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Researchista’s Sparkle

Dear Researchista friend,

Thousands of PhD theses are published every month/year in the world, and thousands and even millions of public money (usually) are invested in the research projects behind the theses, yet only a very-very-very small % of the knowledge shared in these valuable books reach you :/

I started Researchista because I had a dream: I wanted Researchers to be heard and the intellectual effort to be valued. So, I made a board game out of my PhD thesis in hope to inspire other Researchers to connect to the wider audience in a different way.

Budgets on Research communication are usually scarce or most of the times non-existent, simply because after a research study was carried out, the results are used for a certain purpose by policy makers or other parties involved, often forgetting that the general public like you and me can benefit of it greatly also.

I made a game out of my PhD thesis and I hope one day it will reach you as well, online or by paper.

This is not just a game, this is a cause.

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Join Researchista’s cause!

Have a look at the game, share the word, like our page, find us on Instagram.

Homepage

http://www.facebook.com/playyourtaxes.com

http://www.instagram.com/playyourtaxes

The activity of the blog will re-start as soon as possible.

With love for Research,

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Academia Community count knowledge music passion research Researcher Researchista Special Guest

(54) Research on MUSIC: microsonic.

I will probably repeat this many times, but one of the challenges at Researchista is to keep my excitement down. Since I started this blog and our Facebook page, I met so many interesting people and the things we discuss are sometimes simply mind-blowing (bam) and this is one of these cases… So, from the left to the right we have 1 half musician/Researcher, 1 composer and 1 half Researcher/musician-amateur, who… how should I put it… joined their forces to create music out of the sounds that human body makes. Wait, what? I will stop here and let you discover this on your own… 

..here they are: Eva, Lucas and Ruth.

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They created “Microsonic” – an interdisciplinary project based music and on microbial communication, or shortly: music & microbes, how original is that! 😀

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here is the microbe, here is the music and here is the Researcher 🙂

The story behind: Both artists and scientists seek to understand aspects of the complex world around us. Despite this common ground, artists and scientists are too often separate in their endeavors. The Academy Honours Programme for Young Artists and Scientists (Netherlands) promotes cross-disciplinary approaches and interactions. The idea is to bridge this gap by bringing together ten artists and ten scientists of diverse backgrounds where they can discuss themes, amongst which: the role of art and science in society.

It was here at this workshop back in 2015 where the three of us met. It was already late, we changed the décor in the meanwhile to a pub, when we got involved into a discussion about communication, its musical aspects and how microbial organisms (e.g. bacterias) are communicating.

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source: internet

The beautiful thing about music is that it is an ultimate abstract art form that is not tied to specific images that connect easily with other disciplines from arts and science. And so, the idea to collaborate on a musical project inspired by microbial communication (aka microbes and bacterias) came into being.

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source: internet

Research about microbial communication via sound signals has only received limited attention due to its technical challenges. Even though electronic devices capable of detecting sounds on microscopic length scales get more advanced every day, the technique is still in its infancy. It is already possible to hear the sound of a large group of microbes – which sounds like white noise – but the devices still need to be developed further to be able to hear the sound of single isolated microbes. Because little is known about this form of communication, Lucas saw a role for himself to play as a composer. Since the communication is inaudible for us human beings, Lucas started to explore how a musical composition out of how this microbial world could possibly sound.

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“Microsonic” partition by Lucas Wiegerink

The Opinion article “When microbial conversations get physical”, Gemma Reguera discusses various forms of microbial communication, which formed the basis for the composition. It appears that the microbial microcosm is a rich sound world on its own. Reguera states that “every particle in a cell has a unique natural frequency of vibration and therefore produces a distinctive sound, very much like voice tonality and pitch in humans”.

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source: internet

Sound waves are generated when objects vibrate. Experiments with yeast cells not only demonstrate that intracellular motions were sufficiently strong enough to propagate across the stiff cell wall, but that they could also generate reproducible acoustic signals.

For our project Microsonic, Lucas composed a soft musical piece, as to give the audience the feeling of a hidden sound world. The public is invited to join on a sound journey into the human body. The microbial world slowly fades into their world. A tape with real sounds stemming from the human body is added to the composition to give the translated communication of microbes a real context. The sound journey starts off with a kind of white noise – unclear, almost inaudible and a bit scratchy – and you start wondering what it is. It is the sound of blood streaming through a vein. Then the zooming starts: more and more internal body sounds are heard, including the creaking of human nerves. But also, by further zooming in you will hear the sound produced by millions and millions of microbes. There the musicians come into the picture. The playing instruments symbolize the several sound signals that microbes use to communicate. Slowly, you get introduced into their microscopic world.

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source: internet

More and more pitched signals become distinguished, first only short ones, but as we zoom further, we hear longer ones as well. The microbial sound world becomes richer and richer; higher and lower pitches occur and the dynamic contrasts intensify. When listening carefully, you will hear that microbes make connections and communicate by taking over each other’s signals. So does the musicians – based on live improvisation. It is at this moment that you as human being can get a glimpse of the communication of microbes and maybe even feel part of their conversation. The composed journey ends with a collective ‘vibrational mode’, when a certain group of microbe cells are ‘in tune’.

