With the annual Flemish PhD Cup, SciMingo challenges researchers to share the essence of their recently completed PhD with the world. Ten judges have examined a whopping 53 entries in this eighth edition of the pitch competition and selected sixteen candidates, including three UAntwerp scientists: Tim Boogaerts (Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences), Annelies Augustyns (Faculty of Arts) and Enis Ukshini (Faculty of Science).
Sewer water, diaries and a saxophone robot
Each of the three UAntwerp researchers will try to convince the judges with their relevant and original research. Tim Boogaerts studied our sewer water to determine how effective COVID-19 safety measures have really been. Boogaerts: 'Our sewer water contains a wealth of information about our use, health and lifestyle: from alcohol and drugs to pharmaceuticals and COVID-19. By examining waste water, we can find out a lot about all the people connected to the sewage system.'
Our sewer water contains a wealth of information about our use, health and lifestyle: from alcohol and drugs to pharmaceuticals and COVID-19.
Annelies Augustyns examined a vast collection of diaries from the era of National Socialism. 'Life inside the concentration camps has been documented extensively, but how did Jewish people live in German cities before they were deported?' asks Augustyns. 'Were they somehow able to deal with the new restrictive measures in creative ways, or were they completely oppressed by Hitler's regime?'
Finally, Enis Ukshini delved into reed vibration and objective parameters to describe the playability of mouthpieces. 'The complex shape of the saxophone mouthpiece has a huge influence on the vibrations of the reed and are key to the unique sound of this versatile instrument,' Ukshini explains. 'In my work, I developed an automated saxophone robot that allowed me to determine parameters that objectively describe the properties of mouthpieces. On that basis, it is possible to create shapes for new mouthpiece designs that would open the door to all kinds of new artistic possibilities.'
Grand finale in Brussels
Under the watchful eye of a panel of judges including Lieven Vandenhaute (Radio 1) and Katleen Bracke (University of Flanders), the grand final will be held in Brussels on 19 October. The winner will receive a €5000 Vlerick Business School voucher, an invitation to record a video lecture for the University of Flanders, and a book publishing opportunity with Academia Press.
Of course, the selected PhD graduates are not just thrown in at the deep end. For four days, they will receive media training from experts including VRT journalists Tim Pauwels and Koen Wauters and weather presenter Jacotte Brokken.