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June 24, 2020

Interview MDR PhD student: Elana Meijer

Who are you, what is your background and how did you get involved in MDR?

Hello all! I’m Elana Meijer, 25 years old and currently in the 2nd year of my PhD in the Regenerative Medicine program in Utrecht. I have a bachelors in Biopharmaceutical sciences and a masters in Biomedical sciences, and I’m currently working in the department of Nephrology and Hypertension in the UMC Utrecht. Among others, we investigate new options for vascular access in CKD patients on hemodialysis. In my project, we aim to use patient derived induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to generate blood vessel organoids, which we can seed on a 3D scaffold to create blood vessel like structures. My collaboration together with the Tu/e fitted nicely in the MDR program!

Tell us a little bit more about the research you are planning to do within MDR.

The blood vessel organoids we created will be seeded on a 3D electrospun scaffold, to form a blood vessel-like graft. These seeded scaffolds will then be tested on mechanical forces as they would be in the human body, including shear stress and wall stretch. With this method, we hope to achieve a matured vessel-like structure which can be used for further research in the regeneration of blood vessels.

Who is your biggest example in science and why?

One particular scientist that I’ll always remember is  Jane Goodall. She is known for her long-term (60 years) study to Chimpanzees behavior and her amazing work on conservation and animal welfare issues. Her achievements were driven by passion, her love for animals and nature, willpower and dedication; since women were not accepted in the field when she started her research, and she did not have any degree before she was allowed to study for her PhD. She proved that you don’t have to be the smartest kid in class to achieve something amazing; you just have to believe in yourself and work hard. As she said: “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make”.

What do you do in your free time and how can we recognize the typical Elana?

I spend most of my free time in the pool, on my bike or in my running shoes. I’m a competitive long distance triathlete and for me, training is the best way to clear my mind after work. But, since rest days are important too, I love to play board games and spend time with friends and family (As most of you I guess, but still important to mention). Furthermore, I love to travel together with my boyfriend, in particular to Southern Africa. We fell in love with the people and the wildlife and hope to spend some more time over there in the upcoming years. I’m a tiny human being and often running at work too; but you can easily distract me with a cup of coffee and/or a nice conversation.