Travel Award Winner Vera Wiersma

Travel Award Winner Vera Wiersma
Posted in: Travel Grants
5 years ago

Travel Award Winner Vera Wiersma

Vera Wiersma is a researcher working at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. She is researching the mechanisms underlying the progression of Alzheimer's disease and the award will help to fund her trip to the 14th International Conference on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

I'm very happy to be awarded the HelloBio travel grant, which will allow me to attend the 14th International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease coming March in Lisbon. I am looking forward to discussing my data with scientists from all over the world and to catch up and learn all about the latest discoveries in my research field. An unique opportunity! Thank you for your generous support, Hello Bio, I am looking forward to the conference! Vera Wiersma, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Hello Bio travel award winner

Congrats Vera! Can you tell us a bit more about what you're working on at the moment?

I am a final year PhD student working at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, in the research team “Molecular Neurodegeneration” headed by Dr. Wiep Scheper at the Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive research. In my laboratory, we are studying neurodegenerative diseases, including the most common one: Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is hallmarked by the presence of humungous clumps of two proteins (known as Amyloid-beta and tau) inside cells. These proteins can travel between cells, spreading the disease throughout the brain. In my research group, we are modelling this spreading and clustering of the tau protein “in vitro” in cell cultures, aiming to understand the mechanisms underlying these processes. Shedding light on these processes will aid the development of mechanism-based disease-modifying treatments, of which none do currently exist for Alzheimer’s disease.

What is it about your field of research that gets you most excited?

The brain remains the most mysterious organ. Every day, neuroscientists all over the world are expanding the horizons of our knowledge with their discoveries. The challenge lies in putting the extremely small pieces of the puzzle (e.g. protein A does this to protein B) together to solve complex brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Which scientists working today do you most admire, and why?

Although not really answering the question, I picked Marie Curie, who for me stands as an example of how perseverance, curiosity and humbleness are key ingredients to become a good scientist.

What do you think are the biggest challenges currently facing life scientists and their work?

With decreasing funding for science, communication of the importance of our research to the public is becoming more and more important in my view. It is a challenge to sometimes take a step back, to look beyond running experiments, publication pressure and other stressful deadlines and think about ways to convey “why this study is so important” to non-scientists. Trying to communicate what drives us scientists back to the lab every day, what makes us so passionate for science and where the effects of science on society can be seen, will hopefully increase public support.

What’s your favorite science quote?

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not your believe in it” by Neil deGrasse Tyson

What’s your favorite science joke?

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Thanks for giving us that fascinating insight into your research Vera - we hope you enjoy your trip to Lisbon!

Click here to read about our past winners or why not apply for the grant yourself?


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