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Myrthe Velter

Shared Value Creation and Inter-organisational Collaboration for Sustainable Business Model Innovation

This PhD research originates from the discussion about the role of businesses as economic value creators within society. In this discussion businesses are faced with legitimacy challenges wherein they are not only challenged to remain competitive, but simultaneously to define their new role in society as part of the solution to societal and environmental challenges. What this role entails, how it can be realized and enhanced is still in its infancy, however it involves radical new forms of organizing the business model both on a firm and system level, wherein societal and environmental concerns are actively aligned with economic interests.

Acknowledging that a business model is no static result of the innovation process but rather an adaptive model to the challenges and opportunities in its ecosystem, the business model innovation process with the aim for shared value creation is associated with a deliberate and ongoing collaborative search for impactful partnerships, alignment of stakeholder interests and mutual value creation opportunities in order to collaboratively deliver sustainable value propositions to the customer, consisting of a product, service and its alternative forms of value creation, while trying to understand their effects on the whole value network, including value creation for society and environment, that in turn determines the success of the business model. As a result, innovating business models for sustainability is an iterative process that requires crossing of intra- and inter- organizational boundaries, leading businesses into a complex interests field with multiple and unusual actors, interdependencies, and the challenge to align interests and institutional arrangements while being confronted with unmanageable factors that the stakeholders are not able to influence, such as (inter-)national legislation or public opinion. 

Taking into account the importance of private sector alignment with societal and environmental challenges, the main objective of this research is to improve understanding about how organizations define, create and enhance shared value through flexing their interfaces, mobilizing stakeholders, align multidimensional interests and innovating their business models in a radical way.

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Diego Ramírez

Overpassing the hot spot: Climate proofing with in a sustainable development strategy for Central America.

Central America faces decisive moments, not only by the challenges presented in terms of poverty, insecurity, vulnerability and institutional weakness, but also it is at a key time for taking the decisions and actions necessary to build a region of sustainable development.

The region has begun to implement climate proofing for public infrastructure, at national and local level, nonetheless, the region isn’t working to incorporate the climate proofing to the spatial planning, and even, the spatial planning is weak or absent in most of the region. At the same time, the Central American countries are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and also, have a large history of impacts thanks to extreme weather conditions.

In a region as vulnerable as Central America, is of high importance the use of strategies to climate proof their efforts towards its sustainable development. Climate proofing is a term considered new for the region, the Asian Development Bank define it as:

“identifying risks to a development project, or any other specified natural or human asset, as a consequence of both current and future climate variability and extremes, and ensuring that those risks are reduced to acceptable levels through long-lasting and environmentally sound, economically viable, and socially acceptable changes implemented at one or more of the following stages in the project cycle: planning, design, construction, operation, and decommissioning.” (ADB, 2005. P. 2)

The interest of this research is to document relevant international experience incorporating climate proofing strategies to the spatial planning as part of the efforts of adaptation to climate change in cities. Based on these experience, to build a proposal to strengthen the initial efforts of the region to climate proof public infrastructure, especially, elevating the scope to include climate proofing to the spatial planning in Central America’s cities.

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Julia Backhaus

The Role of Assumptions in Social Change Processes

This PhD project is concerned with the assumptions that individual actors or actor groups involved in change initiatives towards more sustainable, just and inclusive societies hold about what is at stake and about how change can be brought about. The focus is as much on assumptions that are verbalised explicitly as on assumptions that underlie actions taken and strategies pursued.

Cases considered range from government-supported behavioural change programmes and research projects to civil society social innovation initiatives and activist groups. Findings are evaluated against a range of theories on transformative, social change from across the social sciences.

Julia Backhaus
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Bram Oosterbroek

Spatially Modelling the Positive and Negative Effects of Nature on Human Health: a Focus on Optimizing Urban Green Infrastructure

In the past decade, interest in the impacts of ecosystem change on human health has strongly increased. However, the ecosystem-health relationship is complex because of for example 1) the multiple and diverse health impacts, 2) the fact that health effects of nature can be both positive and negative, and 3) the strong interaction of nature-health pathways with socio-economic factors.

