Speaker profiles

Prof. Dr. Elmer Sterken

Rector Magnificus of University of Groningen

Prof. Dr. Elmer Sterken

Elmer Sterken received his bachelor degree (with honors) and his PhD at the University of Groningen in 1983 and 1990, respectively. Prof. Dr. Sterken has been closely associated with the University of Groningen, where he has been Professor of Monetary Economics and was later appointed Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Business. He is currently a member of the executive board of the Stichting Academische Opleidingen Groningen (AOG Foundation) and the Energy Delta Institute of the Raad voor de Bedrijfsvoering Facilitair Bedrijf (University Services Department Management Council) of the University of Groningen. Prof. Dr. Sterken is also the Chair of the National Committee of Deans for Economics and Business.

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Prof. Dr. Rienk van Grondelle

Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, VU University Amsterdam; Academy Professor of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)

Prof. Dr. Rienk van Grondelle

Rienk van Grondelle is one of the most influential experimental physicists working on the primary physical processes of photosynthesis worldwide. Using the tools of ultrafast spectroscopy he has made major contributions to elucidating the fundamental physical mechanisms that underlie photosynthetic light harvesting and charge separation. He has developed theoretical tools to infer the effective electronic and molecular structure and dynamics from complex spectroscopic data. His work recently led to a fundamental new understanding of light-driven charge separation in the oxygen evolving photosynthetic reaction center of plants. Using multi-dimensional electronic spectroscopy he was able to show that in photosynthesis ultrafast charge separation is driven by specific molecular vibrations that allow electronic coherences to stay alive. Five years ago he proposed an explicit molecular model for photoprotection and demonstrated that the major plant light-harvesting complex operates as a nanoswitch, controlled by its biological environment. These results, of utmost importance for our understanding of photosynthesis, inspire technological solutions for artificial and/or redesigned photosynthesis as a possible route towards sustainable energy production on a global scale.

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Dr. Koen Kok

Expert Smart Electricity Grids at TNO

Prof. Dr. Rienk van Grondelle

Dr. Koen Kok is a scientific researcher in the interdisciplinary field of intelligent electricity systems, combining electrical engineering and control engineering with computational intelligence. He was until April 2011 the scientific lead of the energy management and distributed control research at ECN. In April 2011 ECN's research on Intelligent Electricity Grids has been transferred to TNO. This group has a strong position in the European smart grids research field, working on numerous EU and NL-national projects and participating in ETP SmartGrids and EERA activities. The project volume in this research area is around 3 Mio per annum, partly from direct industry funding. Koen holds a BSc both in Electrical Engineering (1992) and Technical Informatics (1993), an MSc in Computer Science (1998) and doctor degree in Computer Science (2013). From February 2006 until July 2008, he has been a part-time staff member of the Computer Science department of the VU University Amsterdam (VUA), working on ICT architectures for the future electricity infrastructure. Kok has extensive research experience in the fields of market-based control of power systems, smart grids ICT architectures and integration of distributed energy resources and demand response in the electricity system. Key results have been field deployed and commercialized.

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Prof. Dr. Ir. Ellen Nollen

European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen

Prof. Dr. Ir. Ellen Nollen

Ellen Nollen currently holds a Rosalind Franklin Fellowship at the Department of Ageing of ERIBA, where she is studying the molecular basis of Parkinson’s disease and other aging-associated neurodegenerative diseases. In July 2011 she was awarded an ERC Starting Independent Researcher Grant (€1.5 million) to work on ‘Protein damage control: regulation of toxic protein aggregation in aging-associated neurodegenerative diseases’, In November 2011 she was named as an EMBO Young Investigator. In 2007 she received an Alfred Tissières Young Investigator Award. Ellen Nollen previously worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Dept. of Functional Genomics, Hubrecht Laboratory, Utrecht, under Prof. Ronald Plasterk, for which she had an NWO-VENI grant, and in the Dept. of Biochemistry, Northwestern University, Evanston, USA, under Prof. Rick Morimoto, during which she was supported by NWO-Talent and EMBO long-term fellowships. She completed her PhD thesis on “Hsp70 chaperone functions in stressed cells” in 2000 under Prof. Harm Kampinga at the University of Groningen.

