Belgian bio-engineer receives Young Researcher Award


The Belgian doctoral student Merel Van Walleghem has received European Space Agency’s (ESA) Young Researcher Award. The young bio-engineer of Ghent University (UGent) was given the prize for her research on the consequences of space travel on the immune system.

In her PhD research, Merel Van Walleghem simulates the stressors in space, in order the map the consequences for the immune system. In space there is no gravity, air pressure or radiation protection, causing the immune system to not function properly. Bacteria, viruses or moulds are given free rein.

Merel Van Walleghem presented her research at the 'Life in space for life on earth' conference in ESA's main building in Toulouse in France. The conference was organized by ESA (European Space Agency), CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales) and ISGP (International Society for Gravitational Physiology).

The Belgian doctoral student is not only active at UGent, but also within the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN). With her research, she is hoping to contribute to improving the health of astronauts in the international space station (ISS).