Kickstart of the PDPC Frontrunner projects

Principle investigators, postdocs, and freshy started PhD students alike gathered on the 31st of January to kickstart the PDPC Frontrunner projects, at the Machinist in Rotterdam.

‘The Frontrunner projects each address crucial questions regarding pandemics, disasters, social sciences, policies and so on. They each require a new approach and transdisciplinary collaboration. That is why it is great to see all these brilliant minds assembled here today.’ With that words, one of the PDPC leads and Professor of Empirical Sociology at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, Pearl Dykstra opened the afternoon.

The Frontrunner projects are the very first official collaborative research projects of the Pandemic Disaster and Preparedness Center (PDPC). Researchers from, amongst others, Erasmus MC, TU Delft, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Leiden University, University of Utrecht, Amsterdam University and University of Wageningen work together in these projects. During the kickstart, the researchers had the chance to pitch their plans, ask questions and find common ground to strengthen each other’s projects.

Different aspects

Marion Koopmans, Scientific Director of the PDPC and Professor in Virology, reminded everyone of the importance of transdisciplinary research: ‘We have a lot of expertise in the room. Each and every one looks at different aspects of the problems we face. Only by working together and combining different disciplines we can take the steps needed for preparedness.’


Keynote speaker Thea Hilhorst, professor of Humanitarian studies at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, talked about ‘when disasters meet conflict’ and gave insights in the 25 years of disaster impact response research conducted at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. ‘An iron law is: disasters cannot be equated to the hazard. Hazards only become disasters in interaction with vulnerability and interaction with response policies. And responses often lead to new disaster-risks.’ She called it the wicked problems of disaster response, which calls for interdisciplinary collaboration and resilience.

Poster for the frontrunner project Climate change and vector borne disease.


After the inspiring talks, researchers had the chance to connect and discuss the poster presentations of the Frontrunner projects and PDPC Impact Academy. Biologist Maarten Schrama presented the poster presentation for the frontrunner project Climate change and vector borne disease. PhD students Suzanne Mijnhardt and Kain Saygan pitched the frontrunner project Predicting, measuring and quantifying airborne virus transmission, while Robert Borst, researcher in global health governance, did the same for the frontrunner Pandemic lessons for flood disaster preparedness. Phd Students Guusje Enneking and Lotte Schrijver talked about the frontrunner project Towards social and urban resilience for pandemics and disasters. Principal investigator Gertjan Medema presented the poster for International network surveillance for pandemic emergence via transport hubs. Last but not least, Valerie Eijrond talked about the PDPC Impact Academy.

Are you interested in joining the PDPC frontrunner projects? Keep an eye on our LinkedIn and vacancy page.