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Prof. Dr. Linda Steg

Prof. Dr. Linda Steg

Department of Psychology, Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, Rijksuniversiteit of Groningen, Groningen

Linda Steg is professor in environmental psychology at the University of Groningen. Her research focuses on measuring, understanding, and changing environmental behaviour, in particular household energy use. Also, she studies the effectiveness and acceptability of environmental and energy policies, and the effects of environmental conditions and policies on individual quality of life. She is particularly interested in the role of values, norms, and moral considerations. Steg is member of the Scientific Board of the Groningen Energy and Sustainable Program (GESP) at the University of Groningen, and scientific director of the Kurt Lewin Institute. Moreover, she is president of Division 4 ‘Environmental Psychology’, and treasurer of Division 13 ‘Traffic and Transport Psychology’ of the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP).

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Prof. Dr. Rien Herber

Prof. Dr. Rien Herber

Professor in Geo-Energy at the Energy and Sustainability Research Institute of the University of Groningen

Rien Herber (1954) holds the position of professor in Geo-Energy at the Energy and Sustainability Research Institute of the University of Groningen. After graduating as a geophysicist in Utrecht University in 1979 he started his career in Shell in the research lab in Rijswijk. Following assignments in Brunei, Thailand and the Netherlands he moved northward to Norway as exploration manager for Norske Shell, during which period the deep water Atlantic Margin was opened. In 1998 he moved back to NAM as exploration manager. Still based in Assen, he was appointed in 2003 as Vice President Exploration for Shell in Europe. In this capacity he was responsible for the Shell operated exploration activities in the UK, Netherlands, Norway, Ukraine, Sweden and Ireland, non-operated Shell interests in Germany, Denmark and Italy as well as new exploration opportunities outside these countries. In addition to these responsibilities he has been Deputy General Manager of NAM since 2004 until mid 2009 when he left Shell to take up the professorship in Groningen. Rien is a member of the Dutch Mining Council since 2010.

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Dr. Willem Jan Drijfhout

Prof. Dr. Rien Herber

Willem Jan Drijfhout, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Early Development Services. He heads all early phase development and bio-analytical laboratory work for PRA. Dr. Drijfhout was Chief Scientific Officer for Pharma Bio-Research prior to the company being acquired by PRA in mid 2006. He joined Pharma Bio-Research in 1996 and became a member of the Executive Board in 1999. Dr. Drijfhout has extensive experience in drug development and has been involved in the study design and conduct of several hundred Phase I studies. Dr. Drijfhout holds a Ph.D. in Pharmacy.

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Giuseppe van der Helm

CEO of the Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development, President of European Responsible and Sustainable Investment Forum

Giuseppe van der Helm

Giuseppe van der Helm has been the chief executive officer of the Dutch Association of Investors for Sustainable Development (VBDO) since November 2006. He was elected president of Eurosif (European Responsible and Sustainable Investment Forum) on July 1st 2009. Giuseppe studied Chemical Technology and Business at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. After graduating in 1985, we started working as a marketer at chemistry company DSM, where he worked for 10 years holding several positions. He first acquired a taste for sustainability while working in Paris as Quality Assurance Manager for the car-industry. After a brief time working as a Business Unit Manager at Sigma Coatings he started working as President Europe at Valvoline. In 2002 Giuseppe decided to leave the corporate world for the multi-dimensional world of sustainability. He focusses his energy on companies, investors and NGO’s to construct a world where profit is not a goal but a means to create a sustainable society based on attention for man and nature. After a sabbatical during which he travelled the world, he started studying theology and the University of Tilburg. He is a member of the Stakehoulder Council of GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) en of the Councils for Sustainability at KPN and SNS Reaal.


