Law student Sander Wirken has won the UvA Thesis Competition 2011.. He was presented with this special distinction during the University Day on Saturday, 28 May. Medical student Soemirien Kasanmoentalib came second. Third place was shared by Peter Bloem (Artificial Intelligence) and Ammeke Kateman (History).
The number of entries for the UvA Thesis Competition was higher this year than ever before. The jury received 77 theses which all received an 8.5 grade or higher. The various entries were difficult to compare. One thesis had the lay-out of an article in a scientific journal, the other was an essayistic-style work. To ensure justice was done to the qualities of the nominated papers, the jury decided to jointly award the third prize to two students. As a result, there were four not three winners of the UvA Thesis Competition this year.
Sander Wirken (International Law)
Sander Wirken (first prize) wrote his thesis on the Guatemalan civil war and the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). In 2007, the CICIG was established to reform a judicial and police system beset by corruption. In addition, the CICIG seeks to prosecute those behind the murder campaigns waged among Guatemala’s indigenous people. In his thesis, Wirken gives a profound and original analaysis of the situation of impunity which exists in Guatemala and the possibilities to improve the situation. In order to restore faith in the judicial system, he sees the need not only to address recent crimes, but also to prosecute ex-dictator Rios Montt and his henchmen. For his research Wirken not only read academic literature, but also hundreds of newspaper articles and reports from human rights organisations. As a result, he has an excellent understanding of the political, media and NGO landscapes in Guatemala.
Soemirien Kasanmoentalib (Medicine)
Soemirien Kasanmoentalib (second prize) studied the life-threatening disease bacterial meningitis. She focused in particular on hydrocephalus (water on the brain), a serious complication of bacterial meningitis where cerebrospinal fluid can not properly be discharged into the bloodstream and accumulates in the cerebrospinal fluid chambers (ventricles). The purpose of this study is to investigate the incidence, treatment and outcome of hydrocephalus in adults with bacterial meningitis.The fact that the results of Kasnmoentalib’s thesis were published in the journal Neurology, the leading journal in the field of neurology, demonstrate the extent to which this thesis meets the criteria of scientific scholarship
Peter Bloem (Artificial Intelligence)
Peter Bloem (third prize, tied) shows in his thesis that fractal geometry can play an important role in the field of machine learning, a relationship which has seen little detailed research. Peter Bloem has devised a form for models of fractal structures and an algorithm that can construct an appropriate model. His work is a fine example of computer science and mathematics being combined in an innovative way. It is a first step towards a new topic in the field.
Ammeke Kateman (History)
In her thesis, Ammeke Kateman (third prize, tied) lays out a theoretical framework that recognises the fundamental impact that modernity, and the corresponding spread of Western ideas, have had on modern Islamic thought. The Egyptian intellectual Muhammad 'Abduh (1849-1905) is widely recognized as a key figure in the history of modern Islamic thought. Like a 'fusion of horizons' , ' Abduh’s reformation of Islam can be seen as a synthesis of the interpretation of European ideas from the perspective of Islamic tradition and from the context of the colonial presence of Britain in Egypt at that time.
Twelve papers were nominated from the 77 entries. The jury comprising eight members was made up of professors and deans of the seven different faculties. In addition, cheques worth €3,000 (first prize), € 2,000 (second prize) and € 1,000 (third prize) were handed out to the winners of the UvA Thesis Competition.