Moving forward in NL

Co-organized by the Huygens Talent Circle (Hutac), the alumni association of the Huygens Scholarship programme, the ‘The Moving Forward’ conference aims to provide essential information and resources to young talented (international) people who recently joined or will join the labour market.

Although the Huygens Scholarship is no longer available for international students, Hutac remains a strong network of international talent, providing other significant benefits to international students in the Netherlands. “Hutac is a truly unique multicultural and interdisciplinary organization aimed at enriching outstanding individuals’ experiences and inspiring the innovative and talented minds of tomorrow,” explains Ebru Dargan, Hutac’s marketing and communication coordinator.

There seems to be an undeniable gap in the system, whereby international students do not have the access to complete and relevant information about staying in the Netherlands after graduating. This conference aims to bridge that gap. “We’ve seen that for previous international students, getting the right information about how to stay in the Netherlands has proved to be a treacherous and complex process,” Dargan says. “Consequently, the idea is to give them an overview of all the rules and regulations for staying here after their studies.”

Often, for example, both Dutch and international students struggle to fine tune their CVs and understand what aspects of their CVs various companies will focus on. Getting to speak to professionals from various companies at the conference will help students adjust their CVs and job-market approaches, accordingly.

The conference will also orientate students about the Dutch labor market by providing detailed information about specific sectors open to them. Students can also talk with other international students about their study experiences, internship opportunities and issues finding jobs in the Netherlands, and Dutch and international speakers will discuss how working in the Netherlands differs from working elsewhere, exploring the difficulties and advantages.

If you think you are young and talented, intend to stay in the Netherlands and want to exchange ideas and gather pertinent job market information, this conference is for you. 

‘The Moving Forward’ conference will be held in Amsterdam at the Regardz Olympisch Stadion on 21 April. Registration for the conference begins on 5 April.

How better to kill two birds with one stone? When using algae to clean sewage water, one can also retrieve energy from the broth by squeezing out the oil from the algae and thus producing biodiesel. This is what Eric Lannan, a mechanical engineer at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, is attempting to do. He identified three types of microalgae that efficiently convert nutrients to fuel on a diet of municipal waste water, New Scientist reports. 

Biotechnologist and waste water expert, Professor Mark van Loosdrecht (Applied Sciences), is however extremely skeptical: “Producing biodiesel is a hype at the moment. It’s understandable that researchers who claim they can produce this fuel while cleaning water at the same time get lots of attention and funding. But I don’t think that this combination has any potential.”

One of the problems that the Americans face – and many other researchers, according to Van Loosdrecht, as well as a handful of Dutch start up companies experimenting with this technique – is that not all microalgae produce oil. Many algae produce sugar, which is of no use. “Everybody can cultivate algae. Just make a pond in your garden and in no time it is full of it,” the professor says. “The trick is to have it filled with exactly the right species.”

In order to keep the right species in the treatment pond, one must continuously add fresh microalgae that produce the oil. Otherwise, other (unwanted) algae will take the upper hand. Van Loosdrecht: “The researchers will have to cultivate their algae under very strict conditions and ensure that no contamination occurs. This costs lots of energy and effort.”

Sewage water is not very clear water either, to say the least. So sunlight is also a problem. Some filtration to remove the organic carbon from the water is necessary before the algae can get to work. “Yet when you do this, you also remove some of the phosphates and nitrates on which the algae feed,” Prof. van Loosdrecht explains. “You end up with water which contains about 20 milligrams of nitrate per liter. With this you can produce 200 milligrams of algae that consist for half of their mass of oil. So you end up with 100 milligram of biodiesel per liter. And for this you need a lot of pumping, filtering, etc. It’s very questionable whether you really produce energy with this technique.”

But one must clean the water and that costs energy. Isn’t it therefore better to cut your losses by recuperating some of that energy in the form of biodiesel? Van Loosdrecht doesn’t think so. He believes it’s easier to simply grow string algae, which are less picky about their environments: “What’s more, it’s much easier to remove these algae from the water, because they are much bigger, and hence the filtration technique costs less energy. And once you have harvested these algae you can use them to produce methane.”

Though Van Loosdrecht remains skeptical, he himself is leading a research project aimed at cultivating algae for biodiesel production. “But we’re not focusing on sewage water”, he says. “Our technique will focus on water to which the right nutrients are added or maybe eventually also on waste water from certain industries. We’re now trying to find out under what conditions oil producing algae outcompete other algae and why. By doing so we hope we will be able to create a stable growing system to which you don’t need to add new algae all the time.”

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