The challenge for our composer Lucas was that he was used to thinking in terms of melodies and chords. However, microbial communication via sound signals is not a musical process – still produduces patterns and sounds. As a result, he had to change his approach to composing and relinquish control. Instead, he created a number of frameworks in which the musicians had freedom of movement and become part of the creation process. The subject of communication lends itself very well to this way of making music. The musicians improvise while listening and reacting to each other; they have to communicate to let it work.

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here it how body sounds from within…. https://soundcloud.com/user-354620747/research-on-music-microsonic

Our project is an example of how arts and science that both have the urge to understand and express the complex external world can reinforce each other. This demands certain effort, yes, but is even more rewarding. So had our composer Lucas to let go of his usual approach towards composing. And it is exactly this that makes interdisciplinary collaboration extremely interesting – since it questions the usual approach and way of working. But there is more, interdisciplinary collaboration can support inspiration in each other’s work and reinforce the expression of the complex mechanism in our (microbial) world towards a public. All we can say, go out, open your eyes, take the risk to look outside your usual box”.

The post is written  with Eva van Ooij, Ruth Schmidt (Dutch Institute of Ecology) and Lucas Wiegerink, and was presented at the PAS – Parcours of Art & Science Festival of Maastricht University in 2016. Many thanks to the members of Ensemble 88 – an ensemble specialized in contemporary music. The musical performance was accompanied by a presentation on microbial communication by Ruth.

With love for Research,

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More of Lucas’ compositions:

“The occult beauty of the finite is about that realisation that what is dear to us is also fleeting, and the beauty that lies in such transience. I was inspired to write this piece by the illness and passing away of my mother. As her health worsened, I became increasingly aware of the small pockets of beauty in our lives. Living under the illusion that everything lasts forever, these are easy to miss. But as one faces the loss of something precious, the world is brought into sharper focus”.

Being Arthur: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvTeIy4w-xc&feature=youtu.be
Kameroperahuis in collaboration with Dutch Touring Opera and Opera Days Rotterdam

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Academia anxiety Community enthusiasm happiness Little Research passion research Researchista

(51) Research on MUSIC: an intro.

I remember my dad telling me back in the days that during the Soviet Union times, for the cows to be more productive in giving milk, Mozart would be played in the background, while farmers would collect their milk. Maybe this is not the most romantic way to start this post, but if that is true, at least it gives an idea about the power of (classical) music.

Thank you, wonderful musician! This is Research on MUSIC month and invited Researchers and practitioners from this area will discuss in the upcoming Mondays different perspectives of how music affects our busy, intense, contemporary life and how we can make the best out of it!

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Source: Maastricht Students.

Music in our-days is easy to use at all times… for relaxing our cats, for headaches and migraines, for peaceful eating and breathing.

We can create the ‘sound of music‘ ourselves anywhere we are. I remember when I turned 30 (don’t mention it)), I asked my friends to bring as a present – a performance of whatever they could do, and singing was the most used creative performance we could all enjoy that evening. Learning an instrument might take a while 😀

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Going one step further than singing in the bathroom.

Speaking of that night… with gratitude to my friend Ina, who let me share this video with you, please have a look at this beautiful piece of classical music by Puccini. It is a spontaneous rendition, with the great assistance of her little blue butterfly girl, Nele.

Who knows, maybe it will inspire your next theme house party, you might be surprised on how creative your friends really are! 😉

…. and now… another round of applause go to our Special Guest of next Monday, a Research fellow on EU law and related topics to living and working as musicians and a musician at the same time! drums…

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Eva van Ooij, Musician and Research Fellow at Maastricht University

Music with us more next Monday!

With love for Research,

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anxiety Community count enthusiasm health Help knowledge Little Research research Researchista stress

(49) Research on HEALTH: do-your-own-little research.

Have you ever watched people walking in and out of a train station or through a metro underground? Have you ever wondered what was on their minds? For example, what did they eat or what did they do that day? In this post, we will learn about a Research method that everybody knows about and uses, called the “observation“. There are more types of observations used in Research, but the one that is easiest to do is simply to observe and record the behaviour of yourself or those around you.

Since this is Research on HEALTH month, let’s talk about how you can use observation to improve your health. This post is inspired by a life story of a Researcher that had a bike accident on a early rainy morning. She got a head concussion and for weeks she could not do much. So, she used observation to go through her pain and social isolation. Here is what she says….

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Observation can be so refreshing.

I was laying in bed for days and nights, without being able to look on the computer screen or telephone much, without watching a movie or reading a book. All I could do was staring at the ceiling and counting the wrinkles it had and different shapes it could draw through its little lines and bubbles.

In time, I was allowed to listen to audio books and then to meditate and then slowly I came back to my senses, but the process itself was long and meticulous.