As these aspects strongly determine the outcomes of the ecosystem − human health relationship, they should be accounted for in assessments. Computer-based tools would be useful within such an assessment as they can handle certain parts of complexity, and are able to run several times for different future or planning scenarios. However, though some computer-based tools are currently available for this, most tools do not include the final step of actually assessing the associated health outcomes such as mortality or disease incidence (Oosterbroek et al. 2016).

My PhD research takes place within the just described knowledge gap, and focusses on both the societal benefits and costs of urban nature. Most people live in urban areas (for example 80% of Western Europeans) and this is projected to increase in the future. For some health effects such as depression reduction, possible benefits from nature are quite strong. For other health effects such as air quality improvement, the contribution of urban nature in a relative sense might be small, but the problem at hand is big enough for absolute benefits to still be large. (Or: an increase in certain types of urban nature would make the relative contribution significant.) On top of that, other health effects of urban nature are negative such as 'tree failure' (by heavy wind events), or air pollution at street canyons where a 'green tunnel effect' can trap pollutants.

This research project will contribute to the development of computer-based tools that assess how ecosystems affect human health. Moreover, we are constructing a GIS (Geo Information System) model that 1) quantifies both the positive and negative health outcomes, and 2) aids in finding spatial configurations of urban green infrastructure that optimize the environment of city inhabitants regarding their health.

Bram Oosterbroek
Niet ge- definieerd

Bingtao Su

The Role of Animals and Nature in Learning for Sustainable Development --a Chinese Perspective

Animals had many measurable benefits to both humans and society, such as enhancing physical and psychological well-being, reducing loneliness and depression, improving animal diversity and promoting sustainable nature and society development. From another point of view, the direct presence of public attitudes toward animals, which are somewhat influenced by human culture and knowledge, can contribute to animals’ healthy dietary and decent living environment, and eventually the construction of an optimum animal welfare system. Therefore, it is clear that a better understanding of public attitudes toward animals, animal emotions, as well as what effects the influential factors have on these attitudes, are of fundamental importance to both animals and humans.

My research mainly focused on the sustainable relationships between humans and animals in China, Japan, and the Netherlands. Through this research, I want to know how people attribute emotions to animals, and how the degree of attachment influences the attribution of emotions to animals in these countries. In addition, my research also aimed at finding out Chinese, Japanese and the Dutch people’s attitudes toward animals and their influential factors, such as culture, ethical ideologies, the degree of attachment and other possible variables. Furthermore, Ecological Paw Print as an important variable to measure sustainable development will also be included in my research. Through my research, I want to find out the current situation of animals and human-animal relationships in China (as well as in the Netherlands and Japan), and therefore find ways to improve people’s awareness of animal welfare.

Bingtao Su
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Ceren Pekdemir

Global Sustainable Governance: Partnerships Between Fragmentation and Cohesion

Within the current global public domain, private and public-private arrangements are increasingly engaged with regulatory activities spanning different sectors and domains. The proliferation of different regulatory schemes has produced a decentralised and fragmented governance system. Scholars have, to a certain extent, focused on the rise of (competing) regulatory institutions, on the standards that have been set, and to a lesser extent examined the effectiveness of these regulatory standards.

One feature that has hardly been addressed is the network of different regulatory arrangements. There are different organisational fields developing in which actors interact and collaborate, yet little is known about the configuration of these practices. The research topic of Ceren Pekdemir is intended to fill in this gap in scholarly literature. In her research on “Global Sustainable Change: Partnerships between Fragmentation and Cohesion” she principally addresses the question in how far issue-specific governance systems are fragmented or cohesive in their institutional structures, from organisational, ideational, and relational perspectives, and to what extent this influences the effectiveness of the regulatory frameworks.

Ceren Pekdemir
Niet ge- definieerd

Alex Baker-Shelley

Organisational Transformation and Systemic Change: Navigating pathways towards Sustainability for the University

How can universities effectively navigate pathways of transformation for sustainability? In order to answer this question, international case-study research on pioneering universities and their networks is developing and testing a tool to help evaluate and track fundamental transformation for organisations towards more actionable outcomes across diverse aspects of sustainability. These include but are not limited to: management performance, governance, intrapreneurship and innovation, sustainability in education, inter and transdisciplinary research, communications strategies, stakeholder management and social and environmental responsibility practices.

