The WAU has to concentrate its research along thematic lines, and has to choose between agribusiness & food science or rural development. This advice from the Dutch council for agricultural research, NRLO, was discussed last week in Wageningen. The consolidation is necessary to meet the increased international competition in science and technology. Most research directors, however, are interested in both areas of research. According to Professor Louise Fresco, the university should focus on global food security and environmental changes. The university should be involved in development programmes all over the world, but always in cooperation with other European or local research units, Fresco stated.
The WAU departments in biomolecular sciences have opened a centre for microspectroscopic research, together with colleagues from the University of Leiden. Research institutes and companies can hire expertise and equipment to measure biomolecular interactions between proteins, fats, carbohydrates and DNA. The university has little money to invest in biomolecular research," says coordinator of the centre, Professor Colja Laane. We had to invent something, so we came up with sharing our equipment."
Soccer club Ajax is facing great difficulties with the quality of the grass in the Arena sports ground. The grass won't grow, because both light and air are limited in the stadium. Grassland specialists in Wageningen know how to handle this problem. Agricultural technician Willem Tonk has even made a sketch of a new installation that would provide sufficient carbon dioxide for the grass. Together with reflecting curtains in the stadium, which bounce the sunlight into the tub, the grass can really grow. In fact, grass is quite an anxious kind of plant," says Tonk, who has worked on the metabolism of plants for many years.
The university wants to promote problem-oriented education, so that students learn to work together with other disciplines on an integrated issue. This PGO education is difficult to arrange in practice: most courses are tightly linked to one of the eighteen programmes and bridges between programmes are scarce. The education committee has now proposed creating a special unit, which would work as a broker between projects on the one hand and programmes that can contribute on the other hand. But critics fear that this new unit may hinder the motivation of lecturers to deal with the issue themselves.