstracts of the winning theses are:

Lucas Gronouwe (FFTR)

Deconstructing Management and Organization Science In Search of a Valid Critique and Business School Transformation Proposal at the Crossroads of Philosophy and Organization(s)

Are we fully aware of the presuppositions that regulate research and education on subjects such as ‘‘management’’ and ‘‘organization’’? Or how these implicit assumptions relate to the scientific status of Business Administration? And do we, finally, have an overview of the work that is being done at the crossroads of philosophy and organization studies, related to these and other topics? My thesis addresses these issues by means of a deconstruction of management and organization science. This deconstructive approach entails both an assessment and critique of its foundations, and an affirmative transformation of management and organization as an academic discipline. Specifically, I investigate what kind of management and organization science remains after the many philosophically-informed critiques it has encountered over the past decades, by scholars from traditions like Critical Management Studies and Philosophy of Organization. Mapping and critically discussing these diverse engagements between students of management, organization, and philosophy enables me to offer a cartography of business school transformation proposals. Throughout the thesis, I argue that university-based business schools suffer from a multitude of intellectual vices and unthoughts, and that if management and organization science wants to be a legitimate academic discipline, it should reconstruct or reinvent itself.

Airin Farahmand (FdL)

Bodies Reimagined: The Representation of the Body in Speculative Design

We live in an age of permanent crisis, where the need for finding alternatives is ever more pressing. How can art shift narratives to create change and generate new social and cultural possibilities? Bodies Reimagined explores the power of stories, fiction, and speculation in creating new worlds and imagining alternatives. It argues that new narratives can build new worlds and different stories can lead to different social realities. Taking “speculative design” as its starting point, it aims to understand the role of art and design in fabulating new worlds. Speculative design is a relatively new design approach that uses hypothetical situations, what-if questions, and fictional products to explore possible technological futures. It is a creative response to emerging technologies that aims to provide an imaginative space for thinking about their socio-cultural implications. By probing into stories about bodies and technologies in speculative design, this thesis sheds light on the potential of the medium for creating alternative forms of knowledge that challenge the axiomatic certitudes of Humanism’s imagination. In so doing, it argues for the importance of recognizing art, theory, philosophy, and science as intersecting platforms within which new ethical, social, cultural, and political frameworks can emerge.

Andrea Rodgers (FMW)

Decoding adaptive NK cell signaling in cancer

Adaptive NK (aNK)-cells are promising immunotherapeutic agents due to their immunological memory features and their resistance to important tumor immune-escape mechanisms. Nonetheless, their anti-tumor properties and underlying mechanisms that sustain aNK-cells recall-responses remain ill-defined. In this study, the presence and functionality of aNK-cells were first immune-monitored in ovarian cancer patients together with their prognostic value. As a result, high aNK-cell genetic signatures were found to correlate with enhanced overall survival in such patients. In addition, ovarian-intratumoral aNK-cells correlated with high tumor cell killing through the secretion of tumor-necrosis factor α, compared to conventional NK (cNK) cell-killing. Moreover, aNK-cell memory formation and recall responses against ovarian tumor cells were examined upon interaction with dendritic cells (DC). We observed that aNK-cells became reactive to ovary tumor cells upon co-culture with DCs loaded with ovary tumor cell-lysate, without reacting to allogeneic tumor cells. Altogether, the data highlighted the potential of aNK-cells to be used as mono- or complementary immunotherapy through the recognition of ovarian tumor antigens and acquisition of immune-memory against them.

Max Sterling (FNWI)

Ultrasonic Vocal Interaction Resolved with Millimeter Precision using Hybrid Beamforming

My thesis presents a new state-of-the-art for localizing rodent vocalizations: a hybrid microphone array (64-ch. acoustic camera + 4-ch. wideband array) together with a synergistic integration of vocalization origin estimates. Specifically, an analytic estimate is combined with high-density beamforming to precisely localize sounds. Then, based on deep learning-generated visual tracking of the animals, vocalizations can be assigned to their emitter with very high confidence.

The system provides accurate estimates for >90% of all emitted vocalizations, substantially exceeding all other methods and delivering 3.4-5.0 millimeter accuracy.

This accuracy really changes the study of social vocalizations in rodents and other animals, where vocalizations often occur in close proximity, and will empower advanced modern downstream analysis tools.

Animal vocalizations are of current and increasing relevance in many scientific fields, e.g. animal ecology and neuroscience research. Their manipulation and precise measurement provides the basis for tackling many fundamental questions concerning animal ecology, the neural basis of language, and neurological development on the one hand and paving the way for the discovery of essential, novel drug targets for debilitating conditions such as autism-spectrum and language disorders on the other, where ultrasonic vocalizations serve as a biomarker for animal well-being and normal development.

The system allows studying larger groups of animals at once, which increases ecological validity. It also reduces the number of animals required overall,  thus improving animal welfare. Importantly, our system is affordable, readily available, comparatively easy to set up, and all software and system designs will be available open-source.

Shiwany Magermans (FR)

Modernisation of the Energy Charter Treaty: An Analysis of the Compatibility of a Reformed Dispute Settlement Mechanism with EU Law

Within the field of international investment law, investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) is a mechanism commonly laid down in trade and investment agreements. It allows for an investor of one State to bring arbitral proceedings against the government of a State in which that investor has invested. In 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that ISDS provisions within bilateral investment treaties (BITs) concluded between Member States of the European Union are incompatible with EU law. Three years later, it held that the ISDS clause in the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) is also incompatible with EU law.

The ECT was under revision by a Modernisation Group since 2017. The European Commission, on behalf of the Member States, proposed a draft modernised ECT that amends the Treaty’s ISDS clause. With a view to earlier case law of the CJEU, the thesis examines whether the Commission’s draft modernised ECT is compatible with EU law. It concludes that it is, as the draft lays down two essential conditions, namely that [1] arbitral tribunals formed under the ECT may neither interpret nor apply EU law, and that [2] Contracting Parties retain the right to regulate in the public interest. While the modernised ECT will in fact exclude intra-EU ISDS, some EU Member States (including the Netherlands) have – in part due to increasing criticism levelled against the ISDS system – in the past year decided to withdraw from the Treaty.

Annika Mordelt (FSW)

Lysosomal deficits in CHD2-related neurodevelopmental disorders

Studying the human brain at cellular resolution is challenging and often comes with limitations such as relying on post-mortem material or less biological relevant immortalised cell lines. To circumvent this, we used human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), which can be generated from every individual by reprogramming skin cells. These hiPSCs are capable of transforming into every cell type possible and therefore provide the opportunity to study human brain cells from patients. Here, we specifically used hiPSC technology to study CHD2-related early onset epileptic encephalopathy. This disorder is characterized by seizures in children and caused by a mutation in the CHD2 gene. By mimicking the genetic mutation in iPSCs with CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing and subsequently generating brain cells, we discovered an affected molecular mechanism potentially underlying this neurodevelopmental disorder. Understanding what goes wrong in the brain of the patients is a critical first step for developing novel treatment strategies.

Jeroen Lenssen (FM)

The influence of perceived economic downgrading on commitment system change: A narrative study on first-generation Afghan refugees in the Netherlands


Attending the ceremony

The ceremony takes place on Monday 4 September during the Opening Academic Year in concert building De Vereeniging.