Young Leaders Academy (YLA)

The ambition of the EUTOPIA Young Leaders Academy (YLA) is to support research exchanges between high-potential, early to mid-career researchers from all EUTOPIA partner universities and support their career development.

Members of the EUTOPIA Young Leaders Academy constitute a community of promising independent research leaders at the scale of EUTOPIA, sharing and promoting European values and the EUTOPIA vision of an interconnected academic environment. The members are comprised of early to mid-career researchers, between 2 to 12 years after PhD completion, appointed for a period of 2 years.

EUTOPIA Young Leaders Academy Fellows will be given the opportunity:

  • To develop their research leadership skills through a dedicated training programme;
  • To take part in interdisciplinary scholarly exchange and research networking activities, among Fellows and with the broader EUTOPIA research community;
  • To initiate research collaborations within the EUTOPIA Alliance
  • To contribute to the development of a challenge-based and student-shaped curriculum, through the development of research-led learning units open to undergraduate and graduate students;
  • To act as EUTOPIA ambassadors, contributing to the Alliance’s activities and fostering the emergence of an integrated research community at the EUTOPIA scale.

Meet the YLA Fellows

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)

Dr. David Beckwee

David Beckwée (MSc Rehabilitation Sciences (2004)) started his academic career in 2009 after working 5 years as a physiotherapist. He obtained his PhD in 2015 and was recently appointed as full-time associate professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He is head of the Rehabilitation Research group (https://rere.research.vub.be/ ), bringing together >30 researchers who aim to provide the best scientific evidence for rehabilitation strategies to improve one’s quality of life by optimizing physical functioning. Currently, David obtained >2.500.000€ of research funding, is (co-) promotor of 13 PhD students and he already supervised three PhD students to completion. He co-authored >45 peer-reviewed published papers and 2 handbooks for clinicians. David’s personal field of interest is focused on unravelling the mechanisms of action of the beneficial effects of exercise in health and disease. He is always interested in investigating interdisciplinary research questions if they relate to physical activity, healthy aging, personalized healthcare, or technology.

Dr. Cleo Goyvaerts

As a passionate researcher, I’m captivated by the potential of the immune system to defeat cancer. I obtained my PhD in Biomedical Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in 2015. Next, I broadened my horizons as a postdoctoral fellow at the Tisch Cancer Institute, Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine New York, where I developed a strong interest for lung cancer immunotherapy and 3D in vitro tumor modelling. Since 2018, I work as an Assistant Professor at the Laboratory for Molecular and Cellular Therapy at the VUB, where we tend to unravel the missing links within the lung tumor microenvironment that are responsible for the sobering response rates to immunotherapy today. As a people person, I enjoy planting complementary and interdisciplinary collaborations to fuel each other’s interest and enjoy science together. Finally, I grasp every chance to share my enthusiasm for antitumor immunology with peers and non-peers under the guise of ‘knowledge is power and sharing is caring’!

Dr. Birgit Van Puymb

Birgit Van Puymbroeck is Assistant Professor (tenure-track) in literature in English and research methodology at VUB. She teaches courses in research methodology, European literature, and literature in English. She received her PhD in 2012 from Ghent University and has held visiting fellowships at Yale University, Queen Mary University of London, and the University of Edinburgh. She is the author of Modernist Literature and European Identity (Routledge 2020) and of various articles and book chapters on literary modernism, transnational networks and media (especially periodicals and radio). Together with Marysa Demoor and Cedric Van Dijck, she is co-editing the Edinburgh Companion to First World War Periodicals. Together with Inge Arteel, she is working on a project on audio literature. Birgit is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Diversity and Gender Studies, the Belgian Young Academy and the Young Academy Science Advice Structure. She is delighted to be selected as Fellow of the first cohort of the EUTOPIA Young Leaders Academy.

