Karlijn Keijzer Scriptieprijs awarded to Mayra van Wakeren

At 30 January, the fourth Karlijn Keijzer Scriptieprijs will be presented to Mayra van Wakeren, MSc student in Drug Discovery and Safety (DDS) at Vrije Universiteit, by Jacqueline Keijzer, mother of Karlijn Keijzer.

01/22/2019 | 12:59 PM

Mayra is a first-year MSc student specializing in Drug Disposition and Safety Assessment. Last year she finished her BSc study in Pharmaceutical Sciences cum laude, after having performed a very successful graduation research project in the division of Molecular and Computational Toxicology. During this project she investigated the role of glutathione transferase (GST) enzymes in the detoxification of tricresyl phosphates (TCPs). TCPs are e.g. used as plasticizers, flame retardants and lubricants. Hence, people can be exposed to these substances professionally and/or through the environment. Already at low doses, TCPs can cause neurotoxic effects in humans. However, according to WHO, no safe exposure level can be established because sensitivity to TCP toxicity varies greatly among humans. In her BSc project, Mayra unraveled if human glutathione transferase (GST) enzymes play a role in TCP detoxification. Her research showed that a particular GST, i.e. GSTA2-2, is the most active enzyme in detoxification. The concentration of this enzyme varies widely in humans, which is a possible explanation why people can show very different sensitivity to TCP toxicity.

During her successful internship, Mayra excelled by the highly independent and accurate way in which she carried out her research project. In addition, she devised new and relevant experiments, and she wrote an excellent report. Mayra was also awarded the first prize during the BSc poster competition in June 2018. In addition, Mayra is very active as student assistant, tutor and member of the study program committee, and in 2016, the Royal Holland Society of Sciences (KHMW) awarded her the 'Young Talent Award’ for the student in the field of pharmacy and (bio)pharmaceutical sciences with best study results in the first academic year. For these reasons, the jury is convinced that the Karlijn Keijzer Scriptieprijs has been awarded again to an excellent and highly motivated student.


Karlijn Keijzer Scriptieprijs


The Karlijn Keijzer Scriptieprijs is established in memory of Karlijn Keijzer, who was aboard the fatal MH17 flight. Karlijn finished her MSc studies in DDS cum laude in 2012, with a specialization in Computational Medicinal Chemistry and Toxicology. For her PhD studies she joined the Computational Chemistry group of professor Baik at Indiana University in Bloomington, to study amongst other organometallic complexes of therapeutic interest. In September 2014 she was posthumously awarded her doctoral degree. As a PhD student, Karlijn regularly visited the Vrije Universiteit. In 2014 she obtained an Aspasia research grant to stay with the Biocomputational Chemistry group in the Division of Theoretical Chemistry.

In line with Karlijn’s intellectual legacy and interests and to stimulate talented and ambitious students in their scientific development and (international) experience, the Karlijn Keijzer Scriptieprijs is presented annually as a travel grant of EUR 1000. The award recipient will be selected by a jury based on excellence and motivation, and candidates must have successfully completed a BSc research project in the field of pharmaceutical sciences or (bio)chemistry. Supplemented by the VU Department of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, resources for the award have been made available by the family from a donation fund for Karlijn. In 2018 funding resources have been expanded thanks to a donation by prof. Nico P.E. Vermeulen, emeritus professor in Molecular Toxicology.

The presentation of the Karlijn Keijzer Scriptieprijs to Mayra van Wakeren will take place at Wednesday 30 January 2019 in the Auditorium of the O|2 research building, from 16.30-17.30 h, following the BSc Pharmaceutical Sciences poster market and competition.