Renske puts research into practice through the UT’s TechMed Centre

Renske van Wijk is a driven project leader who likes to turn theory into practice as quickly as possible. She does this as a part of the TechMed Centre at the University of Twente. Although she is not originally from Twente, she fits in perfectly with Twente’s entrepreneurial scientific landscape. In the meantime, Twente has become home to Renske. She is very proud of the universities’ achievements, and the environment and accessible people make her happy to live in Twente. Want to know more about her motives, interesting research topics, and surprising results? Read on below.

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In short

  • Renske works at the TechMed Centre of the UT, which was recently opened by King Willem-Alexander.
  • She works as a project manager for the TOPFIT Citizenlab on solutions aimed at disease prevention. The lab works closely with citizens of Twente.
Scientific roots

Renske van Wijk has a passion for research but does not lose sight of the practical side. She prefers to think outside the box. The beaten track is not interesting to her. This headstrong attitude and drive for innovation fit right in with the Twente landscape, even though she was born and raised in Oosterhout, Noord-Brabant. After high school, Renske went to Maastricht to study Health Sciences with a specialisation in Human Movement Sciences. She combined this with the Physiotherapy course at the University of Applied Sciences in Heerlen. This combination fits her like a glove. In this way, she could make a connection between the theory and way of thinking in science and the application in practice, and work on relevant outcomes. After that, she also completed the master’s in Human Movement Sciences. But how did she eventually end up in Twente?

PhD research in Twente

After her studies, Renske went looking for a job that suited her. She wanted to do research with great relevance for the patient. Eventually, she came across the perfect PhD research at the University of Twente: “The reason I chose for Twente was purely the content of the research I could do here. It was a lot more appealing than the PhD research I could have started in Nijmegen.” Her PhD research focused on the usefulness of helmet treatment for babies with skull deformation.

Surprising result

The surprising result of this study was that the helmet that was customary in treating skull deformation in babies, does not contribute to natural recovery process. Renske’s research won prizes and received a lot of media attention, also internationally.

 “It was an intensive process, but I was never reluctant to continue working. Especially now that I have a child myself, I understand parents’ concerns very well.”

“You just want to be sure you are doing the best thing for your child, so it feels nice to advise people that doing nothing may also be a good thing, even if it feels unnatural. For these parents, but also the various healthcare professionals involved, the results of my research were certainly significant.”

TechMed Centre

It took Renske a while to figure out what she wanted to do after this. She felt at home in Twente. “Something that always stayed with me is a question I received during my PhD research from a former fellow student: “When can you leave that place again?”. It felt like a weird, biased question. Why should I want to leave? Twente is a beautiful region, and the people are accessible. I love cycling, and the environment here is perfect for that.” Eventually, she found her place at the MIRA Institute, now called the TechMed Centre. Renske is still involved in research, but with a special focus on cooperation with the government, businesses, healthcare institutions, and citizens. In this way, Renske works on relevant solutions that contribute to health and well-being.

The perfect testing ground

Since Renske deeply values research valorisation, the University of Twente was a perfect match for her. It is for good reason that the UT has been voted the most entrepreneurial university in the Netherlands for the fourth time in a row. Renske is very proud of such achievements at the university: “But I am also proud when I see talented researchers or students speak at, for example, the ‘Dies Natalis’, or hear about new, promising collaborations that are awarded attractive scholarships.” As a project manager of the TOPFIT Citizenlab, she is involved in “Citizen science”, in which citizens play an active role in research. In this way, science and society become more connected. The research aims to prevent disease and disease burden, and the helping role that technology can play in this. According to Renske, Twente is the perfect testing ground for her field. “Everything is present here in Twente. The care industry is complete, but also compact enough to be well-organised. You can easily work together with the entire ecosystem here.”

Opening TechMed Centre

The TechMed Centre officially opened on November 29, 2019. King Willem-Alexander was a special guest at this opening. Since cooperation is an important pillar for the TechMed Centre and the UT, the attendees opened the building together with the king.

“It was a fantastic day! The royal visit to our organisation made me feel proud.”

Renske herself also briefly spoke to the king. “That was very special. He is well aware of the topics we discussed and asked relevant questions. At the same time, he appears accessible”. The TechMed Centre is an imposing building that inspires and encourages the people who work and study there to collaborate. “For the successful spin-off Micronit, for example, the move to a centre focused on applying technology for better health is a logical move, something they would like to be part of.”

Innovation

You can also find a simulated hospital environment in the TechMed Centre. In addition to education and training, research can also be conducted there in a low-threshold manner by various external parties, which of course drives innovation. “For example, you can experiment with a robot in an MRI, like spin-off Machnet Medical Robotics does”. If this research took place in a real hospital, the threshold would be much higher. Spin-offs are also the perfect place to get a job after studying at the university. Ofteh, a lot of research is done, but you also immediately get exposed to the business world. 

A passion for Twente

Renske and her husband, originally not from Twente either, were both enthralled by Twente. It was clearly visible during their wedding. They got married near Ootmarsum, the most beautiful part of Twente according to Renske. “We hoped to spend two beautiful days in Twente with our friends and family, to help them understand even better how nice it is here.” What do you think, mission accomplished?

Date: 17 December 2019
Source of tekst: Renske van Wijk
Author: Twente.com
Audio / video: Eric Brinkhorst