Dr. Jeroen Van Schependom

Jeroen Van Schependom graduated summa cum laude as a Master of Science in Engineering Physics (UGent) in 2011 and defended his PhD thesis on cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis in 2015 at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmaceutical Sciences (VUB) and the Faculté de Psychologie et des Sciences de l’Education (UMons). Between 2015 and 2019 he was an FWO postdoctoral fellow in charge of collecting and processing magnetoencephalographic and diffusion-weighted imaging data from multiple sclerosis patients and was a visiting researcher at the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity and the Computational Neuroscience Group at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. In 2016, Prof Van Schependom was promoted to part-time professor at VUB and since 2019 he was promoted into the role of first interdisciplinary senior research fellow at VUB. His appointment is evenly divided between the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy (www.aims.research.vub.be) and the Faculty of Engineering (ETRO, www.etrovub.be). His research focuses on furthering our understanding of how neurological diseases (mainly MS and Alzheimer’s disease) affect brain structure and functioning and on the development of neuromodulation as a potential treatment.

CY Cergy Paris Université (CYU)

Dr. Muriel Epstein

I am Maitresse de Conférences (lecturer / associate professor) in Education Sciences at CYU (Cergy Paris University). My lab, EMA (Ecole Mutations Apprentissage), works on school transitions and learning in general. I teach mainly teachers and professionals in the education system.

I am a former maths teacher and statistician, comfortable with both qualitative and quantitative methods. My PhD is in Sociology and dealt with school dropouts. My researches had moved from exclusion to inclusion. I especially focus on how digital technologies can help to make schools more inclusive and leverage Teachers' professional development. I join Eutopia to be part of the development of a hybrid training for our future teachers, for innovation and inclusion of our students.

Dr. Hippolyte Gros

Hippolyte Gros is an Associate Professor in cognitive sciences at CY Cergy Paris University. With a focus on cognitive and educational psychology, his research interests include problem-solving, numerical cognition, arithmetic reasoning, cognitive flexibility, mathematics education, and educational myths.

During his PhD, he investigated the interpretative processes at play in arithmetic reasoning and word problem-solving. More specifically, he studied the role of daily-life knowledge on the encoding of numerical information, the representation of arithmetic word problems, and the use of solving strategies. In an effort to identify how to foster transfer from one learning situation to another, he gathered both behavioral data (success rates, response times, problem drawings, etc.) and physiological data (saccadic eye movements, pupil dilation) in several activities ranging from problem classification and analogy making to sentence recall and group reasoning. He worked with children, teachers, and math experts to show the universal nature of some reasoning biases. He is now looking to further investigate this issue from an intercultural perspective. Ultimately, his work aims at developing new teaching strategies to be used in schools.

Dr. Suhao Wang

Dr. Suhao Wang has been a principal investigator at LPPI of CY Cergy Paris Université since 2020. He is currently leading the research of designing conjugated polymers for thermoelectric green energy conversion. During the past decade, his research activities have been cross-disciplinary, spanning polymer chemistry, solid-state physics, organic electronics, organic energy materials, etc. In 2019, he was selected by Synthetic Metals as an “early career research leader” and was invited to contribute a review paper on the role of short-range order in conjugated polymers. Up to date, he has gained extensive experience in conjugated polymers and published 28 papers on highly ranked peer-reviewed journals, such as PNAS, JACS, Advanced Materials, Chemistry of Materials, etc. According to Web of Science, Dr. Wang's papers have been cited >1600 times, with an H-index of 19 (average citations per item > 50).

University of Gothenburg (GU)

Dr. Helena Kraff

Helena Kraff (PhD in design) is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts at University of Gothenburg. She is active as a teacher in the master’s programme Embedded Design, in which students practice the integration of design in organisational contexts. Helena’s main research areas are participatory and collaborative design, which through transdisciplinary research projects are applied within other fields and disciplines, such as tourism, migration and integration studies. Helena is currently engaged in the project The role of tourism in multicultural societies (TiMS), and is active as board member at the Centre for Tourism (CFT) at University of Gothenburg. 

Recent publications in design research deal with pitfalls of participation, agonistic participation and diversity of participation. Publications outside the design disciplines discuss the roles of social enterprises and community-based organisations in socioeconomic development, participatory place branding and effects of transdisciplinary collaboration.