So, out of boredom I started to observe. I am a Researcher afterall. If I could not do any work, I could at least train my ‘detective muscle’ that is needed if you want to be reflective and smart 🙂

I observed the reaction of my friends and family, the way they reacted to my situation, the perception they have about me, the delayed reactions, the laughter, the physical support. It was so sweet to see them so concerned and as a result trying to pamper me all the time. I observed how compassionate were the people I knew and how I was reacting to their compassion, how I was reacting to the light, how the weather was changing, what shapes the sun was making in the ceiling, what positions were bad for my head, what was making me feel good. Although, at first sight very childish maybe exercises, it helped make a dialogue with myself and see how I recovered day by day.

I ended up observing myself. How was I responding to pain? What was making me feel good again? How much was I complaining?

Observation helped me to feel stronger and more refreshed with the image I had towards the others, the image others had towards me and the image I had towards what was surrounding me.

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Last thing, if you happen to ever have a head concussion and you have long hair, it will not take you long time to Not observe that you need a good hair mask to soften your hair after so much rubbing it by the pillow!!! 😀

p.s. Some deadlines for you to respect if you or your friend has a head concussion, but please always consult a doctor, I am not a doctor.

  1. It is a myth that if you did not vomit or fainted at the place of the accident, you do not have a head concussion. It might be the case, but most probably if you hit your head is really not a good idea to stay STANDING.
  2. In the first 24 hours it is important to have someone next to you that can check on you during the night or take you to the emergency if necessary. Emergency-24-Hour-Service2.png
  3. In the first 2 weeks it is very important to have a good continous rest and if possible, not go to work, otherwise you will regret it for the next 6 month.
  4. Same for the first month, for as long as possible rest.
  5. In the next 6 month, your head will not be the same, it needs time to recover…

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Did you like this story? Are you motivated now to observe more the things and people around you? 

This is ‘do-your-own-little-research‘ moment on Researchista. 

With love for Research,

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Academia enthusiasm Fashion Fashionista first years of PhD Photoshoot research Researchista

fashionista #3: Maaspuntweg & Stenenwal.

So, we went to see the Maas from the other side. Please meet our guest, miss Laurien Nagels-Coune who is also the first intern at Researchista, you probably heard about her before 😉 This story is not so much about a Research topic, since Laurien is in her first year of PhD. This story is a personal story about the start of a junior Researcher. 

For those who are unfamiliar with Researchista-fashionista project, this aims to bring Researchers to model on the streets of Maastricht to bring some light on both, the Researcher and a street (or two) of this serene medieval city. On top of that, Researchista-fashionista is concerned with some aspects of the fashion industry and wishes to promote eco-healthy clothing. So, in this shoot we wear 100% biological and organic materials produced 100% in Europe and provided by the shop, called ‘EcoLinea’ from Platielstraat 10 (Vrijthof), where honestly,  everything you find in that shop, like.. every-single-wool/cotton/allmaterials-thing is organic (and they still have sales on!).

First, a little something about the location of the shoot. Tadam! This is the center of Maastricht. You see on the left, the central train station and then few central locations. I marked with a red and orange line the streets and place of our 3rd shoot at this idyllic river bench. Taking pictures with Mr. Mullenberg Peter and his assistant is always a lot of joy, the atmosphere is relaxed and the jokes are funny. This helps everyone to get in the mood to shoot the story.

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It was December, it was winter and it was cold on Maaspuntweg (from ‘Maas’-the river, ‘punt’ – the point, ‘weg’ – the way, now you also know some Dutch!). We went directly to the back of the Bonnenfanten Museum, in the yard of the cafeteria ‘Ipanema’, where we plan to shelter ourselves for tea. Wrong day, the place was closed 😀 I leave it to yourselves to admire how Laurien is being impervious to cold! She was on the table for almost an hour pretending that winter never happened and here is her story…

PhD life in Maastricht: a first impression.

Dear readers, join me at this delightful location. During my master, I would often bike via this path after crossing the Sint Servaas bridge. Biking to the Randwyck campus was always quite a journey because I lived on Maastricht’s Belgian side, almost close enough to the border to receive the Belgian network on my phone.

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Don’t get me wrong though, I did not mind the bike ride at all. My favorite part was this path. I am fond of watching the water from the Maas. When thinking about it, it might be all the fun times at the Belgian seaside that installed this love of water in me. Nevertheless, three years ago I started riding my bike via this path all the way to Randwyck. I was over the moon with getting accepted in one of the neuroscience programs at the faculty of psychology and neuroscience.

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The courses were immensely interesting and intense, resulting in a flow like state most of the time. Admittedly, there were also some times that it got too intense for me. I had to get used to problem-based learning (PBL) for starters. Coming from the University of Leuven, PBL was quite the opposite of what I was used to. A wonderful advantage was that I had to keep up with the material. The perfectionistic procrastinator in me had to get on with it. A downside – that was especially hard to adjust to – was the compulsory attendance. I used to travel a lot during my studies in Leuven, as I was in a long-distance relationship. During those trips, I studied the manuals and the course materials. Sometimes I would ask friends to record an important lecture. This more introverted type of learning also worked for me.

