5 July 2018

Nominees for 2018 Student Prizes announced

Photo: Erik Kottier

Utrecht University is proud of its students, who make impressive efforts in their studies and in their daily lives. In recognition of these efforts, every year the Rector Magnificus presents two student prizes during the opening of the academic year: the prize for the Best Master’s Thesis and the prize for Exceptional Administrative and Social Achievement. The nominees for this year’s prizes have recently been announced.

Nominees for Exceptional Administrative and Social Achievement

  • Robin Kok, Master’s student in Psychology. Robin has taken the lead in the debate on whether or not to prescribe expensive medications. Through direct contact with the media and former Minister of Public Health, Ms. Schipper, she made a balanced argument for both her own interest in the matter, as well as that of other patients and the importance of a broader social debate on the topic.
  • Work Group 'Gewoon Vega’, consisting of: Natalie van Dis, Tiemen Wagenvoort, Maaike de Leeuw, Mardie Vermunt, Julia Ertl. Students from different study programmes found a creative and positive manner to encourage the university community to eat vegetarian more often, with the goal of reducing our ecological footprint. To that end, they developed an appealing presentation of the vegetarian options, combined with useful information. According to their research, this approach resulted in significantly higher sales of vegetarian products.
  • Advident, consisting of: Jeroen Heemsbergen, Joshua Lambertus, Renda Bosma, Berend de Haas, Bas van der Meer, Pim Swart. Their goal was to improve the skills of Science students in preparation for the job market. Advident aims to achieve that by working independently together with external clients, and by organising a wide range of activities for students and alumni. The group is also working on embedding the acquisition of work-related skills in the curriculum of Utrecht University’s Science study programmes.

The nominees for the Best Master’s Thesis

  • Chris van Hoorn, Faculty of Science, Molecular & Cellular Life Sciences. Subject: ‘Structural characterization of the Intraflagellar transport complex’. Cilia are microscopic hairs located in various parts of our body, which function like whips or antennae. The most familiar cilia are those in the respiratory tract, which move mucous and dust upwards and out of the lungs. But cilia can be found in almost every organ of the body. Improperly functioning cilia can cause serious diseases. Each of these microscopic hairs contains a number of ‘transport machines’ that act as a kind of lift along the outside to move building blocks to the growing tip. Chris used a 3D visualisation to show how this process works.
    The jury thought that his thesis was theoretically sound, and was impressed by his courage and drive to experiment. The thesis is an example of ‘Forefront science’: several labs were competing to be the first to come up with such a visualisation, which is now possible thanks to a breakthrough in the field of electron microscopy. The end product also stood out due to its beautiful illustrations and clear summary.
  • Elizabeth Dirth, GEO, Sustainable Development – Environmental Governance. Subject: ‘Governance for Future Generations: A Global Review of the Implementation of Intergenerational Equity’. Climate change will have major effects for generations to come. Elizabeth has studied which institutional mechanisms are used to address climate change around the world, and the effects that these mechanisms have had. Her research shows that it is difficult to guarantee equality between generations in the fight against climate change.
    The jury was impressed by the fact that Dirth had studied a massive amount of data from every country in the world in such detail. Her research is also unique in that no one had ever looked at this enormous problem from such a perspective. The thesis is characterised by its clear, systematic approach and its socially relevant conclusions. It describes in fine detail what works and what doesn’t.
  • Idya Karimi, REBO, Private Law. Subject: ‘The loss of earning capacity of young children in personal injury law: the shadow side of the comparison with - and without - an accident.’ Like their working-age counterparts, young children also receive damages for the loss of earning capacity. The compensation is calculated by comparing the earning capacity after the accident to a hypothetical earning capacity if the accident had not taken place. Idya concludes that the result can be discriminatory, for example if the calculation takes into consideration that girls can have children. In her thesis, she suggests possible alternatives that are not discriminatory.
    Karimi’s thesis is remarkable, in that it combines private law (tort law) with public law (equal treatment). The results of her research are extremely relevant for judicial decision-making. The jury also praised her innovative theoretical analysis: Karimi contributed her own vision to the existing theory on the matter. And finally, the end product was clear and understandable, even for a layman..


An Education- or Research Director can nominate a student from his or her study programme for the Best Master’s Thesis prize. The student nominee must meet the stated criteria. Anyone may nominate a student for the Exceptional Administrative and Social Achievement prize, whether or not the person is affiliated with Utrecht University. See the criteria and procedure here.

Announcement of winners

Board President Anton Pijpers will announce the winners of the prizes during the official Opening of the Academic Year on Monday, 3 September 2018.