As part of an Action research approach, structured interventions will be applied to Maastricht University with the Green Office as the implementation agents, aiming to resolve system dysfunction and improve sustainability performance.

The project deliverables, aside from publications and a thesis, will include policy recommendations, management reviews, a transdisciplinary framework for organisational transformation for sustainability at universities, and – from a four year period of observations - executive reports on institutional governance for sustainability, longitudinal organisational assessments, and knowledge on increased social impact of academia through social entrepreneurship.

This PhD will work towards my core objective: to apply action research, for intentional change and improvement, in partnership with organisations that want purpose driven into their core and are committed to a fortuitous movement for sustainable development - whether in the public, private or social sectors. I will continue close participative research with the Green Office, and my network in social enterprise, in order to perform interventions for UM's sustainability performance in 2017. After 2017, the outcomes and continuation of this work will be primarily focussed and applied where there is the most traction and willingness to undertake necessary transformative change; external to ossified administrative, bureaucratic and political systems.

Alex Baker-Shelley
Are energy decisions about energy?
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Wendy Broers

Are energy decisions about energy?

The most challenging element of the energy transition is to reduce fossil fuel energy consumption in the existing housing stock because of the complexity of the system of different actors and their social practices. In this PhD research an interdisciplinary socio-technical approach is used that goes beyond technology and individual behaviour and will also tackle the physical, economic and social context of the different actors. Empirical data is collected in the case-study of Parkstad Limburg (NL) and the results are used to develop recommendations to improve the effectiveness of energy transition policies and product offerings to residents.

Sustainability Assessment tools for Urban Mobility
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Xu Liu

Sustainability Assessment tools for Urban Mobility –policy lessons from a China-Europe comparison

This PhD research originates from the argument of The World Health Organization (2016), that ‘good health of all its citizens is one of the most effective markers of any city’s sustainable development’.  This calls for sustainable, health-promoting urban policies. In China, sustainable urban development (SUD) is stimulated by, for example, the National Development and Reform Commission’s ‘low-carbon pilot program’. In Europe, SUD is stimulated by, for example, the new ‘Urban Agenda for the EU’. However, decision-makers do not often apply a ‘health-lens’ to SUD policies. So how can the dual goals of healthy citizens and urban sustainability be integrated in decision-making? And how can we enhance the health co-benefits of existing and anticipated SUD policies?

Sustainability assessment (SA) is nowadays a widely used term that covers a broad range of approaches aiming to operationalize sustainability concepts for decision-making, mostly within but also outside governments. It emerged as a ‘marriage’ between environmental assessment and sustainable development (see Dijk et al 2017). These approaches may be formal or informal, legally prescribed or voluntary, science-driven or policy-driven, etc., and may carry different labels, such as sustainability appraisal, sustainability impact assessment or integrated assessment. A common feature is that they try to integrate various perspectives, interests, and types of knowledge. However, despite scholarly progress, Gibson (2016) concludes that in public and private sectors the speed of sustainable development has been rather slow in the last decade. An important way forward is the development of new and better Sustainable Assessment tools. In this project we focus on the improvement of Sustainability Assessment tools for urban mobility.

An SA is designed to form a logic sequence within an analytic and decision-making process, and within which a range of different methods can be applied. There is no single and commonly accepted procedure for sustainability assessment. A procedure may be formally prescribed by law, such as in environmental impact assessment (EIA) in many countries (but with great variety between countries) and as strategic environmental assessment under the EU SEA Directive (2001/42/EC). A broad range of methods has been applied in SA, with often combinations of methods being used within one study. However, in assessments in the public and private sector, the choice is often poorly explained and, when combining methods, often one method is clearly dominant and basically shapes the SA outcomes. A common problem identified in the literature is the lack of guidance on what methods can be used. Thus, research on how to organize and deploy tools and methods in assessments seems to have a lot of room for improvement.

