Award for TU professor Doris van Halem

TU Delft’s own Dr. Doris van Halem was recently honoured with an award by the For Women in Science Fellowship Programme. The award, an initiative of Dutch L’Oréal and UNESCO, is one of two given each year to female scientists in the Netherlands.

Established in 2012, the award programme is run with the help of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS). In the Netherlands, the number of female professors is around 16%, while at TU Delft it is around 19%. Through their grants of up to €25,000, L’Oréal-UNESCO hopes to contribute to increasing those numbers. According to their website, “The participation of women in scientific research is essential for the economic, social and cultural development of a country. Even though women these days achieve the highest academic level, they are under-represented at all levels of scientific research.”

As an assistant professor in the Sanitary Engineering Section, it is Van Halem’s work towards producing safe drinking water in developing countries that led to her being recognized with a grant this year. “I have always known that I wanted to contribute to global challenges and during my studies at the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences (CiTG) I became fascinated about drinking water treatment,” she said. Since 2006 she has been involved in research of low-cost ceramic membranes, which are produced in developing countries using local materials like clay, sawdust and wood ovens.

According to Van Halem, these filters are very capable of removing larger organisms from the water, including protozoa and bacteria. However, virus removal is still a challenge. “At present we are investigating – also with a Delft Global Fellowship – how to achieve log removal of viruses,” she said. “With the For Women in Science fellowship I will investigate how nano metal particles can be used in the ceramic membrane matrix to improve virus removal.”

The fellowship gives Van Halem the opportunity to spend three to five months at the campus of NIAS. “This period will allow me to spend time on reading and writing, but more importantly discuss my ideas with fellow researchers from different disciplines,” she said. “NIAS has a long history in providing a fruitful environment for researchers, and I am confident that it will be an inspirational period for me.”

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