Thirteen PhD students will start with a Mosaic 2.0 grant for their PhD research. The PhD scholarship programme aims to promote the further development of an inclusive work environment within Dutch universities and is open for the group of graduates with a migration background from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Turkey, who are underrepresented in the Netherlands.


The studies cover the entire breadth of science: from timely treatment of asymptomatic heart failure to community care for refugee women who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence.

These are the 8 project that will contribute to medical research and health care innovations:

The involvement of a new B-blood cell in multiple sclerosis
Tom Halperin Msc, Dept. of Anatomy & Neurosciences, Amsterdam UMC, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Multiple sclerosis is a severe, neurological disorder affecting young adults and causing cognitive and motoric disability. The cause of the disease is, despite extensive research, still unknown. The researchers will use human tissue from brain and blood donors to investigate how a newly discovered group of immune cells (B1- cells) contribute to the disease progression. In addition, they will use modern biomedical and high-resolution microscopy techniques to characterize these cells inside the brain. Ultimately, the researchers hope to identify new treatment targets for MS.

Care for peer support: organizing community care for refugee women with experiences of sexual and gender based violence
Zahra Khazai MSc, Amsterdam UMC-Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Worldwide the number of refugees is increasing. Refugee women are at continuous risk for experiencing sexual and gender based violence (SGBV), and SGBV has enormous consequences for their health, integration and participation. Refugee women experience barriers in accessing formal care and simultaneously, their social networks are limited. Peer support groups are an accessible way for support and discussing SGBV. Although community care organizations know how to reach these women, barriers exist for structural implementation of peer support groups. In this project, the accessibility of peer support groups for these women and their implementation in care chains will be explored.

Timely recovery after subclinical heart failure (TREASURE)
Zenab Mohseni-Alsalhi MSc, Maastricht University Medical Center+ (MUMC+)
The women specific risk factor preeclampsia (PE) relates to a 2-7 fold increased risk of cardiovascular diseases at a relatively young age. During PE, there is an unfavorable increase in heart muscle mass leading to less compliant heart, a condition preceding clinical heart failure. In almost half of affected women, this impairment does not resolve after delivery. The blood pressure hormone angiotensin plays a central role in the development of this form of heart failure. The TREASURE trail aims to investigate whether asymptomatic HF in formerly preeclamptic women can be reversed by Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors treatment.

Hitting the mark: Introducing Artificial Intelligence and state-of-the-art MRI techniques for Precision Radiotherapy of Glioblastoma
Patrick Tang MSc , Erasmus MC, Rotterdam
Glioblastomas (a highly malignant brain tumor) are notorious for their tumor infiltration, where tumor extends into adjacent normal-appearing brain tissue. As tumor infiltration is not visible on conventional MRI-scans, a safety margin of 1.5-cm is always added to the visible tumor when the target area for radiotherapy is defined. In this research, the aim is to eliminate this one-size-fits-all approach and assess the potential of artificial intelligence and state-of-the-art MRI techniques to more accurately define the target area for each individual patient. By only targeting what needs to be targeted, the development of side-effects caused by radiotherapy could be reduced.

Mind the Body: Investigating and targeting cognitive and affective disturbances in youth social anxiety.
Ruya Akdag MSc, Institute Developmental and Educational Psychology, Leiden University
Adolescents with social anxiety avoid social situations and are often rejected by their peers, resulting in loneliness, low well-being, and low quality of life. To prevent this, the current project investigates whether social anxiety is influenced by cognitive and affective disturbances and whether the regulation of both disturbances via accessible digital interventions can help adolescents learn to cope with their social anxiety.

What is needed for good care around sexuality and reproduction of girls and women in the refugee camp of Mavrovouni on Lesbos?
Dr Jamilah Sherally, Athena Institute Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Girls and women in refugee camps are at high risk of sexual violence, unwanted pregnancy and poor
reproductive and pregnancy care. To find out what is needed to enable good care in the Mavrovouni camp on Lesbos, experiences and opinions of all stakeholders are researched: (1) health problems, needs, experiences and barriers to care among refugees, using a household survey, group interviews and innovative participatory techniques, and (2) experiences and possibilities of care providers through systematic evaluation of facilities and interviews with service providers and stakeholders involved in care organization. Together with all stakeholders, recommendations for improvement are co-created.

Under our skin: the role of somatosensory strategies in optimizing stress regulation at the onset of adolescence
Mercedes Beltrán MSc, Utrecht University
In a world where youth stress levels are rising this project asks an urgent question: How can we help
children and young adolescents cope with stress? This research aims to investigate how certain behaviors (such as self-touch, biting your lips, constant movement or fidgeting) can help to reduce stress and how we can use this knowledge to promote optimal stress regulation in children.

Livebearing fish shed light on the mystery of placental tolerance
Dr Marwa Ahmed, Wageningen University and Research
The tolerance of the immune system to a fetus is puzzling for scientists. The fetus is closely connected to the mother through the placenta and presents itself as part of the father's foreign material to the mother's immune system. An immune response and rejection of the partly foreign body fetus would be expected, but this does not happen during a healthy pregnancy. In this study we want to investigate how this tolerance was created by the immune system during evolution. We investigate this by comparing fish species with and without placenta from the livebearing fish family Poeciliidae.

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