2023 ICMS Publication Award for Harm van der Veer

November 16, 2023
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The 2023 edition of the annual ICMS PhD publication award was exciting as ever. In October, five selected contenders pitched their research in a fierce battle. Harm van der Veer took home the prize with his paper on a glow-in-the-dark CRISPR-Cas9-based diagnostic platform for detecting infectious disease. The public vote went to Changlin Wang for his exciting work on recyclable polyimine aerogels made from bio-based resources.

Organized by the ICMS PhD Outreach Committee, this year's competition again provided a fantastic opportunity to highlight the enthralling research within ICMS and stimulate the conversation around it. From a total of 19 PhD students that had submitted their papers, the jury selected Bas Bögels (BME), David Schrijver (BME), Changling Wang (CE&C), Imke Krauhausen (ME), and Harm van der Veer (BME) to pitch their papers in a public event before a multidisciplinary panel of ICMS Postdocs. To prepare them, they engaged in a public speaking training session by last year’s winner Mert Astam, which was well-received.

The Grand Finale

The grand finale was held at TU/e’s colosseum of scientific combat, the filmzaal at Zwarte Doos. Assistant professor Francesca Grisoni welcomed the audience and announced the contestants. The first to pitch his paper was Bas Bögels, who developed a new way to store and access digital information using DNA. He explained how so-called thermoresponsive proteinosomes (tiny containers that can open and close depending on the temperature) enable finding and reading the information stored in the DNA. The method allows for easy access to the stored information and helps to reduce ‘decoding’ mistakes.
Then Imke Krauhausen entered the stage, pitching her paper on a simple electronic circuit that can help a robot in a maze to see and move better. The robot learns to follow a path using its eyes and manages to find the way out. This could be a helpful and easy way for scientists to understand how robots can learn and improve.
Next, David Schrijver presented his paper on nanoparticles for precision medicine and immunotherapy. He developed a nanoparticle containing the anti-inflammatory cytokine Interleukin-4 and apolipoprotein A1, which targets the organs where immune cells are produced. David presented promising results from research on human cells as well as mice and non-human primates.
Bringing us back to the time when COVID-19 rapid tests were still a thing, Harm van der Veer presented his pitch authentically in his lab coat. His paper describes a bioluminescent nucleic acid sensor (LUNAS) platform that can detect specific DNA sequences with high sensitivity. It is designed to be easily integrated with recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA) for rapid and sensitive point-of-care diagnostic applications. He presented successful results detecting SARS-CoV-2 RNA in patient samples within some 20 minutes, indicating its potential as an efficient and accessible tool for infectious disease testing without the need for complex RNA isolation procedures.
Last but not least, Chang-lin Wang took the stage. He developed a new kind of organic aerogels using bio-based materials as precursors and introducing reversible chemical bonds that can be selectively broken. This results in improved recyclability and reduced environmental impact. His work demonstrates the potential for advanced and sustainable superinsulating materials with enhanced thermal stability and flame resistance.

The verdict

For the announcement of the winners, an excited audience moved toward the ICMS Headquarters at the Ceres building. Cold drinks and borrel snacks kept the audience happy until the jury finished their intense discussion on who to crown the ICMS PhD Publication Award winner of 2023: Harm van der Veer. The winner of the audience vote turned out to be Chang-lin Wang. Both winners were awarded their prize as well as a monetary prize of €250 and €100, respectively. As with every successful event organized by the PhD Outreach Team, a food truck with freshly baked Italian Pizza and Pasta was waiting outside to serve our guests with delicious food. All’s well that ends well, and what remains are the names of our award winners…and 70 cups of tiramisu in the ICMS fridges.


Glow-in-the-Dark Infectious Disease Diagnostics Using CRISPR-Cas9-Based Split Luciferase Complementation. Harmen J. van der Veer, Eva A. van Aalen, Claire M. S. Michielsen, Eva T. L. Hanckmann, Jeroen Deckers, Marcel M. G. J. van Borren, Jacky Flipse, Anne J. M. Loonen, Joost P. H. Schoeber, and Maarten Merkx*. ACS Cent. Sci. 2023, 9, 4, 657–667. DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.2c01467

Public vote:

Closed-Loop Recyclable High-Performance Polyimine Aerogels Derived from Bio-Based Resources. Changlin Wang, Fabian Eisenreich, Željko Tomović Advanced MaterialsVolume 35, Issue 8, 2209003. DOI: 10.1002/adma.202209003