Wetenschap - 14 februari 2002

English summary

The Student Council and the Representative Council both voted last week to approve the new building plans of the executive board of the University.

A budget of 135 million euro will be used to build new accommodation for the departments of environmental sciences, agrotechnology and nutrition, and plant sciences, on the old DLO complex 'De Born'. In addition, a new Aula is to be built opposite the university Administration Office. The Supervisory Board still needs to approve the plan, and then work can start on grouping the university departments near their sister research institutes, as well as a new education building with a central library.

Computer theft from university buildings remains a problem. As a result rooms with computers are kept locked, even during office hours.

This means that students have to find a lecturer who has a key to a computer room, and that they cannot always have access to a computer whenever they want. The main problem is the lack of surveillance; locking rooms is the only way to reduce the amount of theft. One exception is the Computechnion, where computers are accessible during the day and also in the evening, as there is surveillance. Paul Deneer of the Education and Student Affairs Office is looking into practical solutions to make more computers available to students.

Jeroen Saeij of the Cell Biology and Immunology group is doing research on how parasites overpower the immune system of their host.

Instead of approaching the matter from the human side Saeij tries to put himself in the position of the parasite, in this case the single-celled Trypanoplasma borreli. Carp infected with this parasite die in a way that resembles sleeping sickness in humans. Saeij found out how T. borreli does this: it forces the immune cells in the carp to drastically increase the amount of nitrogen monoxide produced, causing death. When Saeij gave the infected carp a substance that blocked the manufacture of nitrogen dioxide forty percent survived, although they did not completely recover. This research is contributing to fundamental knowledge on resistance of immune systems to parasites.

Bio-assays are not necessarily the best way of assessing the level of biodiversity in riverbeds, according to Dr Edwin Peeters of the Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management group.

Assays in which water fleas or mosquito lava are exposed to riverbed sludge reflect less than two percent of the biodiversity. Chemical analysis of polluting substances in riverbed sludge provides information on about 14 percent of the total picture. Peeters analysed statistics collected during the 1990s in the area between Hollands Diep and the Biesbosch. It is the first time that the impact of dangerous substances on riverbed life has been quantified, and the results are disturbing. Pollution must be tackled if a sustainable ecosystem is to be achieved, says Peeters.

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