Winners of the Students Awards at BioEM2016

Authored by: Sarah Loughran

Published on: Feb 10, 2017

Congratulations to all of the students who won awards at the BioEM2016 meeting in Ghent, as well as the inaugural winner of the Arthur Pilla Award.

Three awards were given to students who presented their work best in the categories a) platform and b) poster presentations. We would like to thank all the judges for reviewing the student presentations. As in the last two years, student poster presenters were invited to give a short (2.5 minutes) flash presentation on the stage before they presented their posters in the poster sessions.

The 1st place oral presentation was the Joseph Morissey Memorial Award, a BEMS award sponsored and awarded by the MMF, represented by C-K. Chou; all other awards were sponsored jointly by both societies, BEMS and EBEA. Both Presidents, Nam Kim (BEMS) and Isabelle Lagroye (EBEA) presented the awards to the student award winners.

Our Award Chairs, Florence Poulletier de Gannes  (EBEA) and Marnus van Wyk  (BEMS) organized the entire process for the student awards as well as the awards ceremony.

Congratulations to all six students, to the Arthur Pillar awardee, and to all student participants for providing us with an exciting student program this year!

Arthur Pilla Young Scientist Award

Esin Sözer (1st picture on the left and right)

Platform presentation awards

1st place:  Christoph Böhmert (2nd picture on the left)
2nd place:  Soafara Andrianome (2nd picture on the right)
3rd place (shared):  Adam Verrender (3rd picture on the left) and Dominik Stunder    

Poster awards

1st place (shared):  Anna Šušnjara (5th picture on the right) and Pia Schneeweiss
3rd place:  Lynn Carr (3rd picture on the right)

The pictures show a number of the awardees receiving their awards, as well as some of them enjoying their time in Ghent! In addition, below you will find some information about each of the awardees and some reflections on the meeting.

Arthur Pilla Young Scientist Award Esin Sözer - Arthur Pilla Young Scientist Award
Christoph Böhmert - 1st place Platform presentation award Soafara Andrianome - 2nd place Platform Presentation Award
Adam Verrender - 3rd place Platform Presentation Award Lynn Carr - 3rd place poster award
Platform presentation Awardees
Arthur Pilla Young Scientist Award Anna Susnjara - 1st place Poster Award
Soafara Andrianome BioEM dinner Adam Verrender BioEM dinner


Award winners report about their research and experience at BioEM2016

Esin Sözer - Arthur Pilla Young Scientist Award Winner

I am mainly an experimentalist studying molecular transport into cells after nanosecond electropermeabilization. My research is focused on the goal of understanding the underlying mechanisms of electropermeabilization, and interaction of cellular membranes with electric fields through measurements of molecular transport. In our lab directed by Dr. P. Thomas Vernier at Old Dominion University, Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics, we use very short exposures (<10 ns) in our experiments, and we carry out molecular simulations of lipid bilayers to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying our experimental observations.

The multi-dimensional nature of the electropermeabilization experimental parameter set complicates the analysis of our experiments. For example, molecular transport continues many minutes after even after very brief nanosecond pulse exposures, that is, in the absence of an applied electric field. Post-pulse transport of small molecules is traditionally considered to be dominated by diffusion. Published efforts to validate this hypothetical mechanism with quantitative observations, however, are few in number and inconclusive. Our recent quantified measurements of electropermeabilization-induced transport of the normally impermeant fluorescent dyes propidium and YO-PRO-1 (cations) and calcein (anion) cannot be explained by models based on diffusion through pores. For my presentation of these results at the BioEM 2016 meeting in Ghent I was honored to receive the Arthur Pilla young scientist award.  I had a productive time in Ghent interacting with many great scientists in bioelectrics and bioelectromagnetics, in addition to having a lot of fun in social events that featured good food and information about rich European history in Ghent. I would like to thank the organizers for such a successful scientific gathering, and the Arthur Pilla research foundation for sponsoring this award that supports and encourages young scientists.

Esin B. Sözer
29 July 2016


Platform presentation awards

1st place: Christoph Böhmert

My areas of research are risk communication and risk perception. In the EMF-field, a relevant risk communication question is whether precautionary messages about RF-EMFs should be communicated or not. My supervisors and research mentors Peter Wiedemann (Science Forum EMF, Berlin, Germany) and Rodney Croft (Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research, Wollongong, Australia) have empirically shown that precautionary messages such as “in order to reduce your personal exposure to RF-EMFs, you can use a headset” increase people´s risk perceptions. The research for my PhD builds upon their work and tries to cast a closer look at this effect. In a recently published study we could show that this effect of precautionary messages depends on characteristics of the message recipient. Surprisingly, it is most prominent in women that are generally not very anxious. In the research project I presented at the BioEM2016 conference, we tried to change precautionary messages in order to avoid the increase in risk perception. In an experiment we tested two different texts that were supposed to achieve this. However, while one of them (increasing the message´s perceived consistency) did not affect risk perception, the other one (explaining why the recommended precautions are effective) “backfired” and increased risk perceptions of RF-EMFs. In my opinion, this finding highlights the need for empirical risk communication research in the EMF-field, as it once more shows that it is hard to tell a priori how a message will affect its recipients.

