32 Mare June 3rd, 2004

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LOST IN LEIDEN

Elections

Students and science staff can cast their votes during the annual elections for the University Council until 8 June. This council is the most important mouthpiece for employee and student participation for Leiden University, and counsels the Board of Governors about numerous issues. The University Council has 16 seats, eight for students and 8 for science staff. The students can elect their candidates yearly, while the staff elect theirs every two years.

Three parties are participating on behalf of the students, i.e. the rather leftwing Bewust en Progressief, the Christelijke Studentenfractie Leiden and the more rightwing Studenten Groepering Leiden. The staff have the union party Abvakabo and the Leids Promovendi Overleg (LEO) fighting for their favour. The latter party is new, so the Abvakabo has finally got some serious competition. During the last elections there were no other employees’ parties.

Incidentally, the turnout for the elections is always very low. Last year only 16 percent of the students voted, while the percentage was just above 30 percent for the staff, and it does not seem likely that the turnout will be any higher this year.

Plagiarism

A political science student has recently been caught twice for plagiarism and has now been suspended for a year. All the other students on the course have been informed and warned about this by e-mail.

Twice, the student concerned handed in someone else’s article under his own name. The first time, the examination board declared his mark to be invalid. However, the student repeated the offence. This second case of plagiarism led to a year’s suspension for the student by the committee. The committee took into consideration the directives for handling fraud as mentioned in Act for higher education and scientific research (WHW).

The examination committee has informed in writing all the political science students of this case of plagiarism. The students have also been told that all written work can be checked for plagiarism, using such means as software that can trace fraudulent work.

Breimer Stays

Rector magnificus Douwe Breimer will remain a member of the Board of Governors for at least another two years. Last week, the Supervisory Board extended his term by two years.

This renewed appointment, with the term running from 1 February 2005 to 1 February 2007, means that Breimer will be starting his third term as rector magnificus.

The rector is the member of the Board who is responsible for the quality of research and education, and must be, by definition, a professor. Incidentally, Breimer, a professor of Pharmacology, is renowned as one of The Netherlands’ most eminent scientists, with several honorary degrees to his name.

Breimer said that, after nearly four years of rectorship, he had still not had his fill of university management. “It’s very exciting and inspirational to be involved with the university, to have contact with the staff and students and to carry on with all the initiatives that have been started: the introduction of BaMa, the continued internationalisation, the League, the strong link between research and education and ensuring the standards of their quality. I would like to spend much more energy on all these matters”.

Incidentally, Breimer`s renewed appointment occurred on recommendation of the Board of Governors itself, after consulting the Council of Deans first. The Supervisory Board took the final decision after hearing the University Council.

Lab shrunk to a chip?

Ratna Karuna

Ever imagined a laboratory shrunk to the size that fits in the palm of your hand? This lab-on-a-chip concept excites scientists, and the possibilities for development and application of this technology are “only limited by the imagination”.

Miniaturization is nothing new in the field of electronics. The invention of the transistor in 1947 and the introduction of integrated circuits in 1959 are the key developments, which made the transition from conventional electronics to microelectronics possible.

Miniaturization of electronic circuits via transistors has resulted in today’s small and affordable personal computer, mobile phone, disc man, palm top and so on. The lab-on-a-chip concept is promised to revolutionize chemical tasks in way similar to how miniaturization revolutionized electronics and computers: making devices smaller, portable, more integrated and cheaper-to-run.

The term lab-on-a-chip brings down the idea of a planar device (a chip), in which a number of chemical processes is being implemented at micro scale or even lower. This, however, is easier says than done. “When you make a miniature copy of laboratory instruments, you will no longer have the same instruments. At micro scale, a system works with different physical laws than at macro scale,” says Willem Engel, who is conducting his PhD research at Leiden University’s Division of Analytical Biosciences.

Lab-on-a-chip, however, is not necessarily about shrinking every instrument to a tiny scale. World-to-chip interfacing is then needed to couple the chips with ‘normal’ instruments. Engel: “An example is the chips that are coupled to a mass spectrometric detector. The mass spectrometry doesn’t have to be miniaturized also.”

“The real lab-on-a-chip devices, in which not only analysis but also chemical synthesis is implemented in the chip, until now have not existed commercially,” Engel says. What have been realized are chips based on the concept of micro-Total Analysis System (-TAS), by which all the processes required for analysis are miniaturized, integrated and automated within a single device. Engel: “Miniaturization, integration and automation together allow the system to work at its maximum efficiency.” The pathway the chemicals must take is shrunk, resulting in a dramatically increased performance of the system.

A nice example of such a system is the Gyros chip (GyrolabTM microlaboratory). The chip, which is shaped like a compact disc (CD), is composed of numerous microchannels that radiate from the center of the disc toward the outer edge. Fluid (sample and reagent solution) is forced to flow by centrifugal forces, which are generated when the disc is spinning, through the microchannels, which also serve as analysis and reaction chambers.

Different material and modification can be introduced, allowing different assays to be performed in the disc and making possible different applications, ranging from drug screening, peptide sequencing, to PCR (Polymeric Chain Reaction, for producing a large number of copies of genes).