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Nevertheless, PBL made me keep up with the work, and perhaps that was just what I needed to push me into a flow state. When left on my own, I often want to fully understand all the material that is given to me. That might sound like a positive trait, but in all fairness, dissecting an entire methods section meticulously is not very efficient in every course. Maastricht’s educational system forced me to step back regularly and look at the big picture…… and then step back in and read another article.

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After this Master my cravings for neuroscience grew stronger and I decided to apply for a PhD grant together with my mentor. At the time of the grant application I was doing an internship in California, so I had to fly back to defend my project. I felt like a million dollars when getting on that plane. The mere thought that someone else thought I was important enough to fly me back to Europe was thrilling. Even more thrilling was actually getting this grant of course.

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What makes neuroscience such a good match for me is its interdisciplinary nature. Neuroscience is the biology of psychology, the biology behind our mind… In cognitive neuroscience we often measure the brain activity during specific tasks or mental activities. These psychological experiments are elegantly designed and intensely piloted to answer very complex – and sometimes even philosophical – questions that touch the core of our human mind. As a neuroscientist, you can delve into psychology, biology, mathematics and computer science all at the same time.

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The first year of my PhD has passed now.  I am sure that many other PhD students would agree with this statement: time flies by so fast. The past year has been a small success for me as I got to experience the thrill of data collection in living human beings and I presented a poster at my first conference. I often ruminate about what I could have done better or about slow progress, but I force myself to ban those thoughts and be content. I learned a lot and developed quite some skills, and that is all that really matters in the end. In addition, I am trying this mantra ‘I did my best and that is good enough’.

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One personal tendency that helped me in the past year is systematic organization. My need for agenda’s, planning and to do lists is never satisfied. Notebooks and cute folders clutter my desk. I note everything down and I date every note. Paper beats not only rock but also technology. A fountain pen and a blank page do the trick infinitely better than an empty word document in my world. When it comes to creative experimental design or writing that is, of course. I could not miss my computer when it comes to data analysis.

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But hej, I am for sure not the archetype boring office mouse. Next to my OCD-like organization attempts, I also enjoy socializing with my colleagues. I feel blessed to have a few of my former classmates as colleagues because it made the transition from student to PhD-er so much easier.

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I have always been a talkative person over a good coffee. Time spent enjoying lunch or coffee with my colleagues is an energy boost for me. Also it is time spent exchanging ideas, supporting each other and having a good laugh.

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In conclusion, the past few years here in Maastricht have been wonderful, a challenging but also quite a rewarding adventure. I am looking forward to the next few years of my PhD …..

Laurien

When we went to EcoLinea to choose the clothes for the shoot, we got this combination…. it felt like we were mirroring each other, myself as a graduated PhD and Laurien as a first year PhD who is really in her very first months of a hopefully not very long journey. I felt very inspired and wrote these verses that do not rhyme 🙂 but who cares, I just wanted to pass on a message. It is for you, Laurien! and all other starters in the PhD/Research world.

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Photo credit: Photostique, Peter Mullenberg

Models: Laurien and Researchista

Clothing: Ecolinea, Maastricht.

With love for Research,

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“Bonefun!

So, here we are sister,
Passing on the (PhD) flag with care,
In the little heaven of Maastrich.

Not much rhymes with what you are about to face.
And I do not mean to dramatize,
Neither to remind you of the sleepless nights,
But no matter how smart and strong you are,
Get ready to face it.
Hard work, discipline, dissapointment and again.

It might brake you down,
But you have passion and compassion to glue yourself back.
It might cover you in that extra layer of glorious pride,
But you have kindness to remind yourself of who you are.

It might take you down to unvisited inside depressive places,
It might take you up to ego heavens,
It might be the biggest dissapointment,
It might be the best thing you have done in your life,
It might be your worse decision.
One thing is certain, in time all struggles remain aloof,
The skills you will acquired, your hard work and the Dr. in front of your surname,
will undust your memory from time to time,
and will remain with you for(ever?) a long time.

It will stay part of you, Research & you.
Even if you change the colour of your hair,
The surname in your passport.

And one day,
When you are done,
The world is yours.
Till you become unemployed.

Ah, Maastricht, you keep on surprising us all,
You little bubble of heaven,
Placed at the river bench,
Embracing us at the Bonnenfanten wander place.

White verses,
Researchista’s muse”

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Business enthusiasm Researchista

(45) 1 year of Researchista: facts & feelings

2016: January Irina decides, it’s now or never ever ever will she take this courage to start her journey in entrepreneurship and makes visible to the public her Facebook page, called Researchistaraising immediately her deep concern about: “Does more knowledge create more happiness? Or rather, more unhappiness?To perceive (understand) is to suffer” said Aristotle. More you learn, more you understand that you need to learn more about it.. Socrates famous quote: “”I know that I know nothing”. So, does more knowledge create more unhappiness? At the same time, can more happiness create more knowledge?”

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Having recently graduated, all she wanted  was to help other PhD students by sharing her ideas, her stories or by inviting others to speak on her blog.

