van Amerongen Lab - Developmental, Stem Cell & Cancer Biology

- Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences - University of Amsterdam -  
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The lab turns 9

Today marks the official 9 year anniversary of the Wntlab, counting from when Renée started her tenure track at the University of Amsterdam. On to our second lustrum!

1 November, 2022


Update from the midst of the busiest teaching season: team work for the win

There is never a good time to get sick, but the busiest teaching season definitely is not the time - and COVID brain fog and fatigue are definitely real!

Together, Thijs and Renée managed to get all of the teaching done in both the Frontiers in Biomedical Sciences BSc track and the Developmental and Therapeutic Biology MSc track. This included a couple of new lectures on gastruloids, organoids and multi-omics for developmental biology on top of our already existing lectures on stem cells, Nodal/Bmp and Wnt signaling. With Yorick taking the lead in whipping a new developmental (epi)genomics assignment into shape, we managed to expand our contribution to the DTB course ‘Shaping a Human’ (coordinated by Roelof-Jan Oostra at the Amsterdam University Medical Center AMC), while dropping the minimum amount of balls. We think.

28 October, 2022


Dutch chromatin meeting 2022

Marleen and Renée attended the 19th Dutch chromatin meeting in Leiden, where Marleen also presented a poster on our successful efforts to dissect the tissue-specific regulation of Wnt4 gene expression in the mammary gland.
Do not fear you missed it, Wnt aficionados, because the poster will soon be coming to the EMBO meeting on WNT signaling in Japan, where Marleen and Tanne will represent the lab and present their work.

As for the Dutch chromatin meeting: it was a day full of inspiring talks with plenty of opportunity to talk to old, new and we-met-on-Twitter faces. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the meeting and to celebrate that, it is returning to Amsterdam at the initiative of its founder, Maike Stam. Renée will co-organize this edition together with Maike Stam and Frank Jacobs. More on that in due time.

27 October, 2022


NWO wetenschapscommunicatie

Renée attended the NWO national science communication day in Den Haag (The Hague). While the plenary sessions (including a presentation by image sleuth and scientific integrity consultant Elisabeth Bik) and the breakout rooms were informative (including a working session on the newly formed/forming national center for science communication spearheaded by Alex Verkade and Ionica Smeets), the event was slightly overshadowed by the fact that Renée probably caught COVID there. We are all about cell to cell communication, but this is not what we had in mind.

10 October, 2022


Knowledge videos / Onderwijsvernieuwing

After wrapping up our Frontiers in Medical Biology wetlab practicals with the entire lab, Renée spent the remainder of the afternoon recording two "kennisclips" with Vincent Blum and Edwin van Lacum .



These kennisclips are short, (hopefully) informative videos that should help next year’s students prepare even better before getting to the lab. They should also come in handy now that the Frontiers track is offered as a Minor Biomedical Sciences, meaning that in addition to being the fundamental research track for our third year Biomedische Wetenschappen students, it is also an elective for other students from the Netherlands and abroad, who come in with a variety of backgrounds.

Our first two videos? Two classics! How to operate the fluorescence microscope and how to do an H&E staining. For extra pizazz and playfulness, we also shot some footage with a GoPro. Good luck to Edwin with editing the gazillion takes into something with decent continuity!

7 October, 2022


Weekend van de Wetenschap: De Melkfabriek

While the lab certainly does not have a shortage of outreach activities, this year we took part in the Science Park Open Day during the Weekend van de Wetenschap (Dutch National Weekend of Science) for the first time.

We joined forces with the lab of Aniko Korosi for the occasion, to talk to the general public about the dynamic beauty of breast development and lactation physiology (and of course we slipped in the occasional fun fact about hidden (whale), absent (platypus) or third (some celebrities) nipples on our poster.

The best part, however, was getting to share the joy of exploration and discovery with our visitors ranging from 4 to well over 40, as they got the opportunity to look at mammary gland tissue samples under the microscope. Steady traffic and interest for five straight hours!.

1 October, 2022


Coming up: Weekend van de Wetenschap and Poëzie onder de Microscoop

There are multiple opportunities for the general public to come meet us in October, so come and join us at one of the following events and ask us everything you have always wanted to ask a biologist (we may have partial answers to some of your questions).

On Saturday 1 October we will be at the Science Park Open Day as part of the national Science Weekend (Weekend van de Wetenschap). We are teaming up with the lab of Aniko Korosi for the occasion. So come to us with all your questions about molecules, cells and tissues - and in particular if you want to know how the mammary gland (a.k.a. the breast) grows and develops and ultimately produces milk (and what is in the milk).
https://opendagamsterdamsciencepark.nl
https://opendagamsterdamsciencepark.nl/uva-fnwi/

Then on Tuesday 11 October, we return to Spui 25 for a reprise of our outreach event "poëzie onder de microscoop" (in Dutch). Our current artist-in-residence, Rosa Schogt, and Renee talk about the link between poetry and science and the language and images that scientists and artists use. Tanne will be moderating the evening.
https://spui25.nl/programma/poezie-onder-de-microscoop-reprise



Unfortunately the SPUI25 event had to be cancelled because too few people signed up for the evening. We are trying to reschedule the event at a later time.

21 September, 2022


Lab trip to Fabrique des Lumieres

In the last quiet week of summer, before the students are back on campus and the teaching starts, we went to the Westergasfabriek to visit the Klimt/Hundertwasser exhibit by Fabrique des Lumieres.


