Our Grant winners
Introducing Our Yearly Grant Winners!
The Rudolf Agricola School for Sustainable Development is proud to showcase our yearly grant winners. These outstanding PhD's have demonstrated commitment and impact in the pursuit of a sustainable society. Our grant winners are at the forefront of innovative and impactful solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing our world today. We are honored to support their work and celebrate their achievements. Browse this webpage to learn more about our grant winners of the last four years.
Our grantwinners of:
The Grant winners of 2022 and their research
On Thursday 24 November our PhD Grants 2022 were awarded to the eight winners. The PhD Grants ceremony 2022 was held in Land van Kokanje . Every year we award 8 grants of 2000 euros. This grant enables PhD candidates to broaden their horizon and give their research output an extra push.
Denise Mensonides (ARTS) received the bonus prize worth a €1000,-, which she can spend on visualizing her research by a professional designer.
Zeqiang Pan - Interaction between formal and informal actors in the shadow of flood policy-making. Comparative studies from China and the Netherlands.
My research explores possible solutions for sustainable flood risk management required by policymakers around the globe. The goal is to study the collaboration of local authorities and residents in the flood risk management in Guangzhou in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) of South China and Rotterdam in the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt Delta (RMSD) of the Netherlands. The grant will be spent to conduct four community- level case studies with around 60 semi- structured interviews. With the support of the Sustainable Society PhD Grant, two stages would be conducted to progress the research.
In the recent decade, policymakers gradually identified that technical approaches were inefficient in flood protection in delta areas where local context and locally involved actors proved relevant. This tension between generic top-down policy and the potential of local situation-specific policy is the starting point of our research.
Through comparative case studies selected in the delta cities of Guangzhou, China, and Rotterdam, the Netherlands, my research contributes to exploring the possibilities of mutually learning for China and the Netherlands in sustainable flood risk management.
Kjell Winkens - Transitioning to adulthood as an unaccompanied refugee adolescent.
In my research, I look at the experiences of unaccompanied refugee adolescents while they transition to adulthood in the Netherlands. By conducting regular interviews and following them for an period of two years, I am mapping (changes in) their aspirations, influences from their social network, and challenges and opportunities they encounter as they prepare themselves for an independent future. Currently, I have been following a group of Syrian adolescents for half a year.
Through this grant, I would like to expand my research project with adolescents from different countries of origin and different prospects of receiving a refugee status. Since factors such as aspirations, responses to challenges, and social relations are dependent on sociocultural factors, this comparison between countries of origin will be of great value to my project.
This grant would support me in my development, by enabling me to expand my data collection and gain further research experience. Furthermore, the additional participants and collected data will also allow me to write an additional publication and contribute to solutions for challenges that refugees encounter.
Denise Mensonides – how children in Groningen develop digital literacy.
My research focusses on how children in Groningen develop digital literacy. To explore these social processes, the project involves a lot of contact with different social actors.
I have had the opportunity to observe at out-of-school daycare locations in four neighborhoods in Groningen, to speak with children and their caretakers and to discuss my research with various stakeholders including the Ministry of Internal Affairs and childcare organization SKSG.
Using the grant, I will create an exhibition about children’s media use. By hiring a professional photographer we will co-construct an exhibition together with children who participated in the PhD project. By working together with the photographer, the children will document how they use media in their everyday lives. The photos will be shown in a gallery space in Groningen.
Olga Bernadet - Bioassay of treated wastewater effluent: The importance of water toxicity testing prior to wastewater reclamation implementation
The aim of my project is to understand the mechanism(s) of removal of some medicines and antibiotics by Biological Oxygen-dosed Activated Carbon (BODAC) used in a wastewater reclamation project.
Severe heat waves and prolonged drought threaten water availability everywhere, so wastewater reclamation, in which wastewater is treated and reused for both potable and non-potable purposes, is encouraged. Wastewater contains pathogens, medicines, and antibiotics that should be properly removed prior to wastewater reuse.