2016: 14 February The blog goes on-air! http://www.researchista.com is officially launched with its first post on.. Love during PhD.

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2016: March Researchista hosts her first Special Guest Dr. Jimmie Leppink, who writes for PhD students about: My first paper,  Tips on improving your writing, Writing and Research design, Guest writer preview.

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Dr. Jimmie Leppink, First Special Guest at Researchista

Twitter account – check.
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2016: April From her genuine concern about the health of PhD students, Researchista invites over the life Coach Danielle Branje, to discuss about anxiety in professional life (see: “Trust more, stress less“, “Prevention is the key“, “Tips to trick anxiety in your professional life”).

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Coach Danielle Branje, upcoming support to PhD students in 2017 on PhD Helpbox section

2016: May Researchista’s first media appearance in the Maastricht University newspaper, “The Observant”. And she wants to let the world know, Research does not exist only in the academia and it was not made only for PhD students to struggle!

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Photo by http://www.manorlux.com for the “Magic 3 and the Earth” story (types of Researchers)

2016: June Researchista participates at the TEDx Pitch Night event in Maastricht and here is what she said:

It is in this month that an entire month (during Mondays), our Special Guest Hasmik Matevosyan tells us based on her Research finding what’s happening in fashion industry.

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Special Guest, Hasmik Matevosyan

SoundCloud account – check.

2016: July When everyone went for holidays, Researchista picked a moment to hope that it will pass unnoticed, (but for some this became the only thing Researchista ever did?) and did her first Researchista-fashionista photoshoot. Her name has a fashionista touch, remember? 

It was the moment when many Researchers from my academic environment think I am doing it all wrong, the month of double-face self-palming from colleagues I know wondering to themselves of what I did I do. I wonder, is it because of this picture? 😀

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First Photostique photoshoot for Researchista fashionista

Ever since, I am asked if I am trying to sell Research with my body or if I am trying to become a modeler. It did not matter what I wrote in that post, because those who gave me such feedback clearly haven’t read it 😛 carefully. Research on FASHION is just one of the multiple topics Researchista will approach.. so get ready to not get bored 🙂

2016: August Our Special Guest tells PhD students and others alike what are the secrets of high performance, how to generate brilliant ideas and on public speaking.

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Paul Rulkens, http://www.agripacci.com

2016: 9th of September Researchista is launching her first product.

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http://www.facebook.com/playourtaxes A Board Game made out of Researchista’s PhD thesis.

It was a special experience!

2016: October is Research on FOOD month… and here a wild month unleashes, because the posts were so interesting and we’ve got a lot of feeback. It starts with the transition of a civilization  and vertical farming by Michelle Jongen from Botanica Innovare and continues with the first Special Guest from abroad, Dr. Beatrice D’Ippolito, York University

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Dr. Beatrice D’Ippolito, York University

Even more, together with my friend, Diana Z. from Busy Avocado, we embark in a little Research journey on our own, here is what my friend says about food labels.

This month, Dr.-to-become Carolin Hoffman is telling her story on 2nd Researchista fashionista shoot.

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Dr.-to-become Carolin Hoffman, Maastricht University

2016: November is the Research on BRAIN month, hosting a series of very nice Guests from Maastricht University and abroad. We start with Dr. Joao Correia on brain & language, we continue with Dr. Gojko Žarić on brain & reading and almost ends with the post on brain & hearing problems from Laurien.

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Dr. Joao Correia, Maastricht University

2016: December As an extention to Research on BRAIN month, Researchista pays a particular attention to a less researched topic, called “MISOPHONIA“, suggested by Dr. Mercede Erfanian, Amsterdam. This month we host our first guest from the USA, Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout!

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Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout

Also, Researchista was nominated in the Business Development and Knowledge Transfer  contest, event organized by the School of Business and Economics at the University of Maastricht. Thank you!

Indubitably, the year had to end with one more Researchista-fashionista photoshoot! This is the story of Laurien, upcoming on first Monday of 2017. Subscribe to the blog 😉

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I learned this year that marketing speaks in mysterious ways, 2016 was the year of social media and marketing exercises.

Have a happy 2017! Everything will be ok…

With love for Research,

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Fashion Fashionista Photoshoot research Researcher Researchista

fashionista# 2: Maasboulevard.

This photoshoot is part of Researchista_fashionista story. The location of our second photoshoot is one of the main streets in Maastricht: Maasboulevard. It is main because it runs through the junction between Stationstraat, a street that takes you from the train station directly to the city centre… and with thee mmm, street itself. Basically, it’s at the cross-road of things. And also! not least important, it flows next to the river bank of the Maas. This is where you can have a promenade and buy a ticket for a boat ride to Belgium..voila! or should I better say, gezellig!

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Say hello to Carolin!