It was immersive and comes highly recommended with thumbs up from all of us. These few stills containing mammary glands really do not do the whole thing justice.

The weather was also still nice so we had a relaxing lunch outside to catch up on what we had been doing during our summer breaks.

1 September, 2022


Goodbye students

Spring passed quickly and updating the website did not get priority.
We did celebrate the arrival and goodbye of our students with drinks and lunches at De Polder, but their pictures never made it onto the website before the end of the academic year.


Luckily we did manage to take this pretty group picture at the end of March before the blossom fell out of the trees so we have a good record of the 2021-2022 cohort!

Thanks for all the exciting science and good times. We wish everyone the best as they continue on in their careers.

31 August, 2022


NWO XL grant awarded

This year saw multiple grant applications and just as many rejections. Despite what Renée told everyone, it turned out she was not yet dulled and the blows still hurt.

Luckily, the reverse also turned out to be true and Thijs and Renée were ecstatic to learn that after a pre-proposal, full proposal, solid interview prep and a stressful but not unpleasant in person interview (which Renée also attended in May), our NWO-XL consortium grant - together with Hendrik Marks (our tireless consortium coordinator and lead applicant from Nijmegen), Simon van Heeringen (also Nijmegen), Jop Kind (Hubrecht) and Tineke Lenstra (NKI) - has been granted.


This picture was taken when we heard the news but it was still under embargo. That called for a quick celebration before other events would dampen the excitement!

This means there is some very exciting embryonic development coming the way of our lab!
We will probably be hiring a new PhD student early in 2023.

Official UvA press release: click here.

Official summary (in Dutch, voor leken) from the NWO website:

30 July, 2022


Summertime journal club

Summer has arrived and the teaching semester is almost over. Time to switch gears and have journal club the way it must have been intended: outside, on a terras, with coffee/tea and apple pie.

6 July, 2022


Lab BBQ

With the first students approaching the end of their internship, Tanne again hosted our annual lab BBQ. Good times were had by all.

7 June, 2022


Gordon Research Conference on Mammary Gland Biology

Renée travelled to Tuscany, for one of her favorite conferences (and conference locations...), hoping she would not get stuck at Il Ciocco with a positive COVID-19 test (because nobody can afford that).
Luckily this did not happen and Renée chaired a session at the 2022 GRC on Mammary Gland Biology organized by Maria del Mar Vivanco and Bea Howard. Thank you for your tenacity as this was obviously another example of a conference that should have happend two years earlier...

30 May, 2022


Conference travel is back - but science has changed

Spring saw a huge storm in the Netherlands, war in Europe, and the return of in person scientific meetings. The first conferences still felt a bit awkward... do we mask or not? Everyone probably got used to their personal space having a 1.5 meter radius, so sitting side by side in a conference room did take some getting used to.


Renée travelled to Edinburgh by train, as she was an invited speaker at the (long postponed) annual meeting of the UK Genetics Society. Three days with experts on gen(om)e regulation - awesome!


At the end of April, the whole lab travelled to Switzerland for the ENBDC workshop in Weggis. Renée enjoyed seeing old(er) and familiar faces again, while the rest of the lab finally got the chance to meet others in the European mammary gland biology and breast cancer community. Luckily the weather did not disappoint and we could also hike up mount Rigi to enjoy the views.

Zoom seminars are probably here to stay, and Renée was able to also still squeeze in a talk in Sweden on the day before traveling to Switzerland, hosted by Claudio Cantu.
In the summer we followed up by having a shared lab meeting. We do hope to be able to meet up in Linköping or Amsterdam some day though!

30 April, 2022


Financial support for our artist in residency program

We are excited to announce that the Amsterdams Universiteitsfonds has decided to support our application for continuation of our artist in residency program. This means that, with some additional support from FNWI science communication, we can now offer a stipend to next year’s artist (and to our current artist, Rosa Schogt - thank you for being our adventurous guinea pig!).

We know that artists cannot work for free, so having something other than exciting science to offer makes it a lot nicer to recruit new people. In the fall we will launch a call for artists that are physically located in the Netherlands and that are interested in the crossover between art and science.

11 April, 2022


Welcome students!

All of the new students have started their internships, which we celebrated by going out for lunch in De Polder. Time for a quick (because cold and very windy) group picture - alas not fully complete because, well, corona. Better luck next lunch.



We hope that there will be more light (or rather: space) on the horizon as the lab is again at full occupancy and we are still trying to keep 1.5 meters distance...

Thanks to everyone for sticking with it and continuing to make the best of this whole situation! Stay calm, and keep pipetting.

8 February, 2022


In which we present our artist in residence project to the world

Rosa and Renée presented the first results of the artist in residency at SPUI25. There was room for a small live audience, with others watching the livestream at home.



The topic of the evening was "Poezie onder de microscoop" (or "poetry under the microscoop"), in which we asked the question: is the lab a place for poetry? Wat can science and poetry learn from each other?



We especially liked how interactive the evening was - so thank you to all the audience members for actively participating in the discussion and thank you to Gemma Venhuizen for moderating the evening.

This first presentation has left us hungry for more, so ware are now contemplating ways to follow up. Yes, we are available for parties and conferences and meetings.

You can still watch the recording of the evening here:
https://spui25.nl/programma/poezie-onder-de-microscoop

The first blog posts inspired by this evening have also appeared online:
The first based on the question whether our science is actually already art can be found here and the second one inspired by a technical glitch in the matrix can be found here (both in Dutch).

1 February, 2022



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