Photo competition_winners

PARC photo competition winners: Visit our world of research in chemical risk assessment

Welcome to the vernissage presenting the winners of the 2023 PARC photo competition. By submitting visuals to the photo competition, people in PARC opened the door for everyone to peek into the world of research in chemical risk assessment.  

The winners of the PARC photo competition 2023 have now been chosen.  

The criteria for participation were simple: Take a photo – or a series of three photos - illustrating the work you do PARC and add a short text explaining your contribution in a language easily understood by lay people.  

The winners were selected by a committee from among the partners in PARC responsible for communication of PARC research and results. Criteria for the selection of winners were – on a scale from one to five – to which extend did the contribution:  

  • show the work we do in PARC in an engaging way to a general audience (photo(s) and text combined),
  • explain to the general audience what we see in the photo(s) and what the potential impact the work might have on regulation, human health, or the environment,
  • show photos of high quality.

Winners were promised gold, silver and bronze prizes and the fame of getting their photos and texts published in PARC media.

And the winners are…

Two contributions got the exact same top score and share the gold medal:

Fleur van Broekhuizen, regulatory officer, European Chemicals Agency, ECHA, Finland.

Camille Streel, scientist, Experimental Toxicology Unit, Risk and Health Impact Assessment service, Sciensano, Belgium. With photos taken also by Julie Sanders and Seppe Segers, both from Sciensano, Belgium.

Silver medal:

Maja Zupanc, data scientist, National Institute of Public Health, Slovenia. With photos taken by  

Alja Polajžer, National Institute of Public Health, Slovenia.

Bronze medal:

Kim Heikamp, Ph.D. Student, Amsterdam Institute for Life and Environment, Department of Environmental Health & Toxicology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Welcome to the vernissage

Congratulations to all the winners! They will also be presented in PARC social media on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and X, where everyone can like, share or comment. 

The contribution from Fleur van Broekhuizen winning a shared gold medal:



Resolving the need for regulatory action in all its complexities  

The ice crystals on the window of the European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki reflect the spiky, unpredictable, and beautiful character of our work in PARC. We investigate chemicals, uncover how to access their risk on humans and the environment, and where needed how to regulate their uses. Full of expectation, we see through the developing complex structures into a clearer regulatory future where we have more knowledge on the behaviour and fate of chemicals that are of concern for humans and the environmental. We are seeing part, still guessing the rest.

The contribution from Camille Streel, Julie Sanders and Seppe Segers winning a shared gold medal:



Filling the knowledge gaps on toxins produced by fungi

Sometimes living organisms like fungi naturally produce toxins that can cause disease and death when eaten by humans or animals. In PARC we aim to fill the knowledge gaps on toxins produced by fungi. For instance, we do not know the potential impact of enniatins produced by Fusarium fungi and Alternaria toxins on human genetic material. The pictures show how we test the genotoxicity of these toxins by the in ‘vitro micronucleus assay’-method; how PARC researcher Camille Streel prepares the automated analysis of the samples with a microscope connected to a PC-system; and how the damage to the human genetic material is visualized as the presence of small extra nuclei (‘micronuclei’) on a computer screen. The new knowledge gained in PARC can have potential impact on human and animal health if/when used by regulators to do the safety assessment of these toxins. 

 The contribution from Maja Zupanc and Alja Polajžer winning the silver medal: 

Photo by Maja


Some scientists don't wear white coats

As a data scientist in PARC, Maja Zupanc acts as an intermediary between colleagues creating laboratory results, risk assessors and finally policy makers who utilize the data further to actions that protect humans and the environment. She is ensuring that everyone knows how to manage and utilize the data effectively, guiding some on how to store data and others where to find it.  

‘I have a role similar to a conductor, I don't read music, and I don't play instruments, but I do make sure that everything is in tune. I orchestrate organized virtual workspace that fosters quality research and facilitates the collaboration within the scientific community. This orchestration requires a lot of stretching,’ says Maja Zupanc, National Institute of Public Health Slovenia.  

Data produced in PARC is FAIR, meaning that it is findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable by all who want access.  

The contribution from Kim Heikamp winning the bronze medal:



Manmade organoids, representing part of the brain, help finding damaging chemicals  

Some chemical compounds are disrupting the hormone systems of humans and animals causing issues such as impaired brain development. So, to protect us all, regulators and companies have to define which compounds are safe to use and which are not. To support them, researchers in PARC develop new ways of assessing the risk of chemicals. One way of doing this is to mimic the human brain as accurately as possible. What you see in the picture is part of a manmade organoid – a self-organized 3D culture of cells – of the brain’s choroid plexus, which can function as a protective barrier between the blood and the brain.

During early brain development, it is important that thyroid hormone is transported properly from the blood to the brain, and researchers in PARC are investigating the mechanisms behind this transport. By tagging the cells of the organoids with fluorescent antibodies, the researchers have shown that the organoids contain proteins that are important for the transport of thyroid hormone, such as the large neutral amino acid transporter 1 (red) and Zonula Occludens-1 (green). The nuclei of the cells are coloured blue.

In the future, these organoids will be used to screen if chemical compounds can interfere with thyroid hormone transport to the fetal brain. This innovative method can also be used to investigate whether the chemical compounds can cross the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier and reach the developing brain directly.