Dr. Margit Alt Murphy

Margit Alt Murphy is Associate Professor at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Clinical neuroscience at University of Gothenburg and Associate PI of the Rehabilitation Medicine research group including more than 20 active researchers. Senior Consultant Physiotherapist and R&D leader with 15-years clinical experience in neurological rehabilitation at Sahlgrenska University Hospital. Recognized researcher in the field of stroke rehabilitation and upper extremity assessment and rehabilitation. Fellow of European Stroke Organization and core group member of the SRRR Second Roundtable on Standardized Measurement of Quality of Upper Limb Movement After Stroke. Collaborations include technology developers and European network COST Action on neurorehabilitation and robotics. Chair of the Neurology section of Swedish Physiotherapist.

From the University of Ljubljana (UL)

Dr. Nejc bezak

I am currently employed as an assistant professor at the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Civil and Geodetic Engineering. I finished my PhD in 2016. My research work is composed from two main parts. First part is focused on the hydrological processes, mostly on the rainfall-runoff relationship. This includes hydrological (i.e. rainfall-runoff) modelling, climate change investigations, statistical analysis of past measured data, field measurements using state-of-the-art equipment, etc. Second part of my research work is focused on different elements of the erosion-sedimentation cycle. This includes soil erosion modelling, rainfall erosivity investigations, erosion and sediment transport measurements, landslides triggering prediction, debris flow modelling and investigations of the historical events, etc. I have published more than 40 scientific papers that are indexed in the Web of Science (WoS) database and my H-index is 12 with total number of citations equal to 530 according to the WoS. Furthermore, several papers were also published in Slovene language in local journals. I have performed reviews for more than 30 international scientific journals and research agencies. Moreover, I am actively involved in multiple national and international and research and applied projects. I am currently leader of the WG1 of the Land4Flood COST action. Furthermore, as a teacher I am teaching Hydrological modelling, Drainage and Irrigation, Engineering Hydraulics, etc. courses. I have supervised and co-supervised more than 10 students at master and bachelor level and I am currently mentoring 1 PhD student.

Dr. Jaka Cepec

Jaka Cepec holds a PhD on Law & Economics of Insolvency law at the University of Ljubljana, School of Law. Currently, he is an associate professor of Law and the School of Business and Economics University of Ljubljana. His research focus is Insolvency law, Empirical legal research and Law Economics. In 2018 he was awarded a postdoc Fulbright Scholarship, visiting Washington & Lee University in Virginia US. Currently, he is engaged in a national research project on Law of Debtors and Creditors - A normative and empirical legal analysis. He and his team are researching the interconnectivity and differences in individual enforcement and in bankruptcy. His google scholar link in https://scholar.google.si/citations?user=K-CfSjAAAAAJ&hl=sl

Dr. Anna Dragos (born OŚLIZŁO)

Assistant Professor, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana 
Email: anna.dragos@bf.uni-lj.si; Twitter: @Anna_Dragos

My overarching research aim concentrates on the deep understanding of ecological and evolutionary factors that influence bacterial reproduction and survival with special emphasis on bacterial viruses, called phages. As a member of the Microbiology Chair (Department of Food, Science and Technology) I am heading a research project founded by ARRS (Slovenian Research Agency) focusing on host control by phage. We investigate to what extend temperate phages alter the behaviour of their bacterial host and what are the molecular mechanisms and evolutionary forces behind host control by phage.  

I graduated from Biotechnology at the University of Wroclaw (Poland) in 2009, defended my PhD thesis in 2014 at the University of Ljubljana, and spent several years abroad as a postdoctoral fellow funded by Alexander von Humboldt fellowship (Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Germany) and H.C. Oersted fellowship  (Technical University of Denmark). Next to building up an independent research group, I review for research journals, serve as a guest lecturer in curses,  serve as a member of a few international committees to organize conferences and support early career researchers and organize local research events.

