Marina Van Damme Grant to circular economy and balanced work life

September 27, 2019

Fernanda Neira D’Angelo is this year’s winner of the Marina Van Damme Grant. The grant was awarded last Friday during Momentum, the official celebration of Eindhoven University of Technology of the new academic year.

Fernanda Neira D’Angelo, Assistant Professor. Photo: TU/e.

With the grant (€ 8,340), Neira D’Angelo will finance a short period abroad to further study innovative chemical reactors that contribute to a sustainable and environmentally friendly circular economy. Her ambition is to convert abundant resources that are typically wasted into valuable products like fuels, plastics or even medicines.

Industry vs Academia

“Contributing towards a circular economy to sustain our increasingly populated planet is not only my ambition but a responsibility we need to confront”, says Fernanda Neira D’Angelo, assistant professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry. In strive for sustainability, The Netherlands and TU/e are committed to play a pioneering role in the implementation of the Dutch Climate Agreement (presented on June 28th, 2019), which shows that innovative changes are not only possible for industry, but also provide competitive advantages. According to Neira D’Angelo, this commitment will urge researchers to close the gap between industry – which often leans towards economic security and well-established (but sometimes inefficient) technologies - and the academic research, which is committed to developing novel and groundbreaking technologies.

Career and Family

Beside these professional challenges, right after the start of her academic career Neira D’Angelo became quickly aware of some personal challenges too. Neira D’Angelo: “I am the wife of another TU/e assistant professor, and the mother of a beautiful 4-year old handicapped child. My dream is to consolidate my personal and professional ambitions with those of my family, organically.”

For Neira D’Angelo, academic careers are becoming extremely competitive, requiring a large set of skills and dedication. Gaining visibility, having a network and spending short stays at foreign institutions – all important elements of a successful academic career - requires exceptional arrangements on a personal level. “Even more”, says Neira D’Angelo, “the lack of general awareness about the difficult conciliation of the private and professional lives in families with handicap children pose additional challenges for those of us who strive for a professional career”.

Short stay abroad

Thanks to this grant, Neira D’Angelo will spend a few months abroad, as a guest researcher at Kinetics Technology, a company with a strong focus on hydrogen production technologies located in Rome (Italy). Part of the grant will be specifically allocated to the costs for the support of her child and the visits of closest relatives during these months. During her stay at the company, Neira D’Angelo will bridge the gap between the reactor technologies that she has developed in the lab for hydrogen production and the applications of the company. According to Neira D’Angelo, Kinetics Technology is an industrial institution with ‘a solid research agenda and clear commitment, thus, the perfect choice’. Beside gaining visibility and expanding her horizon, with this experience Neira D’Angelo hopes to strengthen her relation with the chemical industry, while still taking care and enjoying her family life.

Marina Van Damme Grant

The grant had been made possible by a donation from Marina van Damme (1953). She is a Delft engineering graduate and the first female to gain a PhD at the University of Twente. The grant wants to enable young female engineering graduates of TU/e to develop and boost their job and career prospects. "I have been given the opportunity to build up some wealth, which now allows me to support young ambitious women", explains van Damme. Since its establishment, the grant has been already awarded 37 times via the Eindhoven University Fund (UFe). This year the jury comprised prof. Elphi Nelissen (chair), prof. Yvonne de Kort, prof. Elena Lomonova, and TU/e alumni Jan Oosterveld and Lisanne van Oppen.

Valentina Bonito
(Science Information Officer)