“Life sciences is the most important field application of this technology,” Engel says. Until now, much of the research development in lab-on-a-chip technology has been devoted to the fabrication of microchips and the components, such as micropumps and microvalves, as well as to the design of the chips for different applications. However, research in this area is still ongoing, as scientists keep pushing the frontier for specific applications of this emerging technology.

In June 2003, researchers at Japan’s National Institute for Materials Sciences reported the development of a diagnostic chip for testing hepatic function at home. At present, diagnostic tests for patients with alcohol-related liver disease and/or hepatic carcinomas take a few hours to several weeks to produce a result.

With this new technology, however, the tests can be carried out on a 2 x 2 cm chip and take only a couple of minutes to complete. Diagnostic tests can therefore be done quickly and easily during patient consultations or at home, and results are known almost immediately, which allows for prompt treatment when necessary.

At Leiden University’s Division of Analytical Biosciences, the goal of one research area focused on generating information from protein and metabolite profile is to gain better insights into human physiology and disease mechanism, with the ultimate aim being the discovery of new drugs or disease therapies and diagnostic biomarkers.A novel approach of lab-on-a-cell, which is based on lab-on-a-chip, is now being developed to measure metabolites, proteins and peptides in a living cell. “The chip is used as an interface to couple the cell with the detection system,” Engel says.

A microchip is typically 2 to 3 centimeters square, a few millimeters thick and etched with microchambers and microchannels. The dimensions of the smallest structures in microchips are typically 10-100 µm (the diameter of human red blood cells is 7 µm). Depending on the material (silicon, plastic, quartz or glass), a variety of microfabrication techniques (fabrication of micrometer size structures on the chip) can be employed. Silicon, of course, benefits from techniques already available from the microelectronic industry.

An example is photolithography, a standard technique used in microelectronics, in which a topography of the microstructure serves as a negative image to produce the patterns on to the silicon or glass chips, allowing mass production of the chips. Mass production is the key to dramatically reducing both the manufacturing and development costs of the devices.

How much are the actual costs of these chips? “At the moment, when microfabrication and chip technology are still under development, the costs can be a few thousand euros per square centimeter,” Engel says. “But when it’s no longer at a developing stage, chips will be affordable and even disposable, because they can be produced on a large scale, just like microprossesors. In this century of life sciences, lab-on-a-chip technology will be one of the biggest industries in the world.”

Charge of the white brigade!

We foreigners are in for a treat...front-row seats for Holland’s next national disaster!...Here comes the high-speeding Opel Kadetje full of drunken orange wig-wearing idiots ...guzzling Heineken…hanging out the windows screaming ‘Holl-and, Holl-and’...Bam!...Splat!...140kmph into a tree!...Advocaat’s hair-implanted blockhead rolling in the gutter!...1-2-3 first-round games & the Dutch team exits Euro ‘04!...Losers again!...

Foreigners wonder: So many good Dutch players, such a lousy team! How come?...Because there’s madness in the Dutch national team’s methods…in every other country national teams consist of the best players playing in the world’s best leagues—Spain, Italy, England. But not here! The Dutch got their own ‘system’, ...a perfectly illogical & unsportsmanlike one! Equal parts horseshit, politics & prejudice!...Failure guaranteed!...No ‘best player plays’ sporting stuff here...

“I’m Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, I’ve scored 150 goals in Spain and England, can I play coach, can I, huh? Hell no, boy, football’s not about goal-scoring, us Dutch got a system!”...Whatever...Not to mention the Dutch team’s new all-white uniforms…very revealing!...Seems like the team was selected based on a personal ad placed in the Voetbal Nieuws: ‘Great White Hopes Wanted: Are you 19, preferably blond, inexperienced, unproven, never played abroad? Then Dick’s horny for you! Starting positions guaranteed!’...

Rafael, O’ Rafael, where art thou?...But not only racial, no, mix in some mob sentimentality for total national insanity! Enter Pierre van Hooijdink, uncoordinated donkey, currently toiling for Shoarma United in the lowly Turkish League...But a Dutch national teamer!...Jawel!...“Goeie gozer, Pierre, not like the others...and remember his free kick for Feyenoord back in 1999?!”...

And then, dear buitenlander, we come to the nation’s blackest sheep, Clarence Seedorf, most hated man in Holland!...If Seedorf broke his neck on the pitch, the goddamn slobbermouthed ‘fans’ would cheer!...seriously...“Is he dead? No? Jammer!”...Seedorf, star player on three European Champions League winning teams, is Dutch Public Enemy Number 1!...Why?...

Because in Holland, Seedorf’s what the whites Down South in America used to call an “uppity nigger”, that is a ‘negro’ that don’t know his place, son, puttin’ on airs, speakin’ his mind, taking a penalty kick that made a chickenshit De Boer look bad!...“Lynch the black bastard!”...Yee-ha!...followed by total character assassination for money, for ‘sport’, by Dutch media whores!...

Holland’s like Alabama circa 1950...’coloreds’ can pick, pluck, kick…But don’t forget your place, boy!...Or else we’ll Seedorf your ass!...So much prejudice, hate, surrounding this Dutch national team...While France plays colorblind football, the best players play…France wins, Holland loses...Zo simpel is het!...bam!...splat!...Go France!

David McMullin