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Hello, Carolin!14470692_10153785434906846_1458698556_n

This story is about how the body’s immune system could attack the brain in a way that leads to a “wrong” diagnosis of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Let’s start at the beginning:

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A self-destructing body

Put simply, autoimmunity is when your body’s immune system attacks your own body. The ‘normal’ healthy function of the immune system is, of course, to recognise and “clean up” foreign structures that do not belong to the inside of the body, such as microbes. The system consists of several components, including white blood cells, some of which are specialised cells (B-cells). These cells produce antibodies that are responsible for recognising the foreign invader – the antigen. Those antibodies can be imagined as red flags with two arms holding on to the antigen and signaling the rest of the crew that what they have found here has to be cleaned up. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for those antibodies to make a mistake and hold on to something that is actually a (healthy) part of the body. This leads to an immunity attack, possibly inflammation, without any foreign aggressor. This can happen in any part of the body, leading to many different complications. You may have heard of rheumatoid arthritis, a disease where the immune system attacks proteins in the joint. This is caused by such a ‘mistake’, and it leads to the destruction and inflammation of insulin dependent diabetes (Type 1 Diabetes), where the insulin producing beta-cells in the pancreas are destroyed by an autoimmune attack.

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The brain on fire

For me, the most fascinating cases are when auto-antibodies are targeting the brain. In particular, I am interested in those autoimmune reactions which lead to psychiatric symptoms. The connection might not be very obvious, but I am studying the role of autoimmunity in psychotic disorders (e.g. schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) and also the pathologic mechanism of the so-called autoimmune encephalitis (brain inflammation).

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 A different view on psychotic disorders

Perhaps I should mention that I am coming from a biomedical background, so I have a “special” approach to psychiatric/mental disorders. To me, everything in the body has a biological explanation and what is projected externally (behaviour, personality, indicators of mental state, etc.) has an internal origin in the organs, in this case the brain. I am aware that not everyone might agree with this theory, but the study of the mind (psychology and psychiatry) and the brain/nervous system (neurology) is definitely starting to fuse, and diseases are starting to be called “neuropsychiatric”. In the future, I think that all mental diseases will be explained by neuronal changes and the discipline of (neuro-)psychiatry will be a subspecialty of neurology. This will, therefore, also include psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Currently, we know very little about the underlying mechanisms of these diseases or, shall I say, “disorders”, “syndromes” or “collection of patients with similar symptoms”. Likely, these cohorts of patients do not all suffer from the same disease. Instead, there are different groups of patients with a different set of genetic and environmental factors leading to neuronal changes via different ways. One mechanism, in a subset of these patients, could be an autoimmune disease, for example.

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Latest research on immune factors in psychotic disorders 

This hypothesis of an autoimmune cause in psychosis is not as absurd as it may first seem. It is well accepted that a unsregulated immune system and genes, important for immune regulation, are linked to developing psychotic disorders. A big game-changer was the discovery, within the last 10 years, of several autoimmune diseases, which target neurotransmitter receptors and ion-channels, crucial for functioning and communication of cells in the brain (neurons). This autoimmune inflammation of the brain also leads to symptoms that look very similar to schizophrenia, but commonly co-occur with “neurological” symptoms, such as movement disorders, epileptic seizures, and loss of consciousness. Interestingly, some research groups are starting to find auto-antibodies in blood and cerebrospinal fluid (the liquid around the brain) that potentially bind the brain. My research builds on these findings. Via a  collaboration with many different hospitals all over Europe, I received a large cohort of blood/serum samples from psychotic patients (around 600 samples) and healthy controls (250 samples). These large samples provided me the opportunity to test for the presence of auto-antibodies that attack the brain. It seems that these auto-antibodies are more common in diseased individuals than in the  controls. However, these results are preliminary and I don’t want to give away too much at this point …

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Finding signs of inflammation in brains of schizophrenic patients

Another study, that I started recently, may further help us understand the link between autoimmunity and psychotic disorders, this time using brain tissue from post-mortem schizophrenia patients. In this project, we are using methods to ‘colour’ certain cells or structures in the brain. We expect to find markers that point towards a presence of the immune system, such as immune cells and antibodies, and to make a distinction between brains of healthy individuals and individuals with psychotic disorders. Overall, we hope to find ways to identify those patients that might be “misdiagnosed” with a psychotic disorder and be able to treat the biological cause of their disease.

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 Treating the cause and not the symptoms

Why we think this is important? Well, it might make a big difference for the patients because they could get a very different treatment. For autoimmune disorders, there are already several possible treatments out there which might also be successful in “autoimmune psychosis”. So, I hope that one day the diagnosis of schizophrenia & co. will be altered, and instead, we can use a diagnosis of diseases so that we can treat the cause and maybe even cure it (let’s dream big)!

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So, after the Researchista part, here’s another note on the Fashionista:

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If I was at risk for any addiction, it would probably be shopping. I can spend the whole day checking clothes and at times buying many more things than my closet can handle.

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This year, I made the resolution to buy less and focus on sustainable, high quality materials. I am making an effort, but there is definitely room for improvement…

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photostique-04976I also like sewing my own clothes or recycling old things. For example, the dress I am wearing in the photo-shoot I created from a cotton fabric that my mother brought me from a holiday in Malaysia. Unfortunately, I usually don’t have the time to sew my own clothes… However, in the end, these unique pieces are always worth the effort.

