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VUB PhD Day 2021

Welcome to the VUB’s PhD Day! This is an event that is organized every other year by Researcher Training & Development Office and the Doctoral Schools for  researchers and professionals in doctoral education. The main idea is to bring PhD candidates from all disciplines together in order to share experiences, learn from each other and discover what’s new in doctoral support and education. Even though this edition will be digital, we’ll make sure it is interactive and includes all these ingredients.

This edition's focuses on the Sustainable Development Goals: Global Challenges translated into Local and Research Projects at VUB.

It will be hosted via the tool Hopin.

09:0010:30Opening ceremony & panel discussion & interview
11:0012:00Presentations and Posters in parallel
12:0013:00Lunch break
13:0014:15Teaser workshops and inspirational speeches in parallel
14:3015:30VUB Doctoral Derby
15:4516:00Supervisor award
16:0016:15Announcement DD winnaar
16:1517:00Social online event

Why UN SDG goals

VUB has 4 key strategic Core Values: “Connecting, Learning, Open and Warm”, which we want to crossfertilize transversally and interdisciplinarily among the VUB PhD Community. 

Find out all about what the SDGs are and connect your research topic and results to our global society in order to solve challenges within our social, economic and biospere ecosystems.

Our goal is to make a VUB SDGs roadmap on how your research is connected.

For more info on the UN's sustainable development goals and How universities can help see PDF.


Opening plenary session

We will kickstart this event with an opening ceremony including a welcome word by our rector, a panel discussion on urban sustainable engagement with speakers from different backgrounds linked to Brussels and/or VUB and concluding with a duo-interview of Bertrand Piccard and Olivier Van den Eynde (pioneers in clean solutions and circular economy).

9u-9u05              VUB Video: The world needs you

9u05-9u15          Welcome word by the Rector

9u15-9u25          Introduction to the PhD day by dr. Hannelore De Grande & introduction to connection with Brussels by Prof. dr. Liesbeth De Donder

9u25-10u10       Panel Discussion led by Prof. dr. Waldo Gallo
                           - Delphine Morel de Westgaver (Partnership)
                           - Audrey Spreyer (Planet)
                           - Hebe Schaillee (People)
                            >>More on BXL Martial Arts Lab
                           - Nils Duquet (Peace)
                           - Sophie Buysse (Prosperity)
                            >> Here you can find a movie about Debateville (in Dutch)                

10u10-10u40     Duo Interview: Champions in clean solutions and circular economy met Bertrand PiccardOlivier Vanden Eynde  

Presentations & Posters


The theme of this year's PhD Day are the United Nation’s sustainable development goals, which were adapted in 2015 by UN member states. Sustainability is also one of the key priorities for the VUB. 

It is our desire to link these goals to great research and innovations that are going on at this university. Therefore we want to hand over the stage to you and give you a chance to present your work, whether through a presentation. 

This is an ideal opportunity for you to flex your presentation muscles or poster design skills, to delve deeper into the societal questions raised during the course of your research, and to have some invigorating discussions with PhD colleagues from other disciplines and departments. 

 >> You can read the abstracts already here:

How can you contribute? 

Send us an abstract in which you describe the work you would like to present, whether through a 10-minute presentation or a poster. 

Is your research already linked to an SDG: perfect! Tell us all about it. If not, no worries. See it as an opportunity for a thought experiment in which you can explore other dimensions of your work in the light of one or more of the 17 sustainable development goals. 

For example, your research may indicate that excluding older cars from city centers is beneficial, but what might the social consequences be of policies that forbid these and disproportionally hit the less well-off? 

Vice-versa, economic growth has lifted millions out of property, but how can we mitigate the corresponding increase of wasteful consumerism? Wasteful consumerism that is not only detrimental to nature, but also to our own bodies, as diseases of affluence prove. 

And what about these SDG’s themselves? Are they an adequate vehicle for change, or are they merely window-dressing that legitimates and sustains existing power-relations?  


Practical requirements

  • Send an abstract (max 200 words) to rtdo@vub.be by 23/4/2021. 
  • Use "Abstract PhD Day – Presentation - <your full name(s)>” or "Abstract PhD Day – Poster- <your full name(s)>” as subject, depending on what you're submitting.  
  • You can work together and do a presentation with a colleague, but please indicate who is the main point of contact. 
  • Indicate in which of the three broad themes (Biosphere, society and economy) your presentation is situated. Click here to see how the seventeen different goals fit within the three-tiered SDG cake. 
  • We are also looking for people to chair the different sessions, who can stimulate the discussion at the end and are great at subtly yet decisively indicating when someone is going over their allotted presentation time. You can let us know if you’re interested in the PhD Day sign-up form that will follow later.

