Prestigious award for evolutionary biologist Casper van der Kooi

Evolutionary biologist Casper van der Kooi is one of the recipients of the 2024 Heineken Young Scientist Awards. He will receive 15,000 euros, which he can spend as he sees fit. Van der Kooi’s research focuses on the colours of flowers and plants, as well as their origins.

The jury appreciates his interdisciplinary approach, noting that he has earned doctorates in both computational physics and evolutionary biology. They also highlighted his significant role in public debates. The Heineken Young Scientist Awards are presented every two years to promising young researchers. The other awards went to econometrician Kevin ten Haaf from Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, historian Lorena De Vita from  Utrecht University and developmental psychologist Manon van Scheppingen, from Tilburg University.

Dutch

UG to close some buildings during summer holidays

A number of UG buildings will be closed during the summer. Which buildings exactly varies per faculty and department. Other buildings will stay open, but with reduced opening hours. The UG also closed some of its buildings last summer to save costs and energy. Employees and students who want to continue working during the summer can check which buildings are open via their faculty or department's intranet.

Stef van Grieken is UG alumnus of the year 2024

Entrepreneur Stef van Grieken has been named UG alumnus of the year. During his studies he was already involved in initiatives to make the government digitally transparent. Two years ago, Van Grieken founded Cradle, a platform that uses AI to find practically applicable proteins with which, for example, medicines and alternatives for detergent can be developed faster. The jury praised his ability to put the sometimes complex and controversial artificial intelligence to use. Van Grieken will receive his prize during the opening of the academic year on September 2.

Education prize for Jolien Mouw’s ‘virtual classroom’

Jolien Mouw, affiliated with the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences, has won the Dutch Education Prize. She received the award, amounting to 1.2 million euros, on Thursday from the outgoing minister Robbert Dijkgraaf. The Dutch Education Prize is the highest distinction in vocational and higher education. Jolien Mouw’s project is ‘The classroom in order with virtual reality’. It provides teaching students a safe learning environment in which they can practice classroom management skills and increase their self-confidence.

New footpath near ACLO should prevent ‘dangerous’ walking on the road

Last week, the construction of a footpath along Blauwborgje on the Zernike Campus started. Currently, there is no footpath yet, so many people walk on the road. This is considered dangerous by the municipality. The winding path will lead from the ACLO sports centre along the sports fields towards the north side of the Campus and the Professor Uilkensweg. Besides the footpath, three speed bumps with zebra crossings will be constructed from July 22 to 26, for which the street will be closed. The entire construction is expected to cost six hundred thousand euros and the path should be ready by early August.

Security measures for 59 researchers due to threats

Security measures were taken for 59 researchers and staff at Dutch universities between November 2022 and December 2023 in response to hatred, intimidation and threats, according to a monitor published by UNL, the umbrella organisation of Dutch universities. The measures - 45 of which are incidental and 14 structural - range from taking contact details on university websites offline to extra security and taking staff elsewhere. It is the first time UNL has made a report on this. The reports that give rise to the security measures came from WetenschapVeilig. Because of safety reasons, UG spokesperson Elies Wempe-Kouwenhoven would not say how many reports came from the UG.’But it involves more researchers than you might think.’

Harmonie building vandalised with pro-Palestinian slogans

The windows of the cafeteria in the Harmonie building were vandalised with pro-Palestinian slogans on Sunday. Messages such as 'RUG cut your ties', 'complicit', and 'Viva intifada' were written in purple and blue paint. On Monday morning, a cleaning company was working to remove the paint. This marks the third action by pro-Palestinian protesters since the dismantling of the tent camp on the Harmonie square two weeks ago. Last week, there was a protest on Broerstraat against police violence on campus. On Thursday, a group demonstrated in front of Usva against board president Jouke de Vries, who was attending a debate on internationalisation.

Cyclists can cross Eikenlaan more easily

Cyclists on their way to Zernike will be able to cross the Eikenlaan more easily in the future. The Groningen municipality wants to close Eikenlaan to car traffic. Only buses will still be allowed to drive there. Currently, some 8,500 cars a day drive along Eikenlaan, but by 2040 it will be 11,000, according to the municipality. The number of cyclists will then rise from 12,000 to 15,000. Already the crowds are causing congestion. The plan to build a tunnel at the crossing will be dropped.

