Westerdijk award for Maria Daleke

Maria Daleke has won the 2012 Westerdijk award for best PhD thesis in the field of microbiology. Daleke obtained her PhD degree in November 2012 at the Department of Medical Microbiology and Infection Control (VUmc) and the Department of Molecular Microbiology (VU).

04/23/2013 | 1:44 PM

The science committee of the Dutch Society for Medical Microbiology makes the annual Westerdijk award available for the best PhD thesis in the field of (medical) microbiology or infectious diseases that was defended less than a year ago. By receiving the award, Maria Daleke has won a sum of €1000.

Maria DalekeFor her PhD thesis entitled ‘Tail(or)-made protein secretion in pathogenic mycobacteria’, Maria Daleke investigated a recently discovered protein transport system in the tubercle bacillus, the causative agent of tuberculosis.  She studied which proteins can be transported across the bacterium’s cell envelope. Daleke showed that all secreted proteins posses a small signal which determines if transport takes place.

By utilizing this signal, she discovered a number of novel mycobacterial proteins that are transported via this same mechanism. These proteins may not only be important for the development of tuberculosis, but they are also interesting targets for improving the current tuberculosis vaccine. With this new knowledge, it might be possible to attack the tubercle bacillus with its own weapons.

Currently, Maria Daleke is employed as a post-doctoral researcher at the spin-off Abera Bioscience of the Molecular Microbiology research group at VU University. She works on a novel platform for the development of vaccines for eg tubercemptyulosis and influenza. Her research is financially supported by an EU-FP7 grant.

Johanna Westerdijk
The granted award is named after Johanna Westerdijk. Westerdijk was appointed professor at the University of Utrecht in 1917, hereby becoming the first female professor within the Netherlands. Westerdijk was director of the phytopathology laboratory Willie Commelin Scholten and showed the fungus Ceratocystis ulmi is the causative agent of the Dutch elm disease.