BioEM2016 was my first BioEM conference. I enjoyed it very much. It gave me a good impression of all the different research branches in which people investigate EMF bioeffects simultaneously – e.g. epidemiology, experimental studies in animals and humans and exposure research. Besides, the conference gave me the opportunity to exchange ideas with fellow PhD students and with senior researchers. I would say that the informal discussions during the breaks or at nights (with a pint of incredibly tasty Belgian beer) where probably the occasions when I learned most. Many topics in Bioelectromagnetics are really hard to understand and being able to ask “stupid questions” during informal talks was really important for me.


2nd place: Soafara Andrianome

After my pharmacist diploma from the Oran university, Algeria, I hold my Master’ s degree in Molecular Interaction and Therapeutic Research in 2013 in the University of Picardie Jules Verne in Amiens, France. After an internship in a clinical research center, I began my PhD in the end of 2013 under the supervision of Dr.  Brahim Selmaoui at the Ineris-Péritox in the Experimental Toxicology unit (TOXI) at Verneuil en Halatte. My thesis focuses on Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance with attribution to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF) also known as “electrohypersensitivity”, particularly the study of autonomic nervous, endocrine, immunological functions and sleep. To my knowledge, this is the first thesis on this topic in France, and exploration of these functions leads us to recruit IEI-EMFs and non-IEI-EMFs volunteers in order to identify biological markers and evaluate physiological functions.

The BioEM2016 in Ghent was my first international conference and I really enjoyed it. It was an opportunity I greatly appreciated to share my work with experts on the field. I discovered other teams studying the EMF related effects which really attracted my attention! I also met some students from other countries and it was the occasion to share our experience on our PhDs. During breaks, I could talk to the experts of my research topic and discussed about goals, problems as well as initiative and mostly share our experience. At the same time, I could discover this beautiful, charming place of Ghent “the little Venise of the North”!

I am greatly honored to win the second place of Plaform Award during this meeting of BioEM2016. This is obviously a great incentive for my research. This is an occasion for me to thank my excellent supervisor and of course the volunteers for their participation and without whom we would not be able to present the result of our research.

I was very happy to attend this meeting but even more by coming back to my lab with this award! I appreciated this meeting from my arrival to my departure from Ghent.


3rd place (shared): Adam Verrender

I am a PhD student at the Australian Centre for Electromagnetic Bioeffects Research, based at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, University of Wollongong. My research project focuses on the neurobiological and psychological determinants of Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance ‘attributed to’ Electromagnetic Fields (IEI-EMF), more commonly known as Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS). I am also interested in a range of bioelectromagnetic health issues, including the effect of radiofrequency exposure on human brain function and cognition, and the mechanisms associated with these effects.

At the BioEM2016 conference I presented a platform presentation outlining the results of my investigation into the possible functional consequences of pulse modulated RF-EMF exposure on human cognition. While the effect of pulse modulated RF-EMF exposure on the brains electrical activity is well established, the functional consequence of this change in neural activity has been relatively unclear. My presentation focused on the methodological issues which may have increased the error variance in previous studies, and which may explain the relatively contradictory, but mostly null results reported to date. I also discussed the methodological improvements used to overcome these issues and highlighted the importance of using replication to verify whether the results presented represent more than chance findings.

Ghent is a beautiful city and was a wonderful place to attend the annual BioEM meeting. The conference program provided excellent coverage of the very diverse field that is bioelectromagnetics. The opportunity to meet and hear from both established scientists and students about their latest research was inspiring and I was very encouraged by the feedback and support I received. As this was my first time travelling to Europe, I was amazed by the history, the gothic architecture, the cobble stone streets and the canals which wound throughout the city. The opportunity to sample some of the many different types of Belgian beer was also a highlight! I would like to thank the BioEM2016 committee for organising such an excellent conference and for the student travel support which sponsored my attendance. I’d also like to thank my awesome supervisors, Rodney Croft and Sarah Loughran, for giving me the opportunity to attend BioEM2016.


3rd place (shared): Dominik Stunder

I received my M.Sc. degree in electrical engineering from RWTH Aachen University, Germany, in 2010 and I am currently working as a PhD student at the Research Center of Bioelectromagnetic Interaction (femu) at the RWTH Aachen University Hospital. My research area is in the field of patient’s safety regarding electromagnetic interference of active implantable medical devices. Our group uses computational and experimental approaches with self-developed measurement and exposure set-ups to achieve a better understanding of the coupling between the implant system and external electric or magnetic fields (EMF). This includes in vivo studies with patients to determine implants’ specific interference thresholds.