Dr. Natalija Majsova

Natalija Majsova is an assistant professor in cultural studies at the University of Ljubljana. She holds a Ph.D. in cultural studies from the University of Ljubljana (2015). Her research interests include memory studies, cultural theory, post-socialist cultural studies, and film studies. In 2014, she was a visiting researcher at Freie Universität Berlin. In 2018, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the Research Centre for Visual Poetics at the University of Antwerp. In 2019-2020, she was a researcher at the Catholic University of Louvain, where she took part in the consortium project B-magic: The Magic Lantern and Its Cultural Impact in Belgium 1830-1940. Her work has appeared in international academic journals, such as Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema, Popular Music and Society, and Družboslovne razprave, and in edited volumes published by Brill, Routledge, and Palgrave Macmillan. Her book Science Fiction Cinema and the Space Age: Memorable Futures was published with Lexington Books in 2021.
From the University Pompeu Fabra Barcelona (UPF)

Dr. Ivó Coca

PhD: Universitat Pompeu Fabra, 2015 (M)

Criminal Law

I am a tenure-track researcher (Ramón y Cajal postdoctoral fellow) at Pompeu Fabra University’s Law School (Barcelona) and an affiliated researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law (Freiburg). My research interests lie in the foundations of criminal law, in particular issues regarding the theory of crime and criminalization, current issues at the intersection of criminal law, philosophy and ethics, as well as theoretical questions concerning property and white-collar crimes. My research is focused not only on national law but takes the transnational perspective into account. I hold a PhD (Extraordinary PhD Award / International Mention), a Masters in Laws (LLM) and a B.A. in Law from Pompeu Fabra University. I have been Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security and Law, and visiting scholar at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

Dr Lela Mélon

PhD: University of Aberdeen, 2018 (F)

Sustainability, EU law

Lela Mélon has a legal and economics background and is a former Marie Curie Research Fellow at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. She is specialized in EU law, with a main focus on corporate law and sustainability, on which she published the book Shareholder Primacy and Global Business (Routledge 2018). She is currently researching policy coherence for sustainability at the EU level, focusing on corporate law policies as well as the issue of strategic use of public procurement. She is a member of the SMART working group on public procurement and corporate law policy proposals to the EU for sustainable business and has delivered training and presentations on these topic issues across Europe. Besides being active in the academic field, she created and implemented a three-step systemic approach towards sustainability, which entailed the insertion of separate sustainable corporate law course in academic curricula and a simultaneous sustainable revision of the existing and well-established academic curricula in economics and law. She is currently the executive director of the Planetary Wellbeing Institutional Framework at Pompeu Fabra University and a professor of Sustainability in Business Law at ESCI-UPF.

From the University of Warwick (UoW)

Dr. Ame Eissa

Dr Eissa is a Senior Research Fellow (group leader) in the Department of Chemistry, working across, Chemistry, Engineering and Life Sciences to develop bioactive and bio-inspired macromolecules and biomaterials.

Ahmed studied Chemistry for his first degree at Ain-Shams University in Cairo graduating with Honours and finishing third top of his year. Following a three year spell in pro squash and badminton tours, he returned to science to pursue a career in academia. In 2005, he successfully completed his M.Sc. in Polymer Chemistry at Ain–Shams University, Cairo and was appointed as a Research Associate in the National Research Centre in Cairo. In 2006, Ahmed was awarded a fully funded Ph.D. studentship and moved west to carry out his Ph.D. studies at the University of Durham, UK, graduating in 2011 with a thesis titled “Synthesis and Characterisation of Novel Biopolymers via ‘Click’ Chemistry”, under the supervision of Dr. Ezat Khosravi. Between 2011 and 2014, as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the group of Prof. Neil Cameron at Durham, he was able to translate his skills to design macromolecules and materials that interfere or mimic biological processes, leading to therapeutic or biotechnological applications. In September 2014, Ahmed took up a research fellowship position in Engineering at Warwick University, UK, with an adjunct position at Monash University, Australia. In this role, he embarked on independent research career in the area of Biomedical Polymer Materials. Following a promotion to a Senior Research Fellow, in 2018, Ahmed took a group leader position in the Department of Chemistry at Warwick, working with Prof. David Haddleton