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by Carolin Hoffman, PhD student at Department of Neuroscience, School for Mental Health and Neuroscience (FHML), Maastricht University,  Early-Experienced Researcher.

This street was inviting and a good place for exploration and reflection along the river. Here is a little poetic touch out of this reflection on Research developments on body’s immune system on Maasboulevard.

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Who is next to share a story on Researchista fashionista? 😉

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With love for Research,

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Jumping pose, Researcher style

Photo credits: PhotostiquePeter Mullenberg (A beautiful vespa scooter was provided with the courtesy of Photostique, bedankt!). Editing Credits: Rose Education Consultancy, Claire Willis. Outfits: happy people in a self-made dress by Carolin and Vanilia dress on Researchista.

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Fashion Fashionista Photoshoot Researcher Researchista

fashionista #1. Lage Barakken.

This photoshoot is part of Researchista_fashionista story.

# 1: Lage Barakken street.

p.s. Before anything, this is not how Researchers dress for work. I do not want to make Research sexy, neither do I want to promote a distorted image of people doing Research. I just want to make sure to remind that Researchers are creative people 🙂 About the Research story of Researchista you will hear in that last photo-shoot of this project, till then… get to know my other peers and their Research quests and findings.

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This is Maastricht (by summer) Wyck district, Lage Barakken street, which in English translates as “low barracks“. Here is what the “Dutch Review” says about it. photostique-05556.png

So, here I was out of my place, walking through one of the shortest streets in Maastricht, Lage Barakken, in search for some history… to find it right at the corner. Few minutes away from the train station, hundreds of people pass daily by this exquisite hotel behind my back, disguised in a white fortress.

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It’s facade is still echoing the “Belle Epoque“…

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Source: Facebook page of Hotel Beaumont

… can you hear the music?

Every day, people enjoy peacefully their meal at these wide opened windows, while observing the passers by or gather loudly in group meetings in conference rooms. Buses and taxes are crowding in at the main entrance when things are happening in Maastricht.

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Wearing: Louboutin, classic black… the most sexy shoes in the world.

It is a family business that started in 1912 and is currently carried out by the 4th generation of family, a very creative family probably :).   I could not not share with you this Christmas wish, how great to preserve the sense of humour at all times :).

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“Turn that frown, upside down” (Facebook page of “Hotel Beaumont”).

It probably hosted many notorious people that visit Maastricht with various occasions until now. The polite waiters and room organizers take a break to inhale some fresh air or fresh cigarette on the Lage Barakken side to restart their work briefly after, and this what others were doing for years and years since 1912.

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Ten years after, at its opposite corner, which at the moment happened to be a shoe shop (really nice one), one of the first cinemas in Maastricht, Cinema “Palace” opened.

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I only know from two friends of mine who went there when they were small that the cinema was very big at that time. photostique-05620.pngphotostique-05628.png

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At the moment, Maastricht is having almost 4 cinema houses.

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That was a little tour for you on the short street of Lage Barakken. Well, I also missed on telling you that this street is cut in half by the Stationstraat, that as the name suggest, it is the street of the station (main train&bus station) that leads you directly into the city center. I missed on capturing it’s clock in the middle, it’s postal office where cheerful people work, the bar opposite to the old cinema and the new student building arising that will probably bring even more dynamics to the area.

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Now that we are done with the tour of the street, and since we are on the street where I live, I would like to invite you at the terrace of the building house where I reside, for a final little chat. Wearing these Sergio Rossi shoes, it all feels a bit different 😀

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Wearing: Stijl Fashion Group (Danish designers),  Shoes: Sergio Rossi from Kymyka, Maastricht

Ok, I have to admit that the most difficult thing for me since I launched Researchista is to keep my excitement down!!! 🙂 I have met so many interesting people and did things that I have never done before, that sometimes it makes it difficult for me to stay calm.

I am a Researcher, but above all, I am a woman, who feels comfortable in her own element. I am a feminist since I was in my first university year in an environment where feminism is still a very fearful word. In some villages of my home country the expression “an unbeaten wife is like an uncleaned house” still holds, if you know what I mean. With these pictures, I do not aim to promote beauty through expensive shoes, although, I have to admit these are the most fancy shoes I probably ever wore. I do not aim to objectify the image of women or promote a false image of the Research community.

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Shoes & bag: Louboutin PINK from Kymyka, Maastricht

I simply do not need excuses to wear red lipstick or enjoy a beautiful dress with a pair of high heels. It is a choice. It is my self-expression.

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Louboutin pink purse and heels from Kymyka Shoes and Bags, Maastricht

This week, we are opening up an important topic and that is Fashion in Research. It must be difficult to avoid buying clothes from big chain brands (e.g. H&M, Zara), this became so habitual, but at the same time, we are also in charge for nurturing the dangerous treatment of workers in clothing industry and there must be an alternative! See what is the solution proposed by our Special Guest, Hasmik Matevosyan, a specialist in this area. By the way, the shoes and the bag I wear here are not part of retail fashion industry.

