ARC CBBC festively opens new lab

ARC CBBC’s opening of its first own lab was celebrated last Wednesday 13 February on the fourth floor of the Vening Meinesz Building B of Utrecht University. Speeches were given by Utrecht University Rector Magnificus Henk Kummeling, President of the ARC CBBC Supervisory Board Marjan Oudeman and ARC CBBC Scientific Director Bert Weckhuysen. The official opening act was executed by Henk Kummeling and Dean of the Faculty of Science Isabel Arends, by filling a glass version of the ARC CBBC logo with a blue liquid. You can read more and view a photo gallery of the festive opening on ARC CBBC’s website.

You can also read about the opening on the newspage of Utrecht University, on the Netherlands Government’s website dedicated to Topsectoren (in Dutch), or on online magazine Agro & Chemie (in Dutch).


13 February 2019

Pathways to Sustainability Conference 2019

Together with ARC CBBC, MCEC was present at the Pathways to Sustainability Conference 2019, hosted by Utrecht University at TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht.

The program of the conference consisted of a plenary morning program, a truly delicious vegan lunch, interactive break-out sessions, and a closing panel discussion. In between these program elements and at the end of the conference people would come together at the Sustainable Marketplace, where MCEC was featured among other Utrecht University based sustainability projects.

Thank you, ARC CBBC, for sharing a stall with us – your sustainability game turned out to be quite strong! Also, a special mention for Anne-Eva Nieuwelink and Erik Maris, who were more than willing to explain interested visitors about their research topic and sustainability ambitions. Thank you both for your enthusiasm!

MCEC and ARC CBBC’s stall at the Sustainable Market Place, with ARC CBBC’s Sustainability Game (left).


More pictures will follow soon.


24 January 2019

It’s (almost) A Wrap!

With MCEC’s first phase coming to an end, Team Community and MCEC Office thought it high time to get the community together and look back on five years of MCEC. Five years in which we welcomed more than forty PhDs and PDs, witnessed new collaborations (and friendships!) coming into existence, and were part of the growth of both the ambitions and the scope our research center.

We’ve already waved our goodbyes to some very talented members of our community who have finished their research, and we will continue to do so in the year to come. Some of them, luckily, will still be around in positions where we can regularly meet them. Others have found opportunities outside of academia and/or the Netherlands. Of course, saying goodbye to our first phase happens simultaneously with welcoming MCEC’s new generation.

During the MCEC Wrap-Up Event, room was given to MCEC’s first phase PhDs and PDs to present their research and results. Jan Wiesfeld (TU/e), Hai Le The (UT), Lennart Weber (UU) and Maxim Masterov (TU/e) kicked off before lunch, and Giulia Fiorucci (UU), Mathieu Odijk (UT, stepping in for Miguel Solsona) and Freddy Oropeza Palacio (TU/e) continued thereafter. All held well-received presentations which sparked critical questions and discussion.

After these presentations, hosted in the Minaert Building at Utrecht Science Park, the group crossed over to the Botanical Gardens where MCEC’s Team Community had organized a surprise ceremony and an excellent pub quiz which combined general and musical knowledge with scientific facts. Biggest discussion that afternoon centered around whether the element AR was (also) the abbreviation for Arizona or Arkansas, and who performed the song ‘Vamos A La Playa’. (Actually, that didn’t matter, since that song turned out to be the wrong answer anyway.)  The day was closed with foods, drinks, and chocolate.

Below, you’ll find an impression of the day (click on the pictures for an enlargement).
MCEC Community, thank you all for a great Wrap-Up Event!

18 January 2019


First MCEC PhDs receive their doctorate

In October, November and December 2018 three MCEC PhDs were the first to receive their doctorates: Ivan Devic (UT), Jiangtao Lu (TU/e) and Robin Geitenbeek (UU) all successfully defended their dissertations.

Congratulations! We wish you all the best in your continued careers and we hope to hear a lot from you.

Click on the pictures for an enlargement.


19 December 2018

MCEC Wrap-Up Event 2019

With the end of MCEC’s first phase coming close, it’s time to look back on the last five years, give the floor to MCEC PhD candidates who have (almost) finished their research, and as a community, festively wrap-up MCEC’s first phase.

Therefore, the MCEC Management Team, Team Community and MCEC Office would like to invite all members of our community to the MCEC Wrap-Up Event next January 18th, in Utrecht.


