Organizing Committee

2017 Conference Members

Dr. Jessica Younes
Science Liaison, Winclove Probiotics

Jessica Younes, PhD, works at Winclove Probiotics in Amsterdam as a Science Liaison in the women's health product portfolio. The first edition of this conference was organized in conjunction with her PhD defence in May 2015; her research was focused on demonstrating the importance of biofilms and adhesion between bacteria and between bacteria and epithelial cells for various outcomes related to health or dysbiosis in the vaginal environment. Jessica is passionate about making information about the microbiota(s) accessible to various stakeholders to facilitate solutions for prevention and treatment of infectious and microbial dysbiotic conditions in women's health. Furthermore, she is a member of two scientific advisory boards for conferences focused on microbes.

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Dr. Ruben Hummelen
Family Medicine resident at McMaster University Hamilton, Canada

Ruben Hummelen, MD, PhD, is working as a Family Medicine resident at McMaster University Hamilton, Canada. As a physician and epidemiologist he continues to be fascinated and amazed by the implications of the composition of our microbiota on our health and wellbeing. Through awareness, research and presentations he strives to increase our knowledge and awareness of our microbial friends. Dr. Hummelen has defended his PhD on 'Probiotics to target the vaginal and intestinal microbiota in HIV' in 2012 at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. As researcher he continuous to be involved in various projects on the female microbiome to attempt to improve the health and well being of women and their children who depend on the maternal microbial heritage.

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Dr. Mariya Petrova
Postdoctoral Fellow at Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics

Mariya Petrova, PhD, is working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics, KU Leuven as well as at the Laboratory of Applied Microbiology and Mucosal Immunology, Antwerp University. Her PhD research was focused on investigating genetic, molecular and functional characteristics of lactobacilli, which can provide general knowledge on their interesting properties for vaginal (versus intestinal) application, as well as on the molecular interaction between lactobacilli and pathogens. Currently, her research focuses on how vaginal lactobacilli can contribute to women’s health by studying cell wall molecules and their role in colonisation, pathogen exclusion and immune modulation. Furthermore, she investigates how to design bioengineered probiotic strains for heterologous expression of therapeutic molecules to be administered to the vaginal niche.

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Elke Lievens
PhD Student at Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics

Elke Lievens is performing her research as a PhD student at the Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics, KU Leuven in collaboration with the Laboratory of Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Antwerp University. She graduated as Bioscience Engineer in 2012 as a Cell and Gene Technology specialist and completed her master degree with an IAESTE internship in the Cell Biology team focusing on mycotoxin risk management (BIOMIN, Austria). Her PhD research focuses on the molecular mechanisms by which vaginal lactobacilli contribute to the vaginal barrier in order to maintain a healthy vaginal ecosystem as well as the antiviral potential of these lactobacilli against herpes simplex virus type 2 infection. Elke continues to be fascinated by the importance of microbes in the balance between health and disease. To actively participate in better women’s health through microbial management, she was determined to join the organizational committee to launch this 2016 edition of Women and Their Microbes.

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Rebecca van der Westen
PhD student at Department of Biomedical Engineering, UMCG

Rebecca van der Westen is pursuing her research as a PhD student at the University Medical Center in Groningen, The Netherlands at the Department of Biomedical Engineering. She graduated as Cand. Scient. in Medical Chemistry 2012 from the University of Aarhus, Denmark. Her PhD research focuses on the initial adhesion of different strains of bacteria, S. salivarius, S. aureus, and S. epidermidis onto different types of surfaces. More specifically her study involves the intracellular micromechanical properties, such as bacterium-substrate cell stiffness. Although not directly invovled in women’s health from the science side, Rebecca is extremely fascinated by microbial management and how probiotics can benefit women and also people in general.

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