Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders

People at NERF: Rik van Daal

27 July 2018

Postgraduate student Rik van Daal won an award for his MSc thesis supervised by Bob Puers (Faculty of Engineering) and Fabian Kloosterman (NERF). Now that he graduated as a Biomedical Engineer, Rik is excited to continue his work as a PhD student at the Kloosterman lab. Time for a quick chat.

Rik, your MSc studies were in Biomedical Engineering. What made you choose a project at one of the NERF labs?

My initial reason for doing a Master of Biomedical Engineering at KU Leuven was to develop new technology for the healthcare sector and in this way help disabled or ill people.

What especially fascinates me in this field is the relation between micro-technology and the brain, and it's this fascination that led me to do my master's thesis at NERF. It's an amazing research centre for students who want to learn more about the brain and its different structures and interactions.

What did you work on in the Kloosterman lab?

My master's thesis was entitled "Next generation brain implant for distributed recordings of cellular activity in freely behaving rodents".

As an engineer I have a strong interest for development and innovation. Therefore, a big goal within my thesis project was the development of minimally invasive micro-needles (probes) for registering neural activity. Those probes were developed in co-operation with the lab of prof. Puers at the Leuven NanoCentre.

At the Kloosterman Lab, I developed a special positioning mechanism, what we call hyperdrive, that can hold up to 16 probes for recording cellular activity from thin dense cell layers.

The advantages of the hyperdrive are its size, weight, full protection to electronic components and assembly time. By combining the knowledge and knowhow of both labs I succeeded to record neural activity from a freely behaving rodent.

And you were awarded the best MSc thesis prize, congratulations! Hungry for more?

Yes! The experience and recognition of course gives me a head start on doing a PhD at the Kloosterman lab at NERF and KU Leuven. I look forward to continue my research and development for new technologies to improve long-term brain recordings. The ultimate goal is of course to advance our understanding of how the brain works. 

Best of luck!