Loes Segerink improves diagnostics and treatment of diseases
Loes Segerink gained national and international fame with her research into a fertility test for men by means of a 'lab-on-a-chip'. The further development of this research is an important point of attention for the associate professor, but it doesn't take up all her time. "This is an example of my research, which mainly focuses on microfluidic systems for biomedical applications. The aim of these systems is to gain knowledge of biological systems or to improve diagnostics and the treatment of diseases. I try to translate the results of my research into practice in the best possible way."
Segerink is working on the development of a lab chip to measure male fertility. Through the spin-off Cellanyzer, this should first be made available to the veterinary market and eventually lead to a home test for people. She explains: "This clinical translation places different demands on your research, for example when it comes to the reliability of the techniques and products. The fertility test is an example of this; ultimately, it must become usable by humans and animals. This requires collaboration with people in the field, such as doctors, clinicians and end users. I get energy from collaborations of this kind, from solving complex problems through unified knowledge."
In addition to this research, the associate professor also spends her time on other themes, such as organs-on-a-chip and biomarker detection on chip. The latter research mainly focuses on early cancer diagnosis with the help of biomarkers. This is done in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam. "They have come up with the idea of using biomarkers for this purpose, and we focus on developing sensors on a chip with which reliable measurements can be made. This research requires a lot of time and work, but this translation and collaboration also leads to valuable discoveries. We work together with several departments at both universities because this is such a complex subject. As a result, we have discovered, for example, that this technique can be used to diagnose various forms of cancer. This also raises new questions, but by combining our knowledge we can solve these complex problems. This process is both inspiring and motivating for me."
Collaboration and teamwork are keywords for Segerink. In her work at the UT, she often puts this into practice. In addition, she sees an important role for the institutes when it comes to knowledge sharing. "I am mainly active for Mesa+, but I also learn from the events and lectures that the TechMed Centre organises. There you can hear what other research is going on and there are also opportunities for new collaborations. After all, if you don't know what's going on, you can't work together either. I therefore see the sharing of knowledge and the facilitation of collaborations as important roles for the institutes, so that you can work in a truly multidisciplinary way. The faculties can show each other what they are doing on these kinds of occasions, and that's how beautiful things come about. This kind of knowledge sharing is the power of the UT."
In its practice, biomedical technology, multi-disciplinary research is more or less self-evident. "Within the department we have developed a module in which we teach students how to develop a lab-on-a-chip. These students come from various technical programmes, which enables us to form multi-disciplinary teams. We work with them on the basis of problem-based learning (PBL), which simply means that we put a problem to them in the morning and we want an answer in the afternoon. That works great, especially with multi-disciplinary teams, because they are going to help each other. They have to explain their own discipline to each other, so that, for example, an electro-technician can work together with a chemist. This way they understand that they each have their own expertise and that they can help each other. The nice thing about this module is that we teach them knowledge and practical skills, for example in the lab. They develop a lab-on-a-chip and test it themselves. So they do in short what a PhD student would do. We get very good ratings for this from our students and we also like to teach them how to work together in this way."
After obtaining her MSc degree in Biomedical Technology at the University of Twente, Loes Segerink started as a PhD student. During her PhD research she developed a microfluidic chip that can be used to determine male fertility by looking at the concentration and mobility of sperm cells. In addition to massive media coverage, she has received the Simon Stevin Apprentice Award and the Simon Stevin Companion Award.
Afterwards she started as a postdoc, with a focus on the valorisation of the fertility chip, but also research into other (bio)medical diagnostic systems. In the spring of 2013 she was a postdoc at the group of Helene Andersson Svahn (KTH Stockholm, Sweden). Back in the Netherlands she received a Veni scholarship and from 2014 to September 2017 she had a tenure-track position at the UT. She is currently Associate Professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EWI) and Application Director Sensing at the Mesa+ institute.
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