Developmental Biology

a worm


Ben Nelemans

Utrecht University
Kruytgebouw O511
Padualaan 8
3584 CH  Utrecht
The Netherlands


Dr. Ben Nelemans

Ben Nelemans teaches developmental biology, evolution and anatomy/physiology. He aims to engage students in an active learning process and to stimulate students' interest in organismal development, while improving their scientific problem solving. He is enthusiastic about clear science communication, visualizing ideas, improving education material and critically expanding biological knowledge in original ways. He loves coaching his students to develop their academic skills and knowledge in an open way.

His primary research interests concern morphogenesis, evolution of development (evo-devo), mechanobiology, microscopy and cell differentiation, particularly how cells are triggered to behave within living tissues.

Ben obtained his master degree in Animal Biology in 2008 at Leiden University, working on the evolution of digit development in reptiles and birds in the lab of prof. Michael Richardson. He became excited about cell and evolutionary developmental biology, and to share this passion he worked as an educational assistant at Leiden University. After some time working in clinical trial regulatory affairs for biopharmaceutical Janssen Biologics, he started his PhD in 2011, at the group of prof. Theo Smit within the department of Medical Biology at the Amsterdam UMC Medical Center. 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 characterized 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 interesting, but also contributes to our philosophical understanding of nature, future therapies in tissue engineering, wound healing, and cancer metastasis.