Bjorn Baselet, scientific collaborator at SCK•CEN, is in the running for the prestigious ‘Wetenschapstalent1 2019' Award of science magazine ‘New Scientist’. The prize is awarded each year to the biggest scientific talent in the Netherlands and Belgium. Bjorn Baselet: “This is a great recognition and a unique opportunity to put our research in the spotlight.”
Bjorn Baselet has been nominated for his contribution to space research. “The psychological stress, ionising radiation and micro-gravity associated with space flights affect our immune system. At this moment, we wouldn’t even survive a space travel to Mars. Major cause: the disrupted communication between our blood cells. My research helped to map this disruption”, explains Bjorn Baselet.
In perfect health to Mars
The researcher uncovered the mechanisms that weaken the immune system and make astronauts on long space journeys ill following a disruption in the communication between the different immune cells. “The research showed, among others, that the immune cells are no longer able to recognise the pathogens and are thus unable to call upon other immune cells to help them to protect the body. With these new insights, we can now start performing targeted research into finding a remedy. Think, for instance, of a space travel pill that astronauts could take to strengthen the immune system.” Later, this medicine could also be used for illnesses based on a disrupted immune system (e.g. allergies).
Bjorn Baselet is on the shortlist of 25 science talents. “This is definitely a real honour for me”, says Bjorn. “Not only as a scientist, but also as a science communicator.” It is important to share your findings as a scientist with the general public. Only in this way, we can inspire and encourage others – particularly young people – to go for a scientific education, which – in turn – will bring us one step closer to Mars.”
To cash in on the nomination, Bjorn Baselet is partly dependent on the public as it will decide for 50 percent who will win the coveted title. Voting is still possible until and including 6 May on newscientist.nl/talent. Only five talents are allowed to the next round. They will present their research during New Scientist Live: a glimpse of the future on 31 May in Tivoli Vredenburg in Utrecht. The winner will be announced at the end of this event.