By understanding the mechanism(s), the performance of BODAC can be improved and it can be reapplied in other locations, allowing for safer, more sustainable water productions. However, water toxicity after treatment with BODAC has to be evaluated prior to its reapplication.
Without this grant and without collaboration with MAE-WUR, water toxicity analysis cannot be carried out due to lack of funding and facilities, even though it is important.
This grant will give me the chance to actively contribute to responsible research practice, while providing relevant information for water practitioners and policy makers. The collaboration will also expand my network, knowledge and practical expertise in a new field. By interacting with different expertise, I will be challenged to consider other aspects of my research and to use different communication approach.
Hester Huisman- Consumer participation in the energy transition.
In my research, I take on a interdisciplinary approach to analyze consumer behavior in energy markets to foster the energy transition. Energy markets are dynamic markets where regulators, energy suppliers and consumers mutually influence each other. While regulators often base their policies on micro-economic theory, energy suppliers base their actions on marketing theory. I combine both literature streams in my research.
This grant helps me to gain and share insights in both academic fields and enables me to elevate my research to find creative and effective solutions for the energy transition. An interdisciplinary approach requires contacts from all angles of the energy transition. Currently, I present on academic conferences and established collaborations with the regulator, energy retailers, and the largest energy comparison website in the Netherlands.
This grant will help me to connect with scholars and professionals in conferences and obtain better data for my analyses. This will improve my conceptual capacity to link different aspects of the energy transition and increase the added value of my research.
Jamie Behrendt - Microgrids
A microgrid is a local electrical grid with defined electrical boundaries, acting as a single and controllable entity. ] It is able to operate in grid-connected and in island mode.
Fascinated by the possibilities microgrids can offer electricity consumers, as well as the systems' potential to increase the share of renewable electricity, I have yet to see one up and running in real life.
The grant will offer me the chance to visit multiple microgrid sites in person. I willbe able to conduct empirical research in the form of face-to-face interviews with the system developers and deepen my knowledge about how microgrids work. Finally, I believe in the serendipitous meetings that can occur during field work, furthering scientific understanding through chance.
Junyu Zhang - Comparative study on the sustainability transitions in the agriculture sector between the European Union and China
My research project is about the governance of sustainability transitions in the agriculture sector. With an emphasis on the comparison of transition pathways in the European Union and China.
My project requires fieldwork in various countries across continents. The biggest budget problem facing me right now is the spiking flight costs, due to pandemics, to/from China, a critical part of my empirical studies.
This grant will help me broaden destination countries in Europe for doing fieldwork, which will contribute to broader sources of data and enable more cross-country case studies. Furthermore, farm visits are mandatory in my research and are very costly. This grant will supplement my normal research budget and allows me to do more in-depth interviews with farmers and other operators at the grassroots level.
Lambert Rozema – Creating awareness of façade colours as an integral part of the disappearing urban landscape heritage
The grant will pay to produce a short documentary (15 minutes) to be shown on international documentary festivals.
My research aims to create awareness of façade colours as an integral part of the disappearing urban landscape heritage of the neighbourhood of Mouraria, Lisbon, due to current forms of tourism. Many cities in southern Europe are going through tourist-led gentrification processes resulting in Airbnbfication and Disneyfication of urban areas. Field research so far has produced interesting insights in the value of façade colours and residents have expressed a strong interest in communicating these insights with tourists and other visitors.
The grant will enable me to record the residents’ voices in a short documentary regarding changes in the colours of their environment and allow them to communicate with outsiders how these changes symbolise the societal problems they are facing due to tourism. Their empowerment would be further enhanced through active participation in the process of the making of the documentary. Such co-creative processes have always been central to my artistic practice yet participatory academic research as applied in the current fieldwork is new for me.
Grant Winners of 2021
In 2021 - out of 36 applications - the jury granted the following eight winners. Here they tell you how they will use their grant.
The aim of our activity is to stimulate the public debate in Fryslân about the transition to a circular economy. The grant will be spend on the organization of a culinary activity with chef cooks and restaurant holders in Fryslân to set up an event where this Circular Food Menu will be served to regional stakeholders, including officials from the Province of Fryslân and the Municipality of Leeuwarden.