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Call: Are you a Researcher? Do you live in Maastricht? If you want to join me next time, leave me your letter at researchista@researchista.com. Let’s expand the horizons together! 🙂

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With my partners in crime:

Photographer, Peter Mullenberg from Photostique.

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Ms. Ecaterina Onica, usually an interior designer, but this time, my make-up artist.

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And since it’s fashion month, and you got to have a statement bag or a pair of earrings-statement, I picked a statement pose instead. Now waiting for my invitation to the Vogue Netherlands 🙂 and I am not joking 🙂

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Photography by: Photostique. All the pictures here were painted by the master in picturing, Mr. Peter Mullenberg. Thank you!*****

Credits: I would like to personally thank very much Nadja van der Borgh from Kymyka Shoes and Bags, who is the official distributor Louboutin unforgettable shoes that I am wearing. Also, to thank Sanne Pieters and Bart Kramp from Stijl Fashion Group, who are in charge of these wonderful outwears from Danish designers.

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(42) Research on BRAIN: do-your-own-little Research.

This post of Researchista’s fantastic experience of using Research to learn Dutch faster has been erased by mistake and it awaits one day for it to be reproduced.

It was one very good of a post…

Until the inspiration comes again!

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With love for Research,

R.

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Business Environment Food future health research Researcher Researchista

(35) The transition of a civilisation.

…Food… the substance to keep us alive, the reason for one of the most amazing things we can devour and enjoy, the reason to meet with friends, the thing that we sometimes abuse having in our bellies or forget to consume on time for a healthier living. So many topics relates to it: food waste, food management, food production, toxic food vs. healthy food, food eating, food and public health (is what children at school eat healthy enough?), poverty and food, wealth and food, labour costs and rights when working in this industry, auditing and inspection of food (so many… exquisite food, shrimp production and labour costs of people producing food, McDonalds). Let’s just call it in one word: “Food industry”. 

During her bachelor Environmental Science, Michelle discovered ‘vertical farming’. She wondered how she could implement a vertical farming system in combination with a knowledge center. Subsequently, she wants to create awareness, and activate and inspire people about the environment. Eventually, after six months of doing research, she was convinced to launch Botanica Innovare.

The transition of a civilisation. Research on food (industry), an introduction.

“Life is good! You can move easily from A to B, buy the most exotic products in the supermarket and you always have access to clean water and electricity. What do we want more? Well, it would be nice if we can continue this life and pass it on to future generations. That is possible, however, this way of life begins to take its toll on the earth. In fact, we are plundering our beloved planet. This is something that each of us is responsible of. It is not completely strange because it is the way we are shaped by society. It is mainly about consumption rather than the familiar consuming less. We know this damn well as a consumer and yet we still go for the bargains. Is it denial, a habit or laziness?

The end is nowhere near and it is time for a transition! A transition in which we turn from an unconscious unhealthy society to an unconscious healthy society. A society in which we take responsibility for our actions. A society where we can be proud of and which makes it possible to pass our earth to future generations. You might be wondering where you should start. That is up to you because you are the one who has the potential to initiate changes with small actions. For example, stop buying plastic bags, look at the origin of your food or take your bike for a spin instead of your car. Furthermore, sustainable development needs to be encouraged. Fortunately, people understand the necessity of change. Last year, in September 2015, 193 world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development. If these Goals are completed, it would mean an end to extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030. Our governments have a plan to save our planet…it’s our job to make sure they stick to it.

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That brings us to the second Global Goal: Zero Hunger. This Goal states that we must end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. The beauty is that we can make this happen! Companies and research institutes are considering this issue for years. New cultivation techniques are becoming increasingly realistic. All over the world, different vertical farming systems are designed and tested. Also the hydroculture (growth on water) and hydroponic systems are increasing. If we look at the alternatives to meat, we see the frequent use of insect and the development of cultured meat.

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Source: here

For the time being, we in the Netherlands can (only) make use of vegetables that have been grown on water. Further investment and development is necessary for other food production systems. And that while the vertical system is already used in other parts of the world. Think of Japan where they can’t grow safe food in the open ground after the nuclear disaster. Here, the need for alternative systems is much larger. Therefore, these sustainable developments should be more encouraged in Europe. Luckily, this is already happening.

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human activity by night and the influence we have on the environment

It is as Socrates once said: “it is often better to ask good questions than to give good answers. With questions, you move others to examine their own experiences and ideas. That triggers learning processes that may be more effective than knowledge.” Dare to ask questions about new food production systems and inform yourself. Dare to be open minded because this is our future. These movements should not be seen as an adversary but it should lead to solidarity. Next week, I am going to talk about LED farming, cultured meat and more. I hope this article inspired you and made you realize that you are the one that can change our civilization.

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A transition is a structural change that is the result of interacting and mutually reinforcing developments in areas such as economy, culture, technology, institutions and nature and the environment.

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present generation without jeopardizing the future generations.

By Michelle Jongen, founder at Botanica Innovare.

 

With love for Research,

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