10.15 – 10.45 Start with coffee and tea
Scientific part of the day
10.45 – 11.05 Opening
11.05 – 11.30 Lecture 1: Jan Wiesfeld (TU/e):
Earth-abundant heterogeneous catalysts for biomass valorization.
11.30 – 11.55 Lecture 2: Hai Le The (UT):
A study on the interfacial interaction of noble metal nanostructures with ceramic supports.
11.55 – 12.10 Short break
12.10 – 12.35 Lecture 3: Lennart Weber (UU):
Direct Conversion of Synthesis Gas to Olefins and Aromatics.
12.35 – 13.00 Lecture 4: Maxim Masterov (Tu/e):
Towards simulations of industrial scale bubble columns.
13.00 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 14.25 Lecture 5: Giulia Fiorucci (UU):
Hydrodynamics and nucleation.
14.25 – 14.50 Lecture 6: Miguel Solsona (UT):
Single Catalytic Particle Diagnostics: Last advances.
14.50 – 15.15 Lecture 7: Freddy Oropeza Palacio (TU/e):
Photoelectron spectroscopy (PES) for functional characterization of photoelectrodes.
15.15 Walk to the Botanic Gardens
Festive part of the day
15.30 – 21.00 With a short presentation by Team Community, a surprise ceremony, the MCEC Pubquiz and a nice diner

Please sign up here:
Below should be a sign-up form. If you can’t see the form, please try and use another browser like Safari, Mozilla Firefox or Chrome. 

PhD Selection Process has started

The selection process following the PhD Call for MCEC’s second phase has started. At Utrecht University, MCEC members Florian Meirer and Freddy Rabouw, Program Coordinator Nina Versteeg and Hannie van Berlo-van den Broek (ARC CBBC) came together to discuss the first round of candidates. Since our PhD Call received almost 900 submissions, we expect these discussions to continue well into December. Naturally, candidates will be informed as soon as possible. We wish our committees in Utrecht, Eindhoven and Twente as well as all the candidates every success!

Image used on Twitter and other (social) media outlets.

 28 November 2018


Fluorescent ‘breathalyzer’ makes optimisation of catalysts much easier

A breath test instead of a blood test. That’s how much easier it is to use the test for industrial catalysts developed by chemists at Utrecht University. The test uses fluorescent molecules to literally show whether catalyst 1, 2, or 3 works better than the others. This makes it much easier to work on improving the catalysts, which allows production processes in the chemical industry to become increasingly more sustainable. The researchers, under the leadership of Prof. Bert Weckhuysen, will publish their results in Nature Chemistry of 5 November.

In their research, the chemists from Utrecht studied the sustainable production of methanol, one of the building blocks for products such as plastics. Sustainable methanol can be synthesised from CO2 and hydrogen gas produced using wind- or solar energy or household waste. The catalyst is needed to ensure that the reaction produces as much methanol and as few by-products as possible, at the ideal temperature. The catalyst’s composition and porousness are important aspects of the process, but so is its shape.

Read the full interview on the website of Utrecht University in English or Dutch

5 November 2018

Bert Weckhuysen engages in dialogue with activists

During the MCEC-KNAW symposium last December, a group of environmental activists protested the presence (and invitation) of Shell. Bert Weckhuysen was interviewed by online magazine Down to earth (‘platform for green journalism’) for their column ‘Onder vuur’ (‘Under attack’), in which people or organisations who have been under attack for their green ambitions or promises (or lack thereof) , are given the opportunity to respond to the criticism.

“During the conversation [with the protesters] it became clear that we have the same goal: the transition to a sustainable society. But we take on different roles. I conduct research into alternative energy sources and try to help reduce the pollution of fossil fuels as much as possible. Fossielvrij [Fossil-free] wants to emphasize the urgency of change. That’s something I can appreciate.”

Bert Weckhuysen

The full article, which is in Dutch only, can be read here.

16 October 2018

MCEC PhD Defences October-November-December 2018

In October, November and December, three MCEC PhDs will defend their PhD dissertations: Ivan Devic (UT, 26 Oct.), Jiangtao Lu (TU/e, 19 Nov.) and Robin Geitenbeek (UU, 19 Dec.). We asked them about their research, their time at MCEC and of course and the contents of their dissertation. You can read their responses below. We wish Ivan, Jiangtao and Robin all the best and good luck with their defence! 

Ivan Devic: Wetting and dewetting effects of bubbles, droplets and solids

Supervisor: Prof. Detlef Lohse

University of Twente
Friday 26 October 2018, 16:30
More information & location

Could you tell us a little more about your dissertation?
The present dissertation explores many morphological properties of bodies in the presence of capillary interactions (surface tension). We obtain stable bubble/droplet shape by minimizing its interfacial energy, which in a case of a patterned substrate gets mathematically complicated. Throughout the thesis we have used many experimental and numerical techniques. Since the field itself is still very multidisciplinary, we’ve realised many collaborations as well.”

