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Listening, Reflecting, Cooperating, Innovating

Meet Marian Joëls, new Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Groningen
12 July 2016
Text: Neeltje Miedema, Research & Valorisation

As of 1 September 2016, Marian Joëls, presently Professor of Neurobiology at the University Medical Center in Utrecht, will be the new Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of Groningen/UMCG. Joëls is looking forward to come to Groningen. ‘I can’t wait to take up this new challenge.’

Marian Joëls
Marian Joëls

What will your first day in Groningen be like? What are you going to do?

Marian Joëls: ‘I don’t know the University of Groningen and UMCG that well yet. The first monthts I’m going to visit the faculties, the supporting departments and listen to the researchers and students. I want to look, proverbially, through the eyes of a child as I meet everyone… see what direction we as a University and in particular as the Faculty of Medicine would like to take. What do people expect of me, what role can I play as Dean in optimizing processes, where can I add something to existing structures… without endangering continuity of course. To achieve all this, I first need to see things for myself, see how the land lies in Groningen.’

Is that a strategy that also applies to your research?

Marian Joëls: ‘My research is about learning about stress systems and how stress affects the brain. It’s about understanding why people act in the way they do. This research is by definition interdisciplinary. As a team you carry on researching until you can reach a conclusion… or until you can’t. Sometimes you have to put the main theme of your research to one side in order to follow another trail and focus your energy on that. You have to be flexible. You can find the same challenges in an organizational process. At a university the work is also interdisciplinary by definition. It is important that you get together and analyse how to get from A to B, how to do that and whether you actually want to go to B. If you take this approach, you can come up with a really valuable plan. Together you can get new initiatives up and running.’

What makes your research on stress and the brain so fascinating?

Marian Joëls: ‘How the brain works is the epicentre of all that we do. We make decisions every day, learn new information, remember things that affect us and can convey our thoughts to others. If you understand how these processes work, and to what extent stress influences these processes, you can then become more efficient in these processes and if necessary improve them.’

What do you know already about the research and teaching at the UMCG?

Marian Joëls: Well, I already learned that the University of Groningen / UMCG offers a unique MD/PhD programme. This is a challenging programme that gives medical students the opportunity to combine their Master’s programme with a PhD programme and obtain an MD or DMD as well as a PhD degree upon its completion. They obtain their PhD in two years instead of the regular four. The programme gives them the opportunity to advance in their specific field of interest and increases their chances in the job market. It is unique in the Netherlands and I was excited to hear of its existence. For the rest, my insight is still cursory but I look forward to hear everything about it.’

Alongside teaching and research, valorisation is increasingly viewed as a key responsibility of researchers. Should we as a university follow this trend?

Marian Joëls: I’m a great advocate of developing demand-led care products together with medical institutions – new drugs, medical devices; d eveloping together with patients and caregivers new care concepts and set up care platforms that contribute substantially to health improvement. To implement this and then evaluate whether people benefit. Other valori-sation challenges that the health sector is currently facing are how to deal with the availability of data wearables, the use of big data for medical research and how to respond to the developments in health innovation represented by e-health. These are interesting challenges for our research and teaching, and I am all too happy to facilitate this. In my view, it is a necessity.’

Curriculum Vitae

Marian Joëls was awarded her PhD degree at Utrecht University in 1984. She carried out post-doctoral research at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. She worked at the University of Amsterdam from 1991 to 2009, first as an associate professor and subsequently as a full professor in neurobiology. Since 2009 she has been Professor of Neuroscience at the University Medical Center in Utrecht. She is currently Scientific Director of Brain Center Rudolf Magnus. She became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002 and served as President of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies between 2012 and 2014.

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.20 p.m.

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