Thousand signatures against UG protest rules

Groningen student union GSb has collected a thousand signatures against the UG's new regulations for demonstrations. These rules stipulate, among other things, that protests in UG buildings are only allowed until 7 p.m., that lectures and ceremonies must not be disrupted, and that protesters must remain in dialogue with the university. According to the GSb, these rules violate the right to protest. The union also believes that the rules were not established democratically. Although the university previously stated that the regulations were approved by the university council, the council had actually given a negative recommendation.

Associations sign code against misconduct

On June 18, 49 student associations affiliated with the National Chamber of Associations (LKvV), including Dizkartes, Cleopatra, Albertus Magnus, and Vindicat, will sign a code of conduct against sexual harassment, aggression, and excessive substance use. This is in response to previous incidents, such as lists rating female students' sexual performance and the neglected geese found in a Vindicat house last year. The associations aim to establish a reporting point and appoint a confidential advisor, as well as create protocols to discourage drug use. The code originates from the associations themselves and will be evaluated annually.

UG wins second prize with self-driving car

A combined team from the University of the North (UG, Hanze and Noorderpoort) won second prize in the RDW's Self Driving Challenge 2024 last Friday, June 14. With their car, which they converted into a self-driving vehicle themselves, they had to drive a lap around the course, competing against participants from other colleges and universities. They had to complete several tests. Besides stopping and starting at a traffic light and giving way at a zebra crossing, the car also had to be able to overtake and parallel park.

Students: we will continue pro-Palestinian protests

Student protest organisations for Palestine will not stop taking action until Dutch universities sever ties with Israel. So write three students, in their own words on behalf of 14 protest organisations (including those in Groningen), in a letter sent to newspaper Trouw. The actions will continue, the writers said, 'until our call for justice - boycotting and divesting complicit institutions and companies - is heard'.

Students’ union condemns ‘police violence against students’

The Groningen Students' Union (GSb) condemns the 'police violence used against students' who demonstrated on Wednesday for the UG's severing of ties with Israel. During a march through the city centre, demonstrators forced their way into a UG building on Oude Boteringestraat, after which, according to the GSb, 'the police cracked down'. According to chairman Ken Hesselink, the police action was 'disproportionate and intimidating and contributed to the situation escalating'.

Smoking tolerated outside the University Library

Smoking is tolerated at the corner of Broerplein and Poststraat. ‘Anyone currently smoking in front of the University Library is asked to go there,’ says spokesperson Elies Wempe-Kouwenhoven. That spot is convenient because there is a rubbish bin. The UG is in talks with the municipality to make it an ‘official’ smoking area with an ashtray. Since the university itself is not allowed to facilitate smoking, such a spot has to be just outside the university's grounds. This also means that the municipality has to install the ashtray. The university is also looking at similar off-grounds smoking spots for other campus locations.

Debate: uni’s role in geopolitical conflicts

What can and should universities do (or not do) in wars like in Ukraine and Gaza? Some say a uni should stay away from that, while others want to see an outspoken position. This question is the focus of a debate evening on Thursday 27 June: The role of universities in geopolitical conflicts. There will be five short pitches and a discussion led by Marc Pauly (researcher and lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy). The debate will be held in the Usva theatre from 17:00 to 19:00 hrs.

Demolition of Nijenborgh 4 on schedule

The move of researchers of the Faculty of Science and Engineering  from Nijenborgh 4 to the new Feringa Building is on schedule. This means that demolition of building sections 5117 and 5118 will commence on July 1. These areas will make way for the second and final part of the Feringa Building. ‘This won’t be immediately visible’, says managing director Esther Marije Klop. ‘The process will start with interior remediation.’ Nijenborgh 4 contains a significant amount of asbestos-containing materials.

UG cancelled four events during Lustrum week

Last week, the university cancelled four Lustrum activities for which people had to buy tickets or sign up. According to a spokesperson, this was because less than 10 percent of the hoped-for registrations were received. The university does not want to disclose which events were cancelled. It also does not yet know exactly how this will affect the budget of the already scaled-down Lustrum Week. In any case, the Lustrum party on Friday did go ahead. Of the 1,900 tickets available, 1,035 had been sold. In the end, about 750 people attended the party at the Suikerunie grounds.

Smallest increase in international students in almost a decade

The number of international college and university students increased by 5 percent this academic year compared to last year, reports Nuffic, the organization for the internationalization of education. This is the lowest percentage increase in almost a decade. Notable is the sharp increase in enrollments from China (+23 percent). In total, there are now roughly 128,000 international students studying at higher education institutions, representing 16 percent of the total student population. At the RUG, there are 9,429 international students, or 27.7 percent of the total student body. This is a marginal increase compared to last year (9,422 students), while the number of new enrollments actually decreased.