How do you look back on your time as a MCEC PhD?
I consider myself very lucky that I got to be part of the “first MCEC generation”, since I really enjoyed spending time with my MCEC peers on our project meetings.  Even though there were too many meetings in my opinion, I never got tired of my fellow PhDs.

What is your biggest motivation?
I wish I knew.
[Excerpt from the 2016 MCEC PhD Interview for the internal newsletter.]

Have you found your biggest motivation yet?
Yes, I have. It is to use all the education obtained, to control my life; not the other way around.

What’s next?
The complete net sum of my plans are as follows: go back home, and relax. I’ve decided to take a breather before embarking on new adventures.

Jiangtao Lu: Direct numerial simulation of couled heat and mass transfer in dense gas-solid flows with surface reactions

Promotor: Prof. Hans Kuipers
Supervisor: Prof. Frank

Eindhoven University of Technology
Monday 19 November 2018, 13:30
More information & location (t.b.a.)

Could you tell us a little more about your dissertation?

An efficient ghost-cell based immersed boundary method is developed to perform direct numerical simulation of coupled heat and mass transfer problems in fluid-particle systems, which provides insights in the interplay among mass transfer, chemical transformations and heat effects.

What, to you, is the most important result from your research?
It is the first time in the research of chemical engineering that the immersed boundary method is applied to modeling of realistic catalytic reaction processes.

How do you look back on your time as a MCEC PhD?
MCEC is well organized. The autumn school every year consists both knowledge-learning and fun-enjoying. MCEC also encourages collaboration, which provides me a chance to produce a joint paper.

What do you enjoy the most about your research?
Some innovative technique never done by other people before.
[Excerpt from the 2015 MCEC PhD Interview for the internal newsletter.]

Is that still the case?
Doing something innovative has indeed been the most exciting thing during my PhD research. As I focus on modelling, writing codes and finding bugs are permanent challenges and I always enjoy those.

What’s next?
Throughout my PhD years, I found my personality is more suitable for academia. I study, and think about problems quietly, and then merge myself into the process of solving a problem. But industry requires a more outward personality, which means fast but superficial solutions, good talking skills and interacting with a lot of different people all day long. It’s something I can do, of course, but it requires changes and it might not be comfortable for me. So, I’ll probably stay in academia. In the following years, I will do a PD at ARC CBBC.

Robin Geitenbeek: Luminescence Thermometry: Fundamentals and Applications

Promotors: Prof. Andries Meijerink, Prof. Bert Weckhuysen and Prof. Alfons van Blaaderen

Utrecht University
19 December 2018, 16:15
More information & location (t.b.a.)

Could you tell us a little more about your dissertation?
My dissertation is about monitoring temperature by looking at light. We have prepared special nano- and microparticles that have temperature-dependent luminescence. By monitoring this luminescence using light microscopy we have been able to determine temperatures up to 900 K with a spatial resolution of up to at least 10 µm.

Looking back at your research, what are you most proud of?
The thing I am most proud of is the fact that a lot of people are now using the technique that I developed in Utrecht. Some of the showcases performed in my dissertation were done to demonstrate the potential of Luminescence Thermometry. However, there are also chapters in my thesis in which the research started with a problem statement and I helped by performing measurement to clarify the strange results. It seems it’s really applicable!

How do you look back on your time as a MCEC PhD?
I had a lot of fun in the MCEC group. For me, there has been added value. I enjoyed my time in Team Community, during the annual meetings and especially the social activities with my fellow MCEC colleagues.

What do you enjoy the most about your research?
Working together with people. I have a lot of students which I have to supervise and I really like to do that. Collaborations are also something I am actively looking for. At the moment I am supervising a student together with Anne-Eva. Jeroen, Anne-Eva and myself are looking at the possibilities for collaborations between our projects.
[Excerpt from the 2016 MCEC PhD Interview for the internal newsletter.]

Now that you’re (almost) done, have there been other things that you found enjoyable? Or is there maybe a different scientist or historical figure you’d like to offer a beer?
I also enjoyed writing my thesis and articles. Although it can be tedious, it also gives a lot of satisfaction once a work is finished, submitted, peer-reviewed, rewritten and finally accepted! I guess in that sense I would like to enjoy a beer now with the person who invented coffee as a drink. Really started to appreciate that more the last few months of writing!

So now that you can’t put off thinking about the future any longer (see final question in the 2016 interview), have you been able to make a well-balanced decision yet?
I actually already partially answered this question during the previous interview! I was really still in doubt what I wanted to do. I have thought about teaching and I followed some courses on this topic. However, I think I would be bored too fast with a pure teaching job. I think my new job still needs to have an element of research in there. I prefer to stay at the University (although I don’t think I would like to do a post-doc) and otherwise a job as scientist in a research institute or company also sound very appealing!