UTDesignLabYour StoriesInfluential Women at DesignLab

Influential Women at DesignLab International Women's Day

Today we want to showcase a few of our influential women here at DesignLab that strive to make an impact on society, each in their own way. Their contributions are all intertwined, strengthening each other. We believe in transdisciplinarity, which is why we chose 5 women with different educational and cultural backgrounds, roles, and disciplines. 

Vanessa - The Mother of DesignLab

Vanessa was one of the main forces behind the start of DesignLab. She had an idea, planted the seed, and built a community together with students that helped it come to life. For 5 years she worked together with this community of change makers that strived to get to the bottom of societal challenges. Together with the DesignLab Team, she empowered citizens, scientists and students and made them aware of the impact that they can create. In 2019, Vanessa got offered a role overseas: to be director of the NTU Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity in Singapore. From 2019-2023, she dedicated her work to supporting interdisciplinary projects with real societal impact. Today, she’s back at the University of Twente and DesignLab, focusing on enabling collaborations with representatives of society and societal partners next to industry academia and governmental organisations. 

Miriam - The Sunlight and Connecting Factor of DesignLab

Miriam would call herself head of coffee, but we are lucky enough to call her manager. She is also co-founder of DesignLab and has been here since the very start. Her broad international network, experience in the United States, knowledge and enthusiasm in setting-up experimental ecosystems has brought Miriam many other roles. She is Founding Fellow & Coach for the Faculty Innovation Fellows at the Hasso Plattner Institute for Design at Stanford University and Mentor for the University of Innovation Fellows programme. Sharing her experiences, she gives her network the opportunity to gain insights into investigating new ways of working, collaborating, teaching, learning and conducting research. In addition by using challenges from partners, she brings viewpoints from (international) scientists, entrepreneurs, students, citizens and government officials together to co-create the futures we want to live in.

Cristina - The Proponent of Inclusivity 

After moving to the Netherlands from Italy, Cristina worked on her doctoral thesis alongside Vanessa Evers, and is now a DesignLab Research Fellow and an assistant professor at the Human-Centered Design Group at the UT. As an advocate for inclusivity, she dedicates her work to transdisciplinarity and relational design methods for just futures of work and care with AI technology. She kickstarted and developed the Responsible Futuring Approach and uses it to tackle societal challenges through technology together with the rest of the Responsible Futuring Team, challenging the status-quo. Cristina has been involved in various initiatives, such as the Google WomenTechmakers and she has won the NWO Science Diversity and Inclusion Initiative award for her work on DEI4EAI in 2022. The prize fund is dedicated to setting up a Social Justice in AI network, Dutch network of academics, students, and activists committed to mitigating and overcoming the dehumanizing and oppressive effects of AI and embodied AI technology and fostering social and environmental justice. Her research is committed to developing methods, tools, and technology that support societal transitions towards futures of justice, care, and solidarity between communities, nature, and artificial agents. 

Julieta -The Responsible Futurist

Julieta is one of our beloved research fellows who dedicates her work to co-shaping a future we want to live in. She is passionate about supporting communities in using their collective imagination in urban transformations (i.e. sustainability transitions, smart cities). Julieta has broad international and interdisciplinary experience both in academia and practice. After studying at the Technical University of Madrid, she came to the Netherlands and has been sharing her expertise with various stakeholders ever since, as well as learning from them. Julieta also researches and develops design methods and tools to support the exploration of responsible smart city futures. At DesignLab, Julieta co-develops, tests, and continues to learn about the Responsible Futuring Approach. She develops ideas with her fellow team members and, together, they reiterate them to make them more tangible and concrete. Next to that she works alongside Miriam and Cristina on University Innovation Fellows to help students to navigate their way at the University of Twente. As of March 2023, Julieta was appointed as Faculty Innovation Fellow by Stanford school. Julieta is inspired by being part of the Design Research Society conversation that Cristina is leading on transdisciplinarity. In the same conference, she will present a paper that she co-authored with a group of inspiring colleagues on how to use controversies to fuel our collective imagination in urban transformations: ‘How can we constructively use value tensions to imagine futures that motivate us to take action?’

Heni - The Glue of the Team

Henrietta (we love to call her Heni) is one of our DreamTeam coordinators who has been with us since 2021. She’s a dedicated member of the DreamTeam, Management Team, and Responsible Futuring Team. She grew up in Romania, and has lived through the challenges of being an international student, and strives to give hope and encouragement to others in the same position. As a DreamTeam coordinator, she makes sure everything runs smoothly internally. One of her roles in the Management Team is to put emphasis on the ‘student perspective’ at DesignLab. Heni also has the role of junior moderator within the Responsible Futuring Team. She gives workshops and operationalises ideas from the team and connects them to projects and students at the UT. She believes in being persistent to her goals to create an impact. She is very optimistic about society and the future, and prioritises positivity in her view in people. She is very solution oriented, which has been an imperative mechanism for her to get where she is. Her focus as of today is to work on shaping the future in cities as her thesis and eventually as a startup.