AR&D Travel Grant Reports 2018

Antoinette van Ouwerkerk

Department: Department Medical Biology
Promotor: Prof. dr. V.M. Christoffels
Date of visit: 25-08-2018 29-08-2018
Type of travel grant: Conference visit

What passes for dancing with the big names in science at Heidelberg, seen from the top of the helix stairs

Heidelberg by night with the river Neckar, Altstadt  and Hiedelberg Castle in the background

EMBL building surrounded by forest

After almost forgetting to bring my poster, almost missing the early train to Heidelberg, strange conversations with German businessmen in the train and again almost forgetting my poster in the train, I arrived in Heidelberg 7 hours later. Specially dedicated busses bring us from the Altstadt to the EMBL campus, surrounded by lush forests. The building is impressive, with a staircase with two sides called Helix A and Helix B… Nerd-alert! Our Bibel (abstract book) is handed to us at the reception, and the science starts. Thanks to the AR&D travelgrant I got useful feedback on my research at poster-sessions, I was inspired by talks leading to a.o. a new topic for a review I will write and a new analysis on my data. Last but not least I got to dance with the people who developed the techniques I have been using in past years!

Joyce Man

Department: Department Medical Biology
Promotor: Prof. dr. V.M. Christoffels
Date of visit: 25-08-2018 29-08-2018
Type of travel grant: Conference visit

Due to my travel grant award from the Cardiovascular Development Meeting 2018 of the ESC Working Group on Development, Anatomy and Pathology, which covered most of my expenses, I had money left from the AR&D Travel Grant. In agreement with Callista Mulder, I could use the part of the Travel Grant for the course ‘’Employability outside Academia’’.

The aim of the Employability Outside Academia course is to support PhD students and postdocs in their preparation to make the transition to non-academic careers. This course helps you finding out what position would suit you (

As a last-year PhD student at the department of Medical Biology, I was curious about the alternative careers for PhD (science) graduates. Besides I was wondering whether my developed research skills and qualities would make it possible to bridge the transition to a non-academic career. With those questions in mind I participated in the course Employability Outside Academia. The course helped me to discover my personalities, (non)scientific preferences, and suitable jobs through interactive sessions with other participants (PhD students and Post-docs), concrete exercises and networking. Together the course Employability Outside Academia guides and prepares you in your career development plan for either a scientific career or the transition outside the academia. After the course I am still confident to start a Post-doc position after graduation. But now I have learned that good/interesting jobs for me can be found as well outside of the academia.

Laura Bleker

Department: Department of clinical epidemiology, biostatistics and bioinformatics
Promotor: Prof. dr. T.J. Roseboom, Prof. dr. A.H. Zwinderman
Date of visit: 23-09-2018 04-10-2018
Type of travel grant: Conference visit

Thanks to the AR&D research grant, I was able to visit India in September 2018. I started my visit with the Marce Biennial conference on perinatal mental health, an annual conference in which international experts on depression and anxiety during pregnancy come together to share their findings. At this congress I gave a presentation about the findings of my own study. In my study I investigated the effects of the treatment of depression and anxiety during pregnancy through cognitive behavioral therapy on the development of the child, and in particular on biological parameters, such as DNA methylation. Some substances on the DNA appear to be switched “on” or "off" due to maternal experiences, and this can ultimately affect the behavior and emotional response of the individual. The treatment of depression during pregnancy appears to have an effect on these “switches”. At this congress I met colleagues who share this research field, including gynecologists, psychologists and psychiatrists. After the congress I visited another city, Mysore. Here I met Dr. Krishnaveni, an enthusiastic researcher in the field of environmental factors to which pregnant women are exposed, and how this could influence the development of the child from the intrauterine environment and onwards. We ended my stay with a visit to the local hospital and the obstetrical ward. It was incredibly educational and interesting to explore a totally different world and to be able to exchange research methods and findings!

Anna I. R. van der Miesen

Department: Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria Promotor: Prof. dr. A. Popma
Date of visit: 02-Nov-2018 till 06-Nov-2019
Type of travel grant: Conference visit

In recent years, there is a sharp increase in the number of referrals to gender identity clinics and an increase in the number of publications on transgender health care, especially on mental health care, including the intersection of autism and gender identity. Anna van der Miesen, MD, is a PhD student at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria. Next to her clinical work with transgender youth with co-occurring autism, her PhD focuses on mental health in transgender youth with a specific focus on autism. Supported by an Amsterdam Reproduction & Development travel grant, Anna visited the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WAPTH) in November in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The WPATH is the largest and only association for transgender care providers and organizes a biannual worldwide meeting to improve transgender health care. Anna was invited to give two trainings for health care professionals during the preconference, both focused on clinicians working with transgender individuals with autism. This preconference training initiative is developed to further educate care providers worldwide. At the conference, Anna also presented two new research studies on transgender youth. With attendees from all over the work, the conference was a great opportunity to learn about new developments and research in the field and get to know new clinicians and researchers to establish connections.

Lotte Kleinendorst

Department: AMC Clinical Genetics
Promotors: Prof. dr. H. Meijers-Heijboer and dr. M. van Haelst
Date of visit: 9-Nov-2018 till 10-Dec-2018
Type of travel grant: Work visit

Thanks to the AR&D travel grant and the KNAW Ter Meulen grant, I had the opportunity to visit Aruba to perform part of my PhD research on obesity genetics.
I visited the pediatrics clinic of the Horacio Oduber Hospital (HOH) in Aruba. Together with Anne-Mieke Oudshoorn, a local pediatrician-neonatologist, we started an outpatient clinic for children who are suspected of genetic obesity. There is a high prevalence of obesity in Aruban children, which could be explained by both environmental and genetic factors. In the following years, children will be seen at this clinic using standard obesity care protocols extended with three-generation family history, dysmorphological examination, and genetic testing. Genetic outpatient clinics have been held at HOH by my supervisor Mieke van Haelst since 2012 for many genetic disorders, but no studies on obesity genetics have been performed in Aruba to date. We will be the first to investigate the genetic contribution to the high obesity prevalence in Aruba.
Furthermore, I visited several secondary schools in Aruba to measure height and weight of teenagers. We also asked them to fill in a standardized questionnaire on quality of life. I was able to include around 450 teenagers, and the pediatrician will continue this study in 2019. The goal is to learn more about the prevalence of obesity among teenagers on Aruba (obesity prevalence data are currently only known for younger children and adults) and whether their weight affects their quality of life.