We will let you know by 7/5/2021 if your proposal has been accepted, and what thematical group you’ve been assigned. We will also include instructions for how to do your 10-minute presentation or poster on HopIn platform.


Workshops and inspirational talks

  • Theory of Change for transformative SDG research. (max.25)
  • Urban Research and Sustainable development Goals: what can we learn/do? (max.25)
  • Eutopia: what’s in it for me? (∞)
  • Making science matter for engaged students and researchers (∞)
  • Bright minds with outstanding ideas to fund! (∞)
  • Open data: what’s in it for you? (∞)
  • How to write a popular science blog? (max.8)
  • Impactful Research through Interdisciplinary Collaboration (∞)
  • Overcome procrastination - the science of perfect timing (max.20)
  • Communicating research beyond academia to policymakers (max.20)

Find short info on each workshop HERE

Are you our next Doctoral Derby Champion?

Presenting online is probably one of THE most important COVID-induced professional skills. Capturing the attention of an audience is hard by default, and even harder through a screen, where you need to use other strategies to win the audience over. Are you eager to practice and improve this skill? Do you like an additional challenge and are you up for a little competition? Yes and yes? The Doctoral Derby 3 minute speech contest is just the thing for you. 

The derby is all about science communication. Over the course of this journey, you learn how to explain your research in a simple and effective way, whether it be through writing, public speaking, or recording a video. Added bonus: your family, neighbors, and non-academic peers will be grateful to finally understand what your research is actually about!

Our Doctoral Derby 2021 finalists

The word is out! After three digital preselection sessions, 9 PhD candidates made it to the Doctoral Derby finals. Both the VUB community and a professional jury reduced the number of contenders from 39 to 9. Below, we proudly announce these 9 Doctoral Derby 2021 finalists. 

Doctoral School of Human Sciences (DSH)

  • Mahyar Firouzi (public vote) 
  • Annelies Augustyns (jury vote)
  • Laura Drechsler (jury vote) 

Doctoral School of Life Sciences and Medicine (LSM)

  • Emma De Keersmaeker (public vote) 
  • Jolien Hendrix (jury vote) 
  • Heleen Hanssens (jury vote) 

Doctoral School of Natural Sciences and (Bioscience) Engineering (NSE)

  • Sajib Chakraborty (public vote) 
  • Radwa Moanis (jury vote) 
  • Sidney Goossens (jury vote) 

Congratulations! Many thanks to everyone who took the time to watch the candidates’ video pitch and cast their vote. (Want to rewatch the videos? Click here!) - You can also read their abstracts in this little digital booklet.

The 9 remaining contenders proceed to the final stage of the Doctoral Derby. They will be pitching their research live in front of a camera during the VUB PhD Day (27th of May – 2.30-4.30 pm). We warmly invite the VUB community to attend the finals, and to cheer and vote for their favorite candidate. More information on how to register (free) here

Hope to see you on the 27th of May!

The Doctoral Derby milestones in a nutshell

  • Registrations open until February 28th 2021
    > Submit your candidacy 
  • Preliminary abstract
    > February 28: Hand in your preliminary abstract
  • Abstract writing
    > March 10/11/12: Training “How to write a popularizing abstract?” (submit your preference through the registration link)
    > March 21: Deadline final abstracts
  • Preselections
    > Record your 3 min pitch at home (deadline: April 11)
    > Public vote: VUB community votes and selects her favorite pitches per Doctoral School
    > Professional vote: Q & A session between candidates and expert jury:
         - DSH: April 20, 12 –14h
         - LSM: April 21, 16 - 18h 
         - NSE: April 22, 14 - 16h
    > Announcement finalists: April 23
  • Preparing for the finals
    > April 27: Training The Floor is Yours
    > May 18: Recording video for Science Figured Out
    > May 17 – 25: General rehearsal of pitches on the Hop-in platform
  • Finale
    > May 27: the 9 finalists perform their pitch live during the digital PhD day

Challenge yourself and grab this opportunity with both hands (and your smartphone camera and your vocal cords)!!

Last years' finalists

Doctoral Derby 2020: Congratulations to Ahmad Wali Ahmad-Yar and Jana Goyvaerts!