The grant will be spent on the 10-day summer school of The Alps Art Academy, that takes place in congruence with the exhibition Art Safiental. The remaining sum will be directed towards the exhibition about my PhD research.
We will expand the reach of our surveys on landscape approaches that achieve multiple objectives for nature and people with Dutch and German farmers. And we will include a set of workshops forresult presentation to stakeholders (farmers, conservationist, scientist, gov.officials) to receive feedback and co-create the key policy advice.
The goal is to study the landscape value and land use preference of local people living in Wulingyuan. The grant will be spent to conduct a map-based survey consists of around 1000 questionnaires.
Kanella Maria Marosi
This grant will be spent for a research stay in Montreal, Canada for the purpose of professional development with a group that specializes on queer identities and science. And organizing a (virtual if needed) open to the public science café in Groningen.
My research investigates the health consequences of climate change for individuals with chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), focusing on low- and middle-income countries. It will be spent on field research in West Java, Indonesia, to collect qualitative data nfor the study, which is hitherto solely based on quantitative data
The loss of trust in science is an urgent societal challenge that compromises the legitimacy of political actions informed by scientific knowledge. The grant will help me partially fund a threemonth fellowship in the Science, Technology and Society Program at Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University. The research I want to conduct with this grant contributes to solutions for this challenge, by investigating how scientific credibility is established for different stakeholders of knowledge production processes. My case study focuses on ecologists, led by Theunis Piersma, who collaborate with farmers to produce ‘credible’ scientific knowledge addressing the disappearance of black-tailed godwits and Dutch meadows.
Tjeerd Rudmer de Vries
I intend on going on a research visit at the Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen (KU) in Denmark, led by Prof.Naja Hulvej Rod. Prof. Hulvej Rod has recently set up a unique registry-based dataset with information on the occurrence of childhood adversity on approximately 1.5 million Danish children (DANLIFE). The goal of my research visit is to use the richness of the DANLIFE data for my final PhD paper.
Grant Winners of 2020
In 2020 the SuSo PhD grants committee awarded the following PhD candidates a grant:
International Grant (€2500,-)
1. Lucia Bonci Cavalca
3. Dan Wang
4. Harm Rienks
European Grant (€1500,-)
1. Lara Bister
2. Luzia Heu
3. Kritika Maheswari
4. Lina Xie
The grants where awarded during a digital Grant Ceremony on 12 November 2020.
Grant Winners of 2019
In 2019, - out of over 50 applications - the jury granted the following 10 finalists. They presented their research in a short pitch during our Grant Ceremony. The best and most persuasive pitch was held by Revai Mudzimu. She received the bonus of a € 1000,-to visualize her research by a professional designer.
Jesse van Amelsvoort
Linguistic Minorirty - European grant
My research contributes to solutions for the socetial challenges relating to diversity and cultural cohesion in multilingual Europe. I do this by focusing on the work of contemporary migrant and autochthonous minority writers, and the way they engage discussions about these topics. Sustainable societies, here, refers not to economic factors, but rather to a place where human diversity is not a threat, but a resource to deal with matters of a common concern. The work of authors such as Zadie Smith, Tsjêbbe Hettinga and Emine Sevgi Özdamar offers inroads into thinking about these issues in a new way that bypasses established oppositions between newcomers and autochthones, those who belong and those who do not. These authors include in their work voices that usually remain unheard and show how we can rethink categories such as language, community and identity that are central to many societal discussions in the Western world in the past three decades. Together with this funding, my research, performed in an interdisciplinary faculty explicitly dedicated to addressing societal challenges, positions my work in the humanities to deliver a significant social impact.
The grant will help me fund a fellowship at Stockholm University’s Department of Slavic and Baltic Studies, Finnish, Dutch and German, and its English department. Researchers here have a strong research focus on multilingualism and world literature. My hosts will be Prof Stefan Helgesson, PI in a large-scale research project on language dynamics in world literature, Dr Markus Huss and Dr Heidi Grönstrand, editors of The Aesthetics and Politics of Linguistic Borders (Routledge, 2019). I will participate in research activities, discuss with colleagues and perhaps participate in teaching.
Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences
Polarization, Twitter analyses - Intercontinental Grant
Emotional political news and debates spread faster and farther in the Twitter age. Therefore, understanding public responses to politicians’ emotional communication is increasingly more important and urgent, as these responses may increase polarization and the inability to tackle societal challenges together. My research focuses on these responses, examining whether and when people “catch” the same emotion, or infer additional goals from an emotional display. Both these reactions can shape perceptions of societal challenges. For example, an angry politician speaking about climate change inaction may elicit similar anger, or may be perceived as pandering to a specific group: reactions which can then stimulate climate change action or skepticism, respectively. Ultimately, these changed perceptions can fuel hostility between the people who respond differently, increasing societal polarization. The training I’ll receive abroad will enable me to use Twitter data to test such hypotheses in real-life political settings. Thus, my research contributes to solving societal challenges by examining how politicians’ emotional communication can fundamentally change perceptions of such challenges.
The grant will partly cover my travel to and three-month stay at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University (Chicago, USA), where dr. Nour Kteily, an expert on the topic, will train me in computational analysis. This analysis enables me to thoroughly study Twitter data: analyzing tweet content, and determining users’ demographic characteristics by assessing their online behavior (likes and follows). I will then conduct a study on how different people react to politicians’ emotional communication during the ongoing 2020 Democratic Party primary debates.
Faculty of Economics and Business
Sustainable supply chains - Intercontinental grant
Although Nike did not recruit children to work in sweatshops and Primark did not own the building that collapsed in Bangladesh, these companies were held responsible by consumers and organizations worldwide. Although changes have been made since then, the apparel industry is still suffering severe sustainability issues. Ensuring that the suppliers of these brands invest in sustainability is a significant challenge, especially if the suppliers are located in low- and middle-income countries. Brands looking for solutions have started offering access to cheaper financing as a reward for a higher sustainability performance. However, the expected increase in sustainability performance at the supplier level has not always materialized. This research aims to increase our understanding of the factors influencing the suppliers’ decisions concerning investments in sustainability and the adoption of the financing program. With this understanding the programs can be adapted to meet the suppliers’ needs where possible and stimulate more investments towards sustainability in an industry still struggling to tackle severe sustainability issues.
The grant will be spend on face-to-face contact with suppliers increases the value of the response during an interview as trust is more easily established. The sensitivity of the information further emphasizes the need to establish trust. The grant will be used for on-location interviews with a selected number of suppliers. The selection will take place after a survey in order to select the most relevant suppliers. Since the majority of the suppliers is located in South-East Asia, the selection will certainly include suppliers in this area. The aim is to create more in-depth knowledge on the decision-making process.
Faculty of Economics and Business
Hope curriculum - Interncontinental grant
Internal psychological constraints are receiving increasing attention in development economics, since they can help understand poverty dynamics. Our research project implements and evaluates the impacts of an intervention aiming to relax these internal constraints, which may contribute to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, specifically, poverty reduction (goal 1) and economic growth (goal 8). Among internal psychological constraints, we focus on hopelessness and low aspirations. Duflo (2012) argues that hope is fundamental for development; low aspirations and hopelessness lead to reduced investments and outcomes that ultimately reduce long-run welfare. The intervention consists of showing Bolivian dairy farmers a video of local role models, followed by a series of workshops on aspirational hope, referred to as ‘hope curriculum’. We hypothesize that our intervention can reduce aspirational failure and assuage learned hopelessness, improving aspirations and consequently productivity, which is a very strong predictor of income and, therefore, can lead to poverty reduction.
This grant will be used to fund a research visit of two weeks at University of San Francisco in March 2020. I will work together with Prof. Bruce Wydick on discussing and finishing my paper (fourth chapter of my thesis). Together with my two PhD supervisors, Prof. Wydick is a principal investigator of this project. He is well-known for his seminal work on development economics, hope and aspirations.
Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences
Ethnic and gender disparities in child protection decision making - European grant
My research investigates ethnic and gender disparities in child protection decision-making. Several studies have shown that marginalized groups, including minoritized ethnic groups and women, are negatively impacted by child protection decisions compared to advantaged groups, like ethnic majoritized groups and men, even when cases are identical or equal. My first PhD study investigates gender and ethnic disparities in Dutch, German, and English child protection practice while taking an intersectional approach. We found evidence that decisions seem impacted by ethnic and gender disparities. In my upcoming project, a vignette study, I aim to investigate mechanisms that seem to result in disparities in the entire decision-making process. This project is unique in child protection decision-making research. The fact that decisions seem impacted by disparities is a societal issue because the human rights perspective suggests that decisions should be transparent and not depend on characteristics of families like ethnicity and gender. The vignette study has the potential discover mechanisms that are related to disparities which can be used in diminishing disparities in decision-making.
I aim to visit two conferences in the UK that are held closely after each other in 2020. One conference focuses on the role of intersectionality in family relationships (CRFR, 22 – 24 June, Edinburgh) and the other conferences focuses decision-making in the field of child protection (DARE, 1 – 2 July, Belfast). During these conferences I aim to learn from work by other presenters and I will present both my first finalized PhD paper and the vignette study that is currently under development. In addition, I aim to use some days between the conferences two have meetings with experts.
Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies
Sexual and reproductive health rights - Intercontinental grant
I appreciate research that has societal impact especially capacitating the disadvantaged and marginalized, in this case the women. My research therefore contributes to creating solutions for good health, well-being and gender equality (Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5). I investigate on the sustainability of the strategies that the Zimbabwean women use to navigate their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) when they are violated by the Catholic teaching on sexuality and African cultural practices. Violation of SRHR results in high child and maternal mortality and gender inequality hence my research seeks to ascertain practical measures to address religious and cultural practices that do not promote women’s SRHR. Generally, investing in women’s SRHR reduces poverty and enhances sustainable development, yet in a patriarchal and conservative society such as Zimbabwe culture and religion can be stumbling blocks to the rights of women to make choices and decisions regarding their sexuality. Addressing and finding solutions to these problems will result in achieving Goal 3 and 5 by 2030.
While I am in the process of analyzing the data that I have collected, I keep realizing that there are some emerging questions that need a deeper unpacking hence the grant will be used for the second round of fieldwork. Apart from another follow up on women, the fieldwork will also include the Catholic Church hospitals and about three organizations that work on SRHR in Zimbabwe. The data will be collected through in-depth interviews and participant observations.
Circular economy - European grant
The circular economy (CE) is a system that replaces the end-of-life concept with the reduction and reuse of materials in production and consumption. The CE literature has been technologically and ecologically focused, neglecting the social dimension. This is an important limitation as the CE can create or destroy social value. Furthermore, community perspectives are important for the success of the CE which requires behavioral change. My research investigates the social dimension through cooperation with social housing associations. These associations provide low income communities with affordable housing and improve their well-being. Housing association activities can cause negative environmental impacts which can be reduced through circular approaches. It is important that these approaches assist in improving the well-being of communities and do not lead to negative implications. My research explores the perspectives of communities towards circular approaches and new ways of involving communities in their design. This helps create circular approaches that achieve ecological benefits (SDG 12, e.g. efficient waste collection) and community goals (SDG 11, e.g. clean neighborhoods).
Circular approaches are often disintegrated from communities. This is a limitation as circular approaches can assist low income communities, for example via the reuse of furniture. To collect information on circularity in the community and create enthusiasm, I am highly motivated to organize a workshop with a local primary school. The students will learn about circularity and create documentaries about circularity in their neighborhood, interviewing other community members. These documentaries will be used to start conversations with tenants and inspire circular projects in the neighborhood.
