Speakers 2024

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On Friday, October 4, 2024, it's time again for the Alumni Talks! Three prominent alumni will be our guests. How did they end up where they are now, coming from Twente? What is the passion that drives them to do what they do? And what developments do they foresee for the future from their field?

You can engage in conversation with them, either in the auditorium or afterwards at the drinks in the Vestingbar.

 NB: If you register as a visitor, we will charge a small fee. However, the drinks afterwards will be on us!

 “This is the beginning of a whole new chapter in astronomy.”

From Twente to the Big Bang: Maurice te Plate talks about his contribution to the most advanced space telescope ever

After more than 25 years of work, the most advanced space telescope ever was launched on December 25, 2021: the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Maurice te Plate worked for more than twenty years on developing, building and testing this space telescope.

The JWST is the most powerful and largest space telescope ever built. Never before has man been able to see so far into the universe and so deeply into the past. “This is the beginning of a whole new chapter in astronomy,” says Te Plate. The development and construction of the space observatory is a collaboration between NASA, ESA and CSA, the space agencies of the US, Europe and Canada respectively, and is estimated to have cost more than $9 billion.

Maurice studied Applied Physics at the University of Twente from 1988 to 1993. He started his career at TNO Science and Industry and switched to ESA after 7 years. In 2012, he was seconded from ESA to NASA in Maryland for the JWST project, where, as System Integration & Test Manager, he ensured that the European contribution to James Webb was assembled properly and safely with the rest of the telescope. Te Plate may not be a cosmologist, but his heart also beats faster from the scientific discoveries that have already been made with the telescope and that are still to come.

“We were looked at as the party that will set the new standards.”

From Twente to the cloud: Merel Boers explains how Nicolab improves patient care with AI

Last year, Merel Boers won the Van den Kroonenberg Award for her successful entrepreneurship with her company Nicolab, a spinoff of the UT. With Nicolab she developed 'StrokeViewer', a cloud-based platform that supports healthcare professionals working together with the help of AI to more quickly arrive at a shared diagnosis and treatment of patients with a cerebral infarction.

In Europe, cerebral infarctions are the number 2 cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability. Every year, 1.4 million Europeans are affected by such a stroke. 40% of patients do not receive proper treatment in time. To achieve effective treatment, the time factor is essential. Strokeviewer is now used in more than 200 hospitals worldwide. Boers: “We are proud of our results; patients spend less time in hospital and on average have more healthy days of life. That is a good business case for the hospitals.” The timing was favorable, according to Boers. “Working in the cloud was always a no-go for hospitals. We dared to say that we only wanted to do it that way. We were the first to do so. This worked out well. Ten years earlier it would not have worked. We were looked at as the party that will set the new standards.”

Boers studied Technical Medicine at the University of Twente from 2007 to 2014 and obtained his PhD Cum Laude four years later on the topic of 'Image Analysis in Acute Ischemic Stroke'. Nicolab was founded to bring the results from her department's research to the market more quickly.

“Railways urgently need innovations.”

From Twente to all corners of the Netherlands: John Voppen talks about his contribution to the accessibility of the Netherlands

Strengthening the accessibility of the Netherlands is the task for the Dutch railway manager ProRail. Increasing capacity, improving reliability and making the railway more sustainable are the most important priorities for ProRail in the coming years. This, in combination with the staff shortage, both at ProRail itself and at suppliers, requires a lot of attention from ProRail CEO John Voppen.

More than a million people travel by train every day and that number will only grow in the coming years. Together with the ports, rail freight transport is also an important economic driver. However, the image of the railway is less favorable than you would expect given its performance. Nuisance and disruptions are more noticeable than the fact that trains run 90% on time. Voppen therefore regularly appears in the media to provide explanations. He gives the signal that rail is essential to sustainably accommodate mobility growth. Voppen's message to politicians: investments remain necessary. “The railways in the Netherlands are full in most places. In order to transport millions more passengers until 2030, without building additional track, we have to think of smart things. That innovation requires money.”

Voppen studied Industrial Engineering and Management at the University of Twente from 1990 to 1996. He started working as a consultant at management consultancy Accenture and moved to ProRail in 2005. First as director of finance and later as director of traffic control. He has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2016, first as operational director (COO) and with effect from September 1, 2019 as president (CEO).