Dr. Ben Nelemans
Ben Nelemans teaches developmental biology. He is enthusiast about clear science communication, visualizing ideas, improving education material and critically expanding biological knowledge in original ways. He aims to engage students in an active learning process and to stimulate students' interest in embryonic development, while improving their scientific problem solving. His principle research interests concern morphogenesis, mechanobiology, microscopy and cell differentiation, particularly how cells are triggered to behave within living tissues. Ben obtained his master degree on Animal Biology in 2008 at Leiden University, working on evolution of digit development in reptiles and birds in the lab of Michael Richardson. He became excited about cell and evolutionary-developmental biology, and to share his passion he worked as an educational assistant at Leiden University. After some time in clinical trial regulatory affairs for biopharmaceutical Janssen Biologics, he started his PhD in 2011, at the group of Theo Smit within the department of orthopeadic surgery at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam. During his PhD, Ben worked within medical microbiology (VU), biophotonics and medical imaging (VU), oral cell biology (ACTA), and medical biology (AMC). He became interested in the contribution of mechanical forces to early vertebrate morphogenesis. For this, he developed a new chicken embryo in vitro culture and combined this with a self-made device to stretch chicken embryos during development. By manipulating the tissue tension in vivo, Ben investigated the effect of tissue growth on the segmentation of the chicken embryo. Also, he characerized the viscoelastic properties of chicken embryos, to understand the mechanical behavior of the embryo during development. Ultimately, Ben hopes to get a better insight on how embryos create and adapt their structures during development, and to share this pursuit with his students. Developmental biology is a fascinating topic and is not only fundamentally interestesting, but also contributes to future therapies in tissue engineering, wound healing, and cancer metastasis.