56th Dies Natalis: Contribute, Connect, Create

| Michaela Nesvarova

In honor of the UT’s 56th birthday, the annual Dies Natalis celebration took place today in the Waaier. The theme of this year’s Dies ceremony was ‘Contribute, Connect, Create’ because, as rector Thom Palstra explained: ‘It is of great importance for the University of Twente that we ‘contribute, connect and create’ in areas with a global urgency.’

Photo by: Arjan Reef

Organized every year on the last Friday of November, the Dies Natalis is a ceremony celebrating the foundation of the University of Twente. As usual, also the 56th Dies was held in the Waaier building, welcoming professors, UT staff, alumni, students and external stakeholders.


In his opening speech, rector Thom Palstra stressed the necessity of connecting – within the UT and with the world: ‘I strongly believe that our scientific contributions should be based on excellence. But excellence is more than winning a scientific prize, or being rewarded a publication in a leading magazine. It also involves bringing others into a position to succeed. This requires teamwork, teamwork inside the UT, but also together with leading global players.’

If it comes to connecting within the university, the Rector Magnificus thinks that: ‘We need to assist each other across disciplines. This is not a role for the deans or institute directors alone but for all of us. We cannot afford a hierarchical structure, but should empower our entire staff. The newly formed institutes Institute for Digital Society, TechMed Research and MESA+ will take the lead in this by developing programs across the faculties.’

The five themes

According to Palstra, the UT should focus on external connections as well: ‘We connect with many partners to build new programs: with other universities, with hospitals and university medical centers, with companies in the region, nationally and internationally. We need to engage with these partners to remain vibrant, visible and competitive. We have grouped the external perspective in five themes that we can use externally to profile ourselves.’

These five themes presented at the Dies ceremony are: ‘Improving healthcare by personalized technologies’, ‘Creating intelligent manufacturing systems’, ‘Engineering our digital society’, ‘Engineering for a resilient world’ and ‘Shaping our world with smart materials’.

The Dies lecture

As is traditional, the Dies Natalis doesn’t involve only the speech by the UT’s rector, but also by a specially selected expert, who is to present the Dies lecture. This year the lecture was in the hands of Suzanne Hulscher, UT professor of Water Systems, whose speech focused on rivers, the sea and the Afsluitdijk. The professor highlighted the research of her group at the Water Engineering & Management department.


The Dies Natalis is the occasion for handing out two awards. Firstly, the Overijssel PhD Award for a doctoral thesis of outstanding academic quality, which this year went to Dong Nguyen for her thesis titled ‘Text as social and cultural data: a computational perspective on variation in text’.

The second award is the Professor De Winter Prize for outstanding female talent. The 2017 winner of this prize is Ainara Garde, Tenure Track assistant professor from the Biomedical Signals and Systems group. Garde was selected by the jury based on her academic article titled ‘Respiratory rate and pulse oximetry derived information as predictors of hospital admission in young children in Bangladesh’.  


At the occasion of the UT’s 56th Dies Natalis, the Female Faculty Network Twente (FFNT) organized a special photo exposition called ‘Women in Mathematics throughout Europe’. The exhibition, which is now located in the Waaier building, displays photographs and interviews with 13 women mathematicians. The exhibit is a touring exposition that started in July 2016 in Berlin and is hosted every few months by various universities throughout Europe. It will be on the UT campus until the 8th of March, 2018, and move from a building to building, including Vrijhof or Ravelijn. 


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