Prof. Dr. Jan Hoeijmakers

Department of Genetics, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam

Prof. Dr. Jan Hoeijmakers

Jan Hoeijmakers cloned the first of many human DNA-repair genes allowing elucidation of the reaction mechanism of nucleotide excision repair, discovered the strong evolutionary conservation of DNA repair, resolved the basis of a variety of enigmatic human repair syndromes and identified a new class of ‘transcription disorders’. His laboratory generated a comprehensive series of mouse models for human repair syndromes and discovered a very strong, initially highly controversial connection between DNA damage and accelerated but bona fide aging. By modulating DNA repair his team recently succeeded in largely controlling the process of aging in mammals. The severity of repair deficiency strikingly correlates with the rate of accelerated aging: lifespan and onset of many aging-related diseases ranging from years to weeks depending on the extent to which repair is compromised. The type of repair defect determines the type of segmental accelerated aging and/or cancer. These observations indicate that DNA damage and genome instability can drive a remarkably wide spectrum of age-related diseases and strengthen the link between genome stability and aging. Notably, by nutritional interventions his team (together with the RIVM), very recently succeeded in extending lifespan and delaying aging of repair mutants up to 3-fold, which for mammals is unprecedented. In 2005 he started DNage and in 2011 he started a company called AgenD whose mission is to provide solutions for medical/health problems associated with aging. In summary, his work highlights DNA damage as a driver of aging, reveals the plastic nature of aging and establishes the repair mutants as paradigms for lifespan-extending pharmaceutical/nutraceutical interventions opening new perspectives for prevention or treatment of aging-related diseases, which are associated with enormous loss of QoL and the main healthcare problems in developed countries.

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Maurice de Wilde

CFO GasTerra

Maurice de Wilde

Maurice de Wilde (1971) joined GasTerra as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in January 2013. Before his assignment to GasTerra he held various positions in the Royal Dutch Shell group, including Finance Manager in Oman and Asset Finance Manager for the Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM) in the North of the Netherlands. From 2009 to December 2012, he was Financial Director of Shell Gabon, an oil exploration and production company. He started his career as an external auditor at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. GasTerra trades in natural gas. It operates on the European energy market and makes a significant contribution towards fulfilling the Netherlands' gas requirements. GasTerra strives to establish long-lasting business relationships with the private sector and to enter into competitive sales agreements from a customer-centric perspective.

During the PhD day Groningen, Maurice de Wilde will share his experiences on sustainable operating and reporting in the oil and gas industry.

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Dr. Claudine Lamoth

Center for Human Movement Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen

Dr. Claudine Lamoth

My research has a translational character, which emphasizes the integration of fundamental and applied knowledge. 1) I have an interest in the fundamental understanding of mechanisms underlying motor development, ageing and movement disorders. Over the years I contributed to this understanding using concepts and tools from dynamical systems theory/coordination dynamics. This theoretical approach explicates variability as an inherent property of human movement and, in doing so; it provides an expedient window into the coordination of system components as well as its stable and adaptive features. I have appropriated methods and (multivariate) analysis for quantifying stability and variability for clinical analysis of postural and gait control. Central to my research is the quest for factors like coordination, cognition, and energy cost, and their interaction in optimizing and adapting postural control and locomotion. 2) I am combining this fundamental knowledge of motor control with modern-days sensor technologies and innovative data analysis in order to develop solutions for supporting independent mobility, preventing falls, and improving health. I have established collaborations with various research teams (in rehabilitation, biomedical engineering), institutions (hospitals, nursing homes) and technology companies which led to various research projects, e.g., to develop objective instruments for monitoring mobility, diagnosis and development of interventions (Exergaming for elderly).

For more information, go here or visit SPRINT home page.


Prof. Dr. Robert Hoppe

Capacity Group for Science, Technology and Policy Studies (STePS), Faculty of Business, Public Administration and Technology, Twente University

