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Four Belgians in New Scientist top five researchers

©Hannelore Bové/Twitter
©Hannelore Bové/Twitter

Researchers at Flemish universities have taken four of the five places in the finals of a competition organised by New Scientist magazine to find the top researchers in Flanders and the Netherlands. “The composition of the top five this year is a surprise,” said New Scientist editor-in-chief Jim Jansen. “Only one Dutch person made the cut. Four candidates are connected to Flemish universities, which is a great compliment to the level of research taking place there.”

The competition was open this year for the first time to institutions other than universities. The Dutch finalist, Tim Baarslag, works for the Centre for Mathematics and Informatics in Amsterdam, creating algorithms for use in negotiations on prices, wages and so on.

The Flemish researchers are:

Dr. Hannelore Bové (photo) of the university of Hasselt, who has developed a technique using lasers on blood or urine samples, to allow for the first time the detection of levels of soot particles in the body, which should allow governments to set reliable limits.

Michiel Dusselier of the university of Leuven has discovered a way to make biodegradable plastic to replace the fossil-fuel-based plastic which presents such a threat to marine life and by extension to humans.

Damya Laoui from the Free University (VUB) in Brussels is working on a vaccine which would take the immune cells of cancer patients and use them to inoculate the body against cancers which return, and which account for 90% of all cancer deaths. She hopes soon to begin clinical trials.

Marjolein Vanoppen of the university of Ghent is carrying on research into energy use in the desalination of seawater – seen as an important avenue towards the provision of clean water supplies in many parts of the world. Energy consumption in desalination – turning salt water into fresh water – are currently high. Her research includes using the seawater itself as a source of energy in the process.

The final result of the competition will be announced in Utrecht on 31 May.

Alan Hope
Brussels Times