Dr. Andi Hoxhaj

Dr Andi Hoxhaj is an early career legal scholar at the Warwick Law School, University of Warwick and teaches in the European Union Law module. He is an award-winning teacher in EU law; a recipient of the Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence 2021. Dr Hoxhaj was awarded his PhD in 2017 at the University of Warwick and his areas of focus are corruption, governance, civil society, the rule of law, European integration and engagement in the Western Balkans. He is an author of book titled ‘The EU Anti-Corruption Policy: A Reflexive Governance Approach (Routledge, 2020). Dr Hoxhaj has also published peer-review articles on the rule of law, anti-corruption, academic freedom, the EU– Western Balkans engagement and enlargement policy. In April 2018, Dr Hoxhaj was awarded the British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award for a project titled ‘The UK—Western Balkans post-Brexit’. His insight on corruption, good governance, EU enlargement policy, and the migration of young people in the Western Balkans were referred to in a parliamentary inquiry report ‘The UK and the future of the Western Balkans’ published by the United Kingdom Parliament in 2018.

Dr. Subhash Lakshminarayana

Dr. Subhash Lakshminarayana is an assistant professor at the School of Engineering, University of Warwick, UK. Previously, he worked as a research scientist at 'Illinois at Singapore' between 2015-2018, a joint post-doctoral researcher at Princeton University, and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) between 2013-2015. He received his PhD from the Alcatel Lucent Chair on Flexible Radio and the Department of Telecommunications at SUPELEC, France.

His research interests include cyber-physical system security (power grids and urban transportation) and wireless communications. His works have been selected among the Best conference papers on integration of renewable & intermittent resources at the IEEE PESGM - 2015 conference, and the ``Best 50 papers" of IEEE Globecom 2014 conference. He serves as Associate Editor at the IET smart grid journal and Frontiers in Communications and Networks Journal (Smart Grid Communications section), and regularly serves in the technical program committees of IEEE conferences. He is a senior member of IEEE.

Dr. Stefan Roesner

I received my Diploma in chemistry from Philipps-University Marburg, Germany in 2010. Following this, I moved to the UK and completed a Ph.D. in organic chemistry with Prof. Varinder Aggarwal at the University of Bristol in 2014. After postdoctoral studies in the United States at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the supervision of Prof. Stephen Buchwald, I returned in 2016 to the UK to become Senior Research Fellow in the Shipman group in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Warwick. My research area is synthetic organic chemistry with a particular focus on catalysis, organometallic chemistry, and continuous-flow chemistry.

Call Information

Young Leaders Academy is open to early to mid-career researchers, preferably between 2 to 12 years after PhD completion. YLA Fellows will be appointed for a period of 2 years.

Applicants should already be formally appointed with one of the Universities of the EUTOPIA Alliance and hold a tenured or tenure-track position or major research fellowship; 

Opening date for applications: 30 April 2021
Closing date for applications: 30 June 2021 

For full information on the call and the application and selection criteria,
please consult the documents below:

CALL DESCRIPTION (link)

APPLICATION FORM (link)

The EUTOPIA Young Leaders Academy will enrol the first cohort of 18 Fellows, starting in September 2021. A second call for applications is scheduled to open in early 2023.


Contact Information for local managers of the EUTOPIA Young Leaders Academy:

Vrije Universiteit Brussel: Cristina Macovei, R&D European liaison office, Cristina.Macovei@vub.be
CY Cergy Paris University: Kate Robinson, International Scientific Development Office, katy.robinson@cyu.fr
University of Ljubljana: Polona Juvancic, Research and Development Centre, polona.juvancic@uni-lj.si
Pompeu Fabra University: María Gil, European Projects Manager & Research Advisor, maria.gil@upf.edu
University of Gothenburg: Henrik Lindskog, Research Support Grants and Innovation Office, lindskog@gu.se
University of Warwick: John Burden, Institute of Advanced Studies, j.p.burden@warwick.ac.uk