On Thursday 25th of June the Doctoral Derby took place as a virtual webinar. Eight PhD-candidates contended for the jury and/or audience prize. 

Jana Goyvaerts, part from the Communication Sciences Department, won the jury's prize with her research explanation about populism. Ahmad Wali Ahmad-Yar, who is a researcher at the Sociology Department, won the audience prize with a convincing 32% of votes, in second was Bryan Convens with 26% of votes and third place was a shared place by Jana Goyvaerts and Pieter Libin with each 12% of votes. 

We want to applaud each and every one of our contenders for adapting bravely to the virtual edition of this speech contest!  

You can still enjoy the pre-recorded video's from the contenders via the website of Science Figured Out. 

The Researcher Training & Development Office and the Doctoral Schools will award a supervisor (or supervisory team) for their excellent supervision, and this on a two-yearly basis, starting in 2018. PhD candidates can nominate their supervisor, a tandem of supervisors or a supervisory team. The idea is that PhD candidates take the “good supervisor” guidelines, annexed to the Central PhD regulations, as a basis to evaluate if their supervisor is doing a good job and explain in 500 to 1000 words max why their supervisor should earn this award.

Supervisor Award 2021

During this ceremony we will honour the laureates of the award 2020 and we’ll have a brief discussion with them about their trajectory as a supervisor, how they managed to supervise from a distance during (the several) lockdown(s) and let them share some tips and tricks to inspire other supervisors.

The laureates of 2020

The winners of the Supervisor Award 2020 are known! We congratulate Liesbeth De Donder for DSH, Aldo Scafoglieri for LSM and Hichem Sahli for NSE. Each of them were nominated by one or several of their doctoral students who appreciate their efforts as a good supervisor. Starting from the RTDO-guidelines 'Profile of the Good Supervisor' the jury were able to reach a unanimous consent and both winners and nominees were delighted with the nomination and award.

Professor Hichem Sahli: "I will forever be thankful to my fellow PhD students. They help keeping me on my toes, continuously teaching, inspiring and surprising me every day! They are also a huge help working with our master students and excite them in different ways than I do as a professor, which makes our research team whole. Coupled with their enthusiastic engagement with challenging questions, the knowledge-sharing and co-creation process becomes productive and exciting."

The Award consists of a prize of 500 EUR operating money and a lot of recognition for their good practices  as a supervisor.  


This is part of the overall quality monitoring of the PhD progress. Firstly, this is done through the survey results of the annual PhD survey – which can pinpoint possible problems and give a general overview of current practices (the general amount of time spent on guidance, implementation of advisory commissions, overall concerns of PhDs). Secondly, we want to give the floor to good supervisors and be an inspiration to other (starting) supervisors.  

Need some good examples? Check: https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2017/jun/08/what-makes-a-great-phd-supervisor

Or read excerpts of the award winning supervisors of 2018 HERE.

His interactive way of working, at first coordinated but then becoming one’s own natural way of doing, is also strengthened by his ‘open-door’ policy

Eligibility criteria 

All PhD candidates enrolled in the doctoral program or postdoctoral researchers who defended their PhD less than two years ago at the time of submitting the nomination can nominate their supervisor or supervisory team (including postdoctoral researchers for example). 

Only VUB teams or VUB supervisor(s) can be nominated. 

Jury and award ceremony


Vice-rector research policy, 3 doctoral school directors, staff members of Researcher Training & Development Office and 3 PhD representatives (one from each DS) will select 3 supervisors/advisors who will be honoured on the award ceremony at the end of the PhD day.  

Award Ceremony   

The Award Ceremony will take place during the PhD-Day 2021. The three nominated supervisors will be invited for a group discussion to give a short account of their supervisory work.   

See preliminary program of the PhD day here.

They will receive a budget of 500 eur to organise a teambuilding event with their PhD candidates. 

The laureates of 2018

During the PhD day 2018 celebrating 10 years Doctoral Schools we granted our first Excellent Supervisor Award to three VUB supervisors. 

All nominations were praiseworthy: it is demonstrated that each of these supervisor does a good and passionate job in supervising, inspiring and coordinating. 

The laureates of 2018 are: 

DSH: Christophe Vanroelen (ES) 

LSM: Lieve Van den Block (GF) 

NSE: Eric Jespers (WE) 

Read a few short excerpts of these supervisors and who else got nominated in our booklet here

Registrations for the VUB PhD Day:

Fill in the form here.