Faculty of Law
Technology and the privatization of public values in smart cities - Europen grant
This research project looks at the issues raised by rapid technological innovation in the face of public values and in the context of urbanization. Cities are under pressure to solve key problems, such as climate change, inequality and crime, and smart cities have emerged as a response. A smart city uses the newest technologies to innovate city governance (e.g., sensors, cameras, predictive policing software, big data analysis etc). These technologies are developed by private companies that partner with municipalities. As a result of these partnerships for governance technologies, cities become partially privatized in their policy making and administrative decision-making. Policy making and administrative decision making are traditionally held to public values, such as transparency, equal treatment and accountability. These values may shift, evolve or weakened if private technology is used for public purposes. It is essential to examine the way such technologies are deployed and governed. Therefore, the smart city is a relevant and pressing example of the legal shifts and gaps that emerge when private technology gains weight in the present and future governance of our communities.
The grant will be used during the phase of empirical research of this project. To understand the way public private partnerships in smart cities handle public values, an empirical study of four selected European cities will be conducted (Amsterdam, Bristol, Copenhagen, Marseille). The grant will be spend to facilitate visiting these cities and conduct interviews with stakeholders on both sides of the partnerships.
Faculty of Arts
Decolonial epistemic practices - Intercontinental grant
My doctoral research at the contemporary history section of ICOG uses global intellectual history methods to look at the history of student mobility in the interwar years (as a case study between British India and Germany) and analyse its role in colonial knowledge-production and the epistemic violence on other forms of knowledge. Making it relevant and responsive to the crises and opportunities posed by current student mobility practices in and around Groningen enables me to question certain implicit biases in curricula. This calls for letting west European universities be sustainable in and critically responsive to what Walter Mignolo calls ‘decolonial epistemic practices’ in history and European studies. I strongly believe in the responsibility of universities in realigning their curricula to undo their historic role in creating the knowledge-base of systemic racism and misogyny. In this regard, I have worked with the DG Education and Culture of EU in Brussels; and designed an MA course of history at RuG (with my supervisor Clemens Six) to not only diversify the content of the curricula but also make it methodologically sustainable (in a sense UN’s SDG goal §17 would define it).
So far I have actively worked to identify the hidden biases in university-curricula. Drawing on my work with Prof Peggy Levitt and Global Decentre, I showcased it at RuG’s Lustrum405 conference. I want to carry forward this endeavour and respond to the invitation of a two months long visiting PhD stay at ‘Politics and Social Change Workshop,’ WCIA, Harvard University (a detailed plan attached herewith). Alongside, my doctoral research would immensely benefit from my host Prof Sunil Amrith (globally known for making history education responsive to current migration patterns and climate crisis).
Faculty of Arts
Soil degradation - European grant
My PhD project is concerned with understanding the stakes involved in the surging political concern with soils in the EU and UN. Specifically, I study how these institutions problematize soil degradation. This allows my research to contribute to the response to soil degradation in three ways.
First, my project seeks to draw more attention to soils. Though soil degradation is one of the most pressing issues of our time, it is simultaneously a sadly neglected problem in Europe and beyond.
Second, I seek to provide a clear picture of the institutions and processes involved in soil policy-making. This has the potential to help stakeholders that lack this information to access policy-making forums.
Third, my project includes concerns with environmental justice, so that these ideals might be incorporated in soil protection. On the one hand, I do this by seeking out the voices of underrepresented actors such as organic farmers and indigenous peoples. On the other hand, I critically scrutinize soil dominant policy narratives such as the framing of soil degradation in terms of overpopulation, that often distract attention away from the socio-economic mechanisms causing soil degradation.
The grant will be spent on a research stay at the Centre for Global Knowledge Studies at the University of Cambridge, Gloknos. Gloknos is a multi-disciplinary research centre whose focus on the production and dissemination of human knowledge will greatly benefit my research. I will procure a short research stay at this research centre, during which I will procure the in-house expertise of Gloknos to refine my analyses of the politics of knowledge production on soils and soil degradation. I have already established contact with the director of Gloknos, dr. Inanna Hamati-Ataya, to this end.
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