During the BioEM 2016 conference I had the opportunity to give a platform presentation about the results of our in vivo investigation with patients wearing pacemakers (PM) or cardioverter defibrillators (ICD). We conducted regression analyses between the determined interference thresholds and different factors potentially influencing the susceptibility of PM/ICD to extremely low frequency EMF. It was the objective to identify patient-, device- or lead-depending factors which influence the risk of electromagnetic interference most. This provides new options to improve protection of PM/ICD patients exposed to EMF.

Working in the same department as the EMF-Portal team my interest is widespread in the field of Bioelectromagnetic. The BioEM2016 was therefore a unique opportunity to learn about the latest research results and to get in touch with bioelectromagnetic scientists from all over the world. Having had fruitful discussions during poster sessions, coffee breaks and the social events accompanied by the excellent food offered made it to a memorable conference.

I very much enjoyed my time at Ghent and would like to thank the BioEM2016 committee for organizing this outstanding conference.


Poster awards

1st place (shared):  Anna Šušnjara

The paper submitted for the BIOEM 2016 is a result of my PhD research interest. I am dealing with the advanced model development in Computational Electromagnetics with the strong emphasis on a combination of a standard deterministic models with the state of the art stochastic methods. The submitted paper brings the sensitivity analysis of thermal parameters in the homogeneous human brain model. The aim of the paper is to investigate to which extent the thermal parameters influence the temperature rise in the human brain when it is exposed to high frequency electromagnetic field. For the purpose of systematical stochastic analysis the deterministic homogeneous human brain model is coupled with the stochastic collocation (SC) method. BIOEM 2016 is my first big conference and time spent in Ghent was a great experience for me. The conference program was very rich both in technical part and social events. I really like the fact that people from industry, universities and also from medical background are able to share the knowledge and experience in a very pleasant atmosphere. The conference was a great opportunity to meet other people with similar interests and I am glad I established good and useful contacts with other researchers. Also, one of the most interesting parts for me was the student flash poster competiton. I am very thankful for the Best Poster Award which is a great stimuli for my further work. I am looking forward to another meeting in the future.


1st place (shared):  Pia Schneeweiss

The BioEM2016 in Ghent was my second BioEM conference which I again enjoyed very much, and the fact that I could achieve (shared) first place in the Student Poster Competition made it even more exciting and delightful for me.

The work I presented was about numerical determination of minimum distances to high-current cable arrangements which ensure compliance to occupational magnetic field exposure limits recently put in force based on the European Directive 2013/35/EU. Particularly for occupational scenarios in cramped premises, such as cable tunnels and substations workers may closely approach cable and, therefore, having at hand a set of compliance distances (as a function of the current) provides a very simple and effective tool, to avoid overexposure of workers in practice. In that sense, I am confident my work reasonably contributes to the practical implementation of occupational exposure limitation.

Apart from this very pleasant personal success, the entire BioEM 2016 conference was a very valuable scientific experience for me and I gained a lot of new insights by attending the sessions and workshops, and by talking to top scientists of the BioEM community.

I would like to thank the BEMS and EBEA, and the local organizing committee who made the BioEM 2016 possible, which was not only a great meeting from a scientific point of view but also with respect to the location (Ghent is really an enjoyable city!), the social events (including student ice breaker) and the smooth organization of the conference.

Finally, my biggest thanks go to Gernot Schmid, my supervisor and the co-author of my poster not only because I would have never worked on this project without him, but for being the best teacher I ever had without even being my teacher at all.


3rd place:  Lynn Carr

I am a member of Dr Rod O'Connor's BioEPIX lab at the University of Limoges in France. We are interested in understanding how nanosecond pulsed electric fields (nsPEF) affect cancer cells, with the aim of improving their therapeutic use. 

My work focuses on human glioblastoma, an aggressive and often treatment resistant brain cancer. In Asilomar last year I presented some preliminary work showing that nsPEF were able to disrupt microtubule growth dynamics in glioblastoma cells, which was linked to the induction of apoptotic cell death. To understand how nsPEF affect these dynamics I participated, last summer, in a visiting scientist scheme at Janelia Research Campus's Advanced Imaging Center in Virginia. Here we used their 3D structured illumination microscope, a super resolution technique, to visualise individual microtubules within living cells. Following nsPEF application we observed microtubules bending, breaking and then depolymerising. This year's conference, in Ghent, gave me the opportunity to present this potential mechanism to the nanopulse community and to hear their valuable feedback.

BioEM's varied scientific programme, mix of experts from different fields of bioelectromagnetics and friendly atmosphere made for an ideal environment to be exposed to new research, to discuss ideas, make new contacts and reconnect with old ones. Ghent itself is a beautiful and fun city and fortunately there are still quite a few Belgium beers left to be sampled for a return visit. The conference left me motivated for a summer of thesis writing and for my defence in December (anyone looking for a motivated Post-Doc for next year please get in touch...). 

I would like to thank the BioEM2016 committee for organising the conference and for the generous student support that allowed me to attend. I would also like to thank the organisers of the student party, after last year's party, held in an underground car park, and this year's, in a laundrette, I'm very interested in the venue for next year!