MESA+ University of Twente
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Volume 3, 2014

Out of balance

During the interview, the young researcher Sven Krabbenborg, who has a wide range of interests, comes across as thoughtful and balanced. Work, private life, hobbies: everything in moderation and balanced. And that is in contrast with his research about pushing systems out of balance. “We make things possible that were initially impossible.”

Krabbenborg is a fourth year PhD student. He makes chemical gradients on the microscale. Scientists have already been making gradients for a hundred years. For example, in a tank of water in which the pH on one side of the container is higher than on the other. In Twente, the researchers do not use a container of water, but rather a chip, a small plate that is a few centimetres wide with which gradients of between ten and five hundred micrometres are made. Why does everything have to be so small? Why do we want to create gradients of a fraction of a millimetre, and why do we want to control gradients in fractions of seconds?

One hundred tests on a small plate
Krabbenborg: “It is particularly at these scales that you can conduct interesting research. For example, you can see how a reaction behaves under different conditions. We introduce different conditions on one small plate with scores of the same gradients and therefore do not have to perform lots of separate tests. We have, for example, succeeded in creating a catalyst gradient. This has enabled us to study the so-called click reaction in a highthroughput manner. We have also created a pH gradient. And we have created cell membranes with different concentrations of lipids. With our technique, scientists can turn the knobs and create dynamic systems on a micro scale.”

Chemistry, biology, physics
Krabbenborg had a wide range of interests at secondary school. His profiles included both Nature & Technology and Nature & Health. In Twente, he was able to maintain a broad focus with the Bachelor’s degree in Advanced Technology. And now during his doctoral research he combines chemistry, biology and physics. Krabbenborg: “I find the multidisciplinary approach very appealing. It is really fantastic that researchers can now, for example, perform chemical reactions on a lipid membrane from the field of biology in a device based on physics. We make things possible that were initially impossible.”

Multinational
For nine years Krabbenborg’s life and work were in balance. And now? Krabbenborg: I am ready for something new. I would like to move towards the business world. For example, to Philips, ASML or DSM. Multinationals, yes, but a small spin-off is also possible. As long as I can keep working in a multidisciplinary manner.”

NAME: Sven Krabbenborg (1986)
POSITION: PhD student in the Molecular Nanofabrication group led by Jurriaan Huskens. Krabbenborg makes chemical gradients on the microscale. He obtained his doctoral degree in January.
PREVIOUSLY: Krabbenborg took a Bachelor’s degree in Advanced Technology in Twente. He attained his Master’s degree in Nanotechnology with distinction. With his dissertation he won the thesis prize from the University of Twente Faculty of Applied Sciences
HOBBIES: Squash, go-carting, photography and diving
MESA+... ‘brings together physics, chemistry and biology’