Dieudonnée van de Willige

van de Willige

In general

I’m a science enthusiast with a talent for writing and other forms of communication.

After obtaining my PhD in molecular neurobiology and simultaneously working as a columnist, I’m now combining these skills in the science communication field.

Right now

At the moment I work as a storyteller and communications advisor for Maastricht University’s Department of Data Science and Knowledge Engineering.

I’m also on the board of SciCom NL, a Dutch association for science communication.


I hold a PhD degree in Molecular Neuroscience from Utrecht University’s Cell Biology department.

My PhD research focussed on the so-called neuronal cytoskeleton; the molecular structures that provide structural support to brain cells and enable the transport of nutrients inside the cells.

Find my papers on PubMed >
Read my PhD thesis >

2013-2018: PhD degree in Molecular Neuroscience
Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Thesis: Anatomy of the Axon: Dissecting the role of microtubule plus-end tracking proteins in axons of hippocampal neurons
Promotors: Prof. Dr. Anna Akhmanova and Prof. Dr. Casper Hoogenraad

Key publications:

  1. Cytolinker Gas2L1 regulates axon morphology through microtubule‐modulated actin stabilization. Van de Willige, D.*, Hummel, J.J.A.*, Alkemade, C., Kahn, O.I., Au, F.K.C., Qi, R.Z., Dogterom, M., Koenderink, G.H., Hoogenraad, C.C. and Akhmanova, A. EMBO Reports, 2019. (*equal contribution)
  2. Dynein regulator NDEL1 controls polarized cargo transport at the axon initial segment.
    Kuijpers, M.*, Van de Willige, D.*, Fréal, A., Chazeau, A., Franker, M.A., Hofenk, J., Rodrigues, R.J., Kapitein, L.C., Akhmanova, A., Jaarsma, D. and Hoogenraad, C.C. Neuron, 2016. (* equal contribution)
  3. Microtubule plus-end tracking proteins in neuronal development. Van de Willige, D., Hoogenraad, C.C. and Akhmanova, A.
    Molecular & Cellular Life Sciences, 2016.


2011-2013: Master’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences (cum laude)
including minor track in Science Communication
Utrecht University, the Netherlands

2008-2011: Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry (cum laude)
Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Narrative Academic Formal Column Writing

Some people have compelling origin stories. They become a superhero following a spider bite, find out their forehead scar is part of a prophecy or have their hair turned into snakes after falling for a handsome sea deity.

I have none of those stories. But I did find out something unexpected as a Chemistry bachelor’s student: people enjoy the words I put on paper.

This realization came in parts. First, my second-ever column was promptly chosen as the best of over 900 columns written by 150 students for a Science Philosophy course. Next, a jury elected me as Utrecht University’s first ‘campus columnist’. I was then scouted by Dutch daily newspaper De Telegraaf and even while trying to become a scientist, I couldn’t escape my PhD supervisors’ career advice – writing.

These days, I combine the best of both worlds: I mostly write about and for science (until I get bitten by a radioactive spider, that is :-)).

I write in Dutch and English. You can borrow my pen for:

  • Narrative writing
  • Academic writing
  • Interviews
  • Editing
  • Policy documents
  • Columns

Portfolio selection


Twelve stories matching mathematics research to an interesting spot in the city of Maastricht


An alternative guide to the city
(English only)

The Road to Maastricht

Sir Roger Penrose visits Maastricht University's Faculty of Science and Engineering

The Road to Maastricht

What would you ask someone who played a major role in the story of science in the last 70 years?
(English and Dutch)

Assorted columns

about the city of Utrecht,
for Dutch Daily newspaper De Telegraaf.

Assorted columns

(Dutch only)
Coming soon

2018 – present: Storyteller (communications advisor), Maastricht University
My main job is to expand science communication in the Department of Data Science and Knowledge Engineering and to support it in any way possible. As part of this role, I write popular scientific texts about topics related to Data Science, Artificial Intelligence and Applied Mathematics for various outlets.

In addition, I support the department’s and faculty’s communication and recruitment more broadly, mostly working as a text writer and communications advisor. I have written and edited press releases, brochures, (outward-facing) policy documents, formal student communications at all levels of the university, vacancy texts, web texts and more.

I write in English and Dutch.

2013 – 2018: PhD student, Utrecht University
Academic writing for first-author review papers and experimental papers (English only).

2012 – 2016: Columnist, De Telegraaf
De Telegraaf is the biggest daily newspaper in the Netherlands. In 2012, De Telegraaf launched a regional supplement for the province of Utrecht with a print run of 25.000 copies.

From start to finish, I had my weekly Saturday column prominently featured on page 3 of the supplement. In a reader survey conducted among 1,000 subscribers, 89% indicated they enjoyed my column (Dutch only).

2012: ‘Campus Columnist’ of Utrecht University
In 2012, I entered and won a competition to become the first ‘campuscolumnist’ of Utrecht University’s online platform, DUB. As a result, I wrote a biweekly column throughout 2012 (Dutch only).

2011: Wetfil Award, Utrecht University
The Wetfil Award is handed out annually to the student who writes the best column during the university‐wide Science Philosophy course. For the 2011 edition, approximately 150 participants wrote nearly 900 columns.

2007: Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)
Grade A


I particularly enjoy designing and implementing projects that challenge me to combine different skills and media to tell a story.

In doing so, I try to find the communication mix that amplifies the reach and impact of more standard forms of communication, such as a self-contained article or presentation.

2020: Alternate reality game 'MASA' for first-year bachelor's students

Combines various web platforms, pre-recorded video, livestreaming, Zoom sessions, in-person events, theatre and storytelling in a narrative-driven puzzle game for 150 players. Played over the course of two days in September 2020.

Read more >

2019: Math/Maastricht city guide and photo exhibition

Collaboration with the UM Art and Heritage Committee (Mieke Derickx). Combines storytelling, printed media, a photo exhibition and city tour in a showcase of mathematics research at Maastricht University. 

Read more >

& More


Since coding my first websites in Notepad and clutching my Adobe Photoshop Elements CD-ROM as a kid (don’t judge – these were the early 2000s), I have made a hobby out of figuring out creative software.

Over the years, I’ve built skills and confidence using the tools listed below.

Images & Video

Photoshop 85%
Illustrator 75%
Premiere Pro 45%


Content management systems
Drupal 55%
WordPress 40%
OBS Studio


InDesign 55%


As a PhD student, I frequently presented my research. I re-defended my PhD thesis live on national radio, toured across stages and high schools in the Netherlands with the competitive science theatre show ScienceBattle, talked about Alzheimer’s research in nursing homes, answered childrens’ questions at the Klokhuisdag and more.

I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything! However, stories about science are most powerful coming from the source – from someone who’s working in the trenches. Now that I work in a supporting role, I’m back in the audience. I do still happily help out researchers with their own narratives and presentation skills. 

17 shows

6x voted
as winner

in competitive science
theatre show ScienceBattle


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