Understanding Human-Ocean Relationships
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Mo Chen

Understanding Human-Ocean Relationships: A Multi-Perspective Analysis of Chinese Ocean Society

Throughout human history, the ocean has always been playing a crucial role in human society. How people view the ocean is strongly correlated with how they make use of the ocean, and subsequently, what the ocean looks like now. Are we considering human as the dominator of the ocean? Or are we regarding human society and ocean as equally important? Understanding human-ocean interaction would be helpful to build a healthy relationship between human society and ocean.

However, seldom studies look into this area in current academic community. Especially the conditions in developing countries, such as China, still remain unclear. On one hand, large-scale foreign trade and annual seafood consumption justify the significance of ocean to Chinese society. On the other hand, increasing maritime disasters and resource depletion indicate the environment is far from ideal.   

From three aspects, this research project targets at answering the question of how to understand and develop a sustainable human-ocean relationship. This research will assess how Chinese people perceive marine life, recognize marine economic development, and deal with modern maritime disaster. We will delineate a general picture of human-ocean relationship in contemporary Chinese society. And we would like to contribute to the discussion of how to shape a positive and robust relationship between ocean and human society.

Detecting and analyzing assumptions and behavioural changes on pro-environmental consumer behaviour in relation to waste management through Big Data Analysis (BDA)
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Alessandro Concari

Detecting and analyzing assumptions and behavioural changes on pro-environmental consumer behaviour in relation to waste management through Big Data Analysis (BDA)

This PhD research originates from the need to better understand the human behaviour in relation to waste management through the analysis of the huge amount of unstructured data available online (like social media and other free platforms).

Nowadays the attention to sustainable development (SD) issues is continuously increasing as demonstrated, at the supra-national level, by development of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their inclusion in the national agenda of many nations. At the individual level, the focus on SD matters is addressed through enhanced education, improved attention to our lifestyle and to the impact of our routine actions, responsible purchasing, respectful behaviours, etc. These concerns are also demonstrated by the creation of new terms as green attitude, pro-environmental behaviour, eco-friendly attitude, green consumption, to highlight the importance of the individual behaviour in pursuing the SD, and to indicate that the development of an environmentally sustainable consumption is also dependant on consumers' willingness to engage in pro-environmental behaviours.

Actually the analysis of human behaviour is very complex and interdisciplinary, especially when considering pro-enviromental factors, as demonstrated by the huge variety of approaches and methodologies adopted by the existing scholars. In the latter years, novel expanded approaches have been proposed with the intention of including all applicable factors in the correct way. These activities are very challenging, and many scholars agree that human actions are the results of a complex economic, social, physical and psychological process, influenced by numerous and heterogenoeus factors related to environment, culture, laws, politics, geography, circumstances, emotions, intentions, just to name a few of them.

Nowadays the researches on human behaviour and its influencing factors can definitely benefits of the analysis of big data (BD). For example, it would be useful to understand from the posts on social media the reaction of the inhabitants of a town to the introduction of municipal novel waste measures, or to comprehend the influence and interactions of economic, social and psychological factors on human perceptions in relation to environmental issues.

Unfortunately the majority of data available on internet are unstructured, but they potentially contain very useful information offering a great opportunity for the advancement of researches on human behaviour.

This does not mean that the key for success is BD itself, but our challenge is to create value from it by creating transparencies and unvealing relsationships, to better understand the human behaviour thorugh the utilization of big data analysis (BDA).

For the above-mentioned reasons this research aims at understanding some specific aspects of the human behaviour by taking full advantage of the most recent big data analysis tools through an interdisciplinary approach open to the collaboration of scholars from different disciplines.

Network leadership for advancing transformative capacity of social innovation
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Tim Strasser

Network leadership for advancing transformative capacity of social innovation

Tim is working half-time as a PhD researcher, investigating learning processes in networks of transformative social innovation initiatives like Impact Hubs, Transition Towns, TimeBanks, Hacker Spaces and Ecovillages.

This research draws on involvement with the recently completed EU-funded TRANSIT project (2014-2017), which developed an empirically grounded theory on how such social innovations relate to transformative social change. The focus lies on better understanding how network leaders can effectively shape the learning processes at various network levels for social innovations to develop transformative capacity.

Into the heart of systems change
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Anneloes Smitsman

Into the Heart of Systems Change

This PhD research is the culmination of 20 years of personal and professional inquiry of moving deeply into the Heart of Systems Change. Through this inquiry it became clear that the lenses through which to explore these deeper questions can either provide new understanding and societal innovation for co-creating a world that works, or else becomes the biggest hindrance to stopping the worst-case scenario.

The earlier mechanistic paradigm - of parts and particles, isolated and random events, and a dualistic perception of the nature of reality and the role of humanity - has brought us into the very mess we now find ourselves trapped. Our current climate change crisis and eco-genocide is only a symptom of a much deeper underlying systemic problem of societal and human development on foundations that are not conducive for life to thrive.

A new and more holistic scientific paradigm is now starting to emerge that enables and empowers us to systemically explore these deeper foundations of our sustainability and ecological thrivability. This PhD research aims to contribute to this emerging new field via peer-reviewed international publications with some of the pioneers of this new emerging field.

Into the Heart of Systems Change is also an exploration into the barriers that emerge from within the mechanistic systems requiring systemic transformational change for our collective sustainability. These barriers became apparent in three case-studies of four schools and two businesses that are included in the experimental action-research components of this PhD. In each of these case-studies, specific transformational strategies have been designed, applied, and tested over a period of several years to better understand systemic transformational change processes in conventional systems.

ICIS - PhD - Jos Eussen
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Jos Eussen

The OPEDUCA Concept - Basing schooling (from primary to higher) on Education for Sustainable Development in a local-to-global multi-stakeholder reality of Learning

This PhD marks the end of the first 10 years (2008-2018) of ‘The OPEDUCA Project’ , an ongoing effort to unleash the transformative power of Education in the light of a more sustainable development. A period that can also be seen as a decade of participatory action research leading to the formulation, instrumentalization, testing and analyses of a vision on Learning, Education and from there Schooling based on ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ in order to empower and enable a next generation of citizens that honour and live on this world in a more respectful way than generations before them.

Learning is approached as inquiry-, problem-, community- and real-life based. Seen from a life-long perspective, starting early in primary and including working-life. Education is looked at from an holistic and fully integrative perspective, including amongst others environmental-, entrepreneurship-, global- and citizenship-education. ‘School’ is re-defined as a community-based learning ground where the learner connects with sources of information and practice in all sectors and aspects of life, from there developing outwards to a global citizen rooted and acting in local reality.

ESD-based-Education is positioned as on ongoing learning-line/process, a thread through the whole formal system, thematically connected with the community in which private industry plays a major role as ‘partner in learning’. This approach offers a new perspective on (ESD-based-)CSR and on information-sharing within and by companies. Given the connection of formal education through schooling with the world of work, I pay additional attention to the question if a compound of knowledge (-development) is possible.

Sources of knowledge and experiences exploited from the (practical) fields of industry and science are ‘fed’ into the learning process of pupils and students in a AAAA-approach - enabling youngsters to learn Anytime, Any Place, through Any Device, with Anybody. The implications and opportunities of such will amongst others come forth where I address the construction of OERs and the learning-effective use of ICT.

One can regard The OPEDUCA Project as an artefact, created and then studied, the exegesis following a rough creation that was immediately brought to practice, lifted from the cradle and brought to work, outstanding the need for a decent education of itself. As Whitney Trosten-Bloom noted: “Human systems move in the direction of what they study, therefore the choice of what they study is fateful”.

As ‘The OPEDUCA Project’ will continue through and following this PhD, those interested to share and participate are most welcome.

