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Education University of Groningen Summer Schools

Interdisciplinary Perspective on Micro- and Nano-plastics

Causes and solutions
plastic straws

Micro- and nano-plastics are pieces of plastic of a size between 5 millimeters and 1 nanometer that have infiltrated everything on earth, including the top of mount Everest and the air we breathe. Microplastic problem is getting more and more attention: from alarming news articles to TV series episodes. But what do we know about microplastics' causes? How can we solve the problem?

Complex global challenges such as microplastics need an interdisciplinary approach. By joining this summer school you will have a 360 education on the topic of microplastic. You will learn about causes and solutions from the perspective of different disciplines: medicine, environmental sciences, social sciences, political sciences, philosophy, waste engineering and the creative industry. Additionally, you will be trained on practical skills, like how to work in interdisciplinary teams and how to design effective interventions.

The following topics will be discussed:

  • What are the definitions, characteristics and causes of microplastic pollution?
  • What are the effects of microplastic on human health and the environment?
  • What are the advantages of plastic packaging over other existing materials?
  • How to reflect on global problems like microplastics from a philosophical perspective?
  • What are technical, political and creative solutions to plastic pollution and microplastic?
  • How to effectively raise awareness on microplastics and stimulate behavior change?
  • How to work in interdisciplinary teams?

We will offer a programme balancing theory, practice and fun: you will attend a week of lectures, group works, workshops, hands-on activities, excursions and social events.

By joining this summer school, you will learn about a topic of high societal importance, discover how to work together with people from different backgrounds, network with young students interested in global challenges like you.

Practical information

10 - 14 July 2023


Groningen, the Netherlands


BA (second year and above), MA, early career researchers, practitioners interested in this topic without background knowledge on the topic

(including lunches, coffees, 2 group dinners and 2 excursion)

€ 300 standard fee
€ 200 for UG/Enlight students
€ 100 for participants from low-income economies, as defined by the World Bank.

2 full scholarships are provided for participants from low-income economies, as defined by the World Bank. Please include a paragraph in your motivation letter on why this scholarship is important to your (academic) career.

Academic coordinators

Dr. Josefine Geiger, Faculty: Campus Fryslan
Irene Maltagliati, Faculty of Arts, Sustainability Programme



This summer school is designed for Bachelor students (2nd year and above), Master students, early career researchers, practitioners interested in this topic.

Sufficient command of the English language is necessary to actively participate in the discussions and to present their own work in English.

Course schedule

Lectures with discussions:

  • Microplastics and the Environment
  • Microplastics and Health
  • A Philosophy Perspective on Microplastics
  • A Political Science Perspective on Microplastics
  • Microplastics: awareness and behavior change
  • Microplastics and Packaging

Practical activities:

  • Eco-anxiety and Mindfulness
  • Parallel workshops: how to write CV/PhD application
  • How to present
  • Excursion in Waddenzee
  • Final Presentations
  • Final Ceremony

Social events

  • Groningen City Tour
  • Group Dinners
  • Boat Tour
Learning outcomes

After this course you will be able to:

  1. Describe the characteristics of micro- and nano-plastic and identify the causes of the problem
  2. Describe the effects of microplastics to human health and the environment
  3. Identify relevant political decision-making processes, product characteristics and psychological factors related to microplastics problem and solutions
  4. Critically reflect on a complex topic form the perspective of different disciplines
  5. Develop skills for interacting and collaborating with students and experts from different backgrounds
  6. Apply interdisciplinary knowledge to plan and/or assess (preventative or remedial) policies, strategies and interventions


Preparation summer school: 20 hours
Lectures and discussions: 30 hours
Preparation Group Presentation: 6 hours

Upon successful completion of the programme, the summer school offers a Certificate of Attendance that mentions the workload of 56 hours (28 hours corresponds to 1 ECTS). Students can apply for recognition of these credits to the relevant authorities in their home institutions, therefore the final decision on awarding credits is at the discretion of their home institutions. We will be happy to provide any necessary information that might be requested in addition to the certificate of attendance.

Introduction to lecturers
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Prof Dr Barbro Melgert is a respiratory immunologist at the University of Groningen. Her group investigates how the immune system in the lung is impaired by toxic exposures and can be harnessed to treat chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, COPD and lung fibrosis. An important cause of lung disease is exposure to air pollutants and our indoor environment contains many types, including the recently described novel concern of microplastics. Recent work therefore focuses on elucidating the effects of inhalable microplastics on human lung health with again special focus on interactions between structural lung cells and the local immune system.

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Dr Karin de Boer is a marine biologist. As she is interested in the marine environment, she is mainly dealing with the end of the line/pipe, where you face the consequences of human impact. Karin believes that multifaceted problems such as plastic waste requires a systems-thinking sustainable solution: an approach she uses in her UG BSc Honours College course Garbage Patch Work. After 16 years of scientific research, she now works as a lecturer at the Science Shop and MSc Marine Biology. Together with her colleagues she links questions like plastic pollution from society to research and education, and she supervises the implementation of these projects with the goal of working for a sustainable future.

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Dr. Elena Höppener is a scientist working at TNO on the topic of Microplastics. Her background is in nanomaterials science, but since 2020 she started to investigate the presence of microplastics in the environment at TNO. Using various micro-spectroscopic techniques, Elena tries to track down microplastics in various matrices, hoping to get a grip on the presence of this ubiquitous pollutant.

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Prof. Dr. Dirk Jan Wolffram is Professor in the History of Governance and Politics in the Modern Era at the University of Groningen. He has published on social history, the history of local and regional administration, social politics, spatial planning and land reclamation, populism and parliamentary inquiries. Presently he leads a research project on the history of the administration of the Province of Groningen.


Lisa Doeland MA is a philosopher. She teaches courses in ethics and in contemporary issues such as waste, the Anthropocene and apocalyptic thought in times of climate crisis at both the Radboud University Nijmegen and the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests are critical theory, psychoanalytic thought, deconstruction, object-oriented theories such as ANT, OOO and new materialism, and ecophilosophy. In her PhD-research she explores the ontology of waste and the ways in which we are haunted by it. In her forthcoming book Apocalypsofie (June 2023) she explores the dangerous fantasies of “green ideology,” such as green growth and recycling without remainders.

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Dr Josefine Geiger is an Assistant Professor in Social and Environmental Psychology. Her research is on stimulating sustainable and healthy behaviour change. In doing so, she mainly focuses on the role of design, art and educational games. She follows a trans- and interdisciplinary approach and collaborates with designers, artists, game developers, and researchers from different disciplines. In her recent work, she explores innovative ways to raise awareness for microplastics.

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Irene Maltagliati MSc is sustainability policy advisor at the University of Groningen and she is doing her PhD at the Center for Language and Cognition. She is interested in inter- and transdisciplinarity, and she works on integrating both theoretical and practical perspectives within her projects. Her background is psychology. Her research and teaching focus now on environmental and health communication.

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Ruben Mul MSc/MA graduated in Psychology and Philosophy at the University of Groningen. Currently, he works as a coach, outdoor and personal development trainer, meditation- and yoga teacher. He hosts workshops and retreats to help people reconnect and get in touch with their authentic direction.


Applications are open from the 9 January to the 10 May. Please note that you will be asked to submit a CV and letter of motivation.

The selections will take place on a rolling basis: two weeks after submitting the application, applicants will be informed about the results.

As the deadline for the final application is the 10 May, the last go/go-no moment is the 15 May.

We suggest participants who require a visa to apply well in advance.

Last modified:21 June 2023 11.32 a.m.