Prof. Dr. Robert Hoppe

Robert Hoppe (1950) holds B.A.’s in Sociology (1971) and Political Science (1971, and an M.A. (cum laude) in Political Science (1974) from Catholic University Nijmegen. In 1974-1986 he worked as assistant and associate professor of Political Science at the Free University Amsterdam. From this university he earned a Ph.D. in the social sciences. His dissertation was published under the title, Economic Affairs Drafts a New Policy. Policy Design and Decision Making on a Non-incremental Policy, Free University Press, 1983, for which he received the Dutch Association for Public Administration’s Annual Van Poelje Award for best dissertation of the year. In 1986-1997 Hoppe was affiliated to the University of Amsterdam’s Faculty of Political and Socio-Cultural Sciences, as professor and chair of Public Administration. In addition to other books and articles, in 1989 he co-authored (with dr. H. van de Graaf) the Dutch standard introductory textbook to policy science, Policy and Politics (Coutinho, Bussum, 1996, 3rd edition). Since its establishment in 1987, Hoppe is a member of the editorial board of the Dutch academic journal Beleidswetenschap (Policy Science); since 2002 he is the journal’s editor-in-chief. In 1992-3 he spent a year as visiting professor and Fulbright Fellow at Rutgers University, New Jersey, doing research and teaching in issues of Science, Technology, Society and Public Policy. Since September 1997 he is professor and chair of Policy Studies of Twente University’s Faculty of Business, Public Administration and Technology. In September 2005 he joined the Capacity Group for Science, Technology and Policy Studies (STePS).

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Prof. Dr. Claudio De Persis

Professor at the Institute of Technology and Management, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Groningen

Prof. Dr. Claudio De Persis

Claudio De Persis is a professor at the Institute of Technology and Management, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, University of Groningen. He is also affiliated with the Groningen Center for Systems and Control. Previously he was with the department of Mechanical Automation and Mechatronics, University of Twente (2009-2011) and with the Department of Computer and System Sciences, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy (2002-2008). He received the Laurea degree cum laude in Electrical Engineering in 1996 and a Ph.D. degree in System Engineering in 2000 both from Sapienza University of Rome. He was a Research Associate at the Department of Systems Science and Mathematics, Washington University, St. Louis, MO in 2000–2001, and at the Department of Electrical Engineering, Yale University, New Haven, CT, in 2001–2002. His main research interest is in control theory, and his recent research has focused on dynamical networks, smart grids, quantized control and cyber-physical systems. Prof. De Persis is an Editor of the International Journal of Robust and Nonlinear Control, an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology and IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control and a member of the IEEE Control Systems Society Conference Editorial Board.

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Prof. Dr. Ir. Jan van Ours

Professor of Labor Economics, Tilburg School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, University of Tilburg

Prof. Dr. Ir. Jan van Ours

Jan van Ours (1954) is professor in Labour Economics at the Department of Economics, Tilburg University. He is also professorial fellow at the Department of Economics, University of Melbourne, and fellow of CentER, CESifo and CEPR. Jan van Ours studied Mining Engineering at the Technical University in Delft and economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam, where he also got his Ph.D. In 1996 he was awarded with the Hicks-Tinbergen medal of the European Economic Association. He has published in journals like American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Review of Economic Studies, Journal of Labor Economics, Economic Journal, European Economic Review, Journal of Economic History, Journal of Public Economics, Journal of Health Economics. Currently he is President of the European Association of Labour Economists. His main research is on labor markets and illicit drugs.

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Prof. Dr. Oscar Couwenberg

Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Groningen

Prof. Dr. Oscar Couwenberg

Oscar Couwenberg is Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Groningen. He studied Business Administration in Groningen at the Faculty of Economics and specialized in Corporate Finance. His research concentrated on firms in financial distress and he received his Ph.D. in 1997 on the thesis “Resolving Financial Distress in the Netherlands: A case study approach”. In 1999 he participated (part-time) in a research program on the efficiency of the Dutch Bankruptcy Law as senior researcher of the Business and Law Research Centre of the Radboud University (Nijmegen). In December 2001 he was appointed Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Groningen in the Faculty of Law. His main research interests are bankruptcy law, corporate law and market governance. In September 2005 he became vice-dean of the Faculty of Law for a period of 4 years. From the 1st of January 2010 he was appointed Director of Research of the Faculty of Law, and is in that capacity responsible for the research master of the Faculty, the PhD course curriculum and research policy of the Faculty. In his capacity as Director of Research he is also board member (chairman) of the Research Institute of Integration and Social Efficacy. Since March 2013 he was appointed Academic Director of the University of Groningen research priority Sustainable Society. Apart from his academic career he is associated (part-time) with a consultancy firm, Mazars Berenschot Corporate Finance, as consultant to medium sized enterprises.

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