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Other Current PhD-projects

Climate and ENSO variability effect on dengue incidence in Aruba
Marck Oduber

Certification contracts from an institutional economic perspective
Esther Sri Astuti

Learning for sustainability: the learning process
Anneloes Smitsman

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Completed PhD Projects

Ecological Consequences of Globalization: Implications for Sustainable Development (2017)
Lukas FiggeRead more

Social and Economic Effects of Coffee Certification, with a Specific Focus on the Livelihood Effects for Farmers (2017)
Ibnu MuhammadRead more

The Role of Governments on Sustainable Agriculture (2017)
Atika WijayaRead more

The Social and Economic Effects of Palm Oil Certification, with a Specific Focus on the Livelihood Effects for Farmers (2017)
Nia HidayatRead more

Religion and sustainable development (2017)
Laura Kurth

The transition of farmers’ sustainable agricultural production behaviors:  comparative cases study in China and Netherlands
Jing Wang

Climate change and health: consequences and adaptation in Europe (2015)
Su-Mia Akin | Download

Climate change and dengue transmission in Vietnam: an integrated assessment (2015)
Toan Do Thanh | Download

A sunny future for photovoltaic systems in the Netherlands? An analysis of the role of government and users in the diffusion of an emerging technology (2014)
Veronique Vasseur | Download

Stepping stone cities? Exploring urban greening and gardening as a viable contribution to global biodiversity conservation (2014)
Carijn Beumer | Download

The Perspectives Method: Towards socially robust River Management. Maastricht University (2012)
Astrid Offermans | Download

Regional sustainable development: Barries in Practice (Findings from policy, citizens, practitioners and monitoring) (2011)
Annemarie van Zeijl-Rozema | Download

Living with Less: Prospects for Sustainability (2010)
Jeanine Schreurs

Sailing on the winds of change. The Odyssey of Sustainability of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Maastricht University. (2010)
Niko Roorda

Union democracy: The challenge of globalisation to organised labour in Ghana. (2010)
Akua Britwum

Innovation in car mobility. Co-evolution of demand and supply under sustainability pressures. (2010)
Marc Dijk

Climate change and tourism: Impacts and vulnerability in coastal Europe. (2010)
Alvaro Moreno

The role of future studies in innovation processes
Nicole Rijkens-Klomp

  • Myrthe Velter

    Shared Value Creation and Inter-organisational Collaboration for Sustainable Business Model Innovation

    Dit is er niet
  • Diego Ramírez

    Overpassing the hot spot: Climate proofing with in a sustainable development strategy for Central America.

    Dit is er niet
  • Julia Backhaus

    The Role of Assumptions in Social Change Processes

    Dit is er niet
  • Bram Oosterbroek

    Spatially Modelling the Positive and Negative Effects of Nature on Human Health: a Focus on Optimizing Urban Green Infrastructure

    Dit is er niet
  • Bingtao Su

    The Role of Animals and Nature in Learning for Sustainable Development --a Chinese Perspective

    Dit is er niet
  • Ceren Pekdemir

    Global Sustainable Governance: Partnerships Between Fragmentation and Cohesion

    Dit is er niet
  • Alex Baker-Shelley

    Organisational Transformation and Systemic Change: Navigating pathways towards Sustainability for the University

    Dit is er niet
  • Wendy Broers

    Are energy decisions about energy?

    Dit is er niet
  • Xu Liu

    Sustainability Assessment tools for Urban Mobility –policy lessons from a China-Europe comparison

    Dit is er niet
  • Mo Chen

    Understanding Human-Ocean Relationships: A Multi-Perspective Analysis of Chinese Ocean Society

    Dit is er niet
  • Alessandro Concari

    Detecting and analyzing assumptions and behavioural changes on pro-environmental consumer behaviour in relation to waste management through Big Data Analysis (BDA)

    Dit is er niet
  • Tim Strasser

    Network leadership for advancing transformative capacity of social innovation

    Dit is er niet
  • Anneloes Smitsman

    Into the Heart of Systems Change

    Dit is er niet
  • Jos Eussen

    The OPEDUCA Concept - Basing schooling (from primary to higher) on Education for Sustainable Development in a local-to-global multi-stakeholder reality of Learning

    Dit is er niet
  • Other Current PhD-projects

    Dit is er niet
  • Completed PhD Projects

    Dit is er niet