Main speakers

Prof. Jon Sakata

He received his PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Texas at Austin.  For his PhD, he studied the neural correlates of behavioral plasticity in response to social experiences as well as species variation in behavioral plasticity.  Prof. Sakata started studying songbirds as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, where he investigated social and sensory contributions to the control of song.  As an investigator at McGill University, he and his lab research the mechanisms underlying song learning and control, with a special emphasis on social influences and biological predispositions on learning.

He will speak about How studying songbird communication can provide insight into human speech and music“.
The melodic songs of birds (“birdsong”) are a source of inspiration and fascination.  Much of the research into the biological basis of birdsong aims at understanding how birds produce their vocalizations.  As early as the 18thcentury, people have noted that, in a variety of species of birds, the songs that adult birds produce are profoundly influenced by experiences during development.  Since those early findings, researchers have discovered that birdsong is learned during a sensitive period in development and that this process of birdsong learning shares many parallels with the process of speech and music acquisition in humans.  My talk will highlight the various parallels between birdsong, speech, and music, with an emphasis on the influence of social interactions and biological predispositions on vocal learning.


Robert Zwijnenberg

He is full professor of Art and Science Exchange at Universiteit Leiden. His research and teaching focus are on the role of contemporary art in the academic and public debates on the implications of the life sciences, with an emphasis on the juridical and ethical aspects of human dignity in relation to human enhancement. Zwijnenberg specifically engages with a growing number of artists, known as bio-artists, who use the opportunities offered by the life sciences to work with new materials: living materials that traditionally do not belong to the artistic realm. Bio-artist artistically explore the cultural, social ethical, political, esthetic implication of biotechnological innovations.

No Art, No Future: Art & Ethics
He will speak about how contemporary biotechnological practices that involve genetic modification and manipulation of living beings (humans, animals, plants) present a challenge to traditional notions of nature and the human body. The question is not only who has the right to re-design life, which is ultimately a question of legal and moral ownership and the commodification of life and nature, but also do we think it is necessary, and if so, how do we want to re-design nature and the human body? What limits do we wish to impose on biotechnological innovation involving nature and the human body? And what notion of “being human” and of nature are these limits based on? We require a radical rethinking of these traditional notions. In my paper I will argue that art should have a prominent role in our reflections on the applications and implications of biotechnology, not to illustrate, decorate or explain biotechnology but as a relevant and unique voice in ethical debates.


Hans Mulder

He (1961) is the curator of Artis Library of the University of Amsterdam. He teaches and writes about the history of the book and the history of natural history. Mulder studied history at Utrecht University where he was appointed as curator of printed books and where he taught the history of the printed book until 2011. Hans Mulder chaired the Dutch Book Historical Society and Blue Shield Netherlands (The red Cross for Cultural Heritage). With Marieke van Delft (Royal Library) he edited the 2016 facsimile of Merian’s Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium 1705.
Between 1500 en 1900 the way man described, pictured and understood nature fundamentally changed. Inventions, discoveries, and new research methods forced man to adjust his concept of nature and his own place in the world. The road to new understanding was a bumpy one. And still quite a number of people are finding it difficult to deal with the consequences of new facts.

Revolutions in Natural History
His introductory presentation will briefly discusses five important natural historians: Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) who tried in word and image to be as complete as possible about all life on earth. Observation was important to him, but living in the sixteenth century he could not discard mythical animals; Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723), who as a self-educated researcher tried to describe and picture the invisible; Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) who is considered to be the first ecologist, studied the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. She was a gifted artist and was the first western woman to see a spider killing a bird; Carolus Linnaeus (1707–1778), who – not hindered by modesty – came up with a system that tried to order nature; and of course Charles Darwin (1809–1882), whose theory of evolution by natural selection completely changed what we know about life in general.

These stories will be richly illustrated with images from books of Artis Library of the University of Amsterdam.


Hendrik Richter

He studied electrical engineering at the Technische Hochschule Leipzig, Germany and the University of Birmingham, England and did his PhD in the field of controlling nonlinear dynamics at the Technische Universität Dresden, Germany, with a brief interval at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA.  After working for a public research institute, he became Professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering & Information Technology of HTWK Leipzig University of Applied Sciences.

“I have always been fascinated by how the structure of a system and the interaction of its parts may produce some kind of interesting behaviour.  My main research interests are in nonlinear dynamics, particularly analysing and controlling chaotic behaviour, and evolutionary computation. Evolutionary computation is a branch of computational intelligence, which focuses on using structures and behaviours of living matter as templates for computing.”

The Bubbler Crab and Algorithmic Art
From animal behavior to generative art: Visual art inspired by the collective feeding behavior of sand bubbler crabs
An interesting branch of biology deals with animal behaviour. Particularly the behaviour of simple life forms can often be understood as to follow certain rules, which in turn can be expressed by an algorithmic description.

A main idea of generative art is that the art work is created by an autonomous, non-human system, frequently by setting up an algorithmic framework that gains functional autonomy and may develop over time. In other words, in generative art the “artist” creates an algorithmic process and sets it into motion. Subsequently, the dynamics of the algorithmic process generates the art work. As in nature we frequently observe structures and process that are aesthetically pleasing and surprisingly beautiful, is appears natural to take inspiration from biology for generative art.

The talk uses the example of the collective feeding behaviour of sand bubbler crabs. Sand-bubblers are tiny crabs dwelling tropical beaches. Their feeding behaviour involves creating patterns consisting of tiny sand balls that are placed in curves or spirals, straight or bent lines, which finally form overall structures, thus producing astonishing works of natural art. The algorithms presented produce generative art by recreating these patterns. In nature, the patterns are monochromatic as the balls all have the colour of the sand they are made from. The artistic interpretation of the patterns suggests using colours for making them visually more appealing.


Hanneke Hulst

Hanneke Euphemia Hulst was born in Hoorn, on the 5th of April 1983. After completing her secondary education at the R.S.G. Wiringherlant in Wieringerwerf in 2001, she started her studies in Health Sciences at the VU University in Amsterdam. Hanneke obtained a Bachelor (2004) and a Master (2005) degree. From 2005-2008 she joined the Master of Neuroscience program at the VU University Amsterdam and obtained a second Master degree with a specialization in preclinical neuroscience.

From August 2007 – September 2008, Hanneke worked at the Image Analysis Center (IAC) of the VU University Medical Center as radiology reviewer and scientific researcher focusing on Multiple Sclerosis (MS). By the end of 2008, her PhD project started under supervision of Prof. dr. Jeroen Geurts, Prof. dr. Frederik Barkhof and Prof. dr. Bernard Uitdehaag at the VU University Medical Center (depts. of Radiology and Anatomy and Neurosciences). Her work focused on understanding cognitive decline in multiple sclerosis. Since 2013, she is working as an assistant professor at the department of Anatomy and Neurosciences, continuing the line of work with a specific focus on cognitive rehabilitation in MS. She evaluates the effects of non-pharmacological interventions, like computerized training programs and dancing, on cognitive performance and brain plasticity.

Besides her scientific work, Hanneke writes popular scientific columns for and EOS Psyche en Brein, and is the general manager of stichting Brein in Beeld ( a foundation that translates science to the general public. This year she became member of the prestigious Royal Young Academy (de Jonge Akademie) of the KNAW.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial