March 3, 2022

Interview MDR Postdoc: Steven Vermeulen

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

I was born and raised in Antwerp, Belgium and obtained a MSc degree in Biochemical Engineering at the University of Antwerp in 2010. After obtaining my degree, I worked as a research technician at the Molecular Genetics Department of the VIB (Flemish Institute of Biotechnology). Under the supervision of Prof. Christine van Broeckhoven, I investigated the functional implications of rare genetic variants associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.  After finalizing my projects, I continued my scientific career by embarking on a PhD project under the supervision of Prof. Jan de Boer. In this project, I worked at the interface of biology, bio-informatics, and material science and elucidated the mechanobiological implications of micro-topographical surface structures. After obtaining my PhD in 2020, I started a Postdoc position in the Instructive Biomaterial Engineering (IBE) group at MERLN under the supervision of Prof. Pamela Habibović. Through MDR funding, we investigated the effects of calcium and phosphate supplementation on mesenchymal stem cell spheroids through microwell engineering. Here, we found that inorganic supplementation allows a rapid spheroid mineralization and promotes an osteogenic expression profile.

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

In the second part of the Postdoc, I aim to setup a high-throughput small molecule screen for investigating their effects on spheroid mineralization. Since spheroids represents tissue physiology better than standard 2D cell culture, we believe that such an environment is ideal to identify small molecules that can either promote or inhibit mineralization. These small molecules might then be utilized for therapeutic applications, both in a tissue engineering context and for preventing unwanted ectopic calcification.

Who is your biggest example in science and why?

I don’t have one particular scientist who acts as my big example. However, I do get inspired a lot by my fellow colleagues with their struggles and great successes.

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

In my free time, I mainly enjoy cultural and social activities. I am a competitive (board)game enthusiast and like participating in running competitions.

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