Visit to the Radboud University Nijmegen

Denise de Waal, a PhD student from the Bradford Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) funded by the Alzheimer’s Society, tells us about her recent visit to Radboud University Nijmegen.






Learning from international experts of the Doctoral Training Centre at Bradford

As PhD students who are part of the Doctoral Training Centre on Transitions in Dementia Care, we are fortunate to work with seven international experts as external advisers on our work. Our expert panel consist of Professors from different countries in Europe, and North America, who are experts in the field of dementia care, and have their own expertise on different topics and research methods.

Our international experts are: Professor Barbara Bowers, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Professor Richard Fortinsky, University of Connecticut, Professor Amy Kind, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Professor Ann Kolanowski, Penn State University, Professor Myrra Vernooij-Dassen, University of Nijmegen, Professor Martina Roes, University of Witten-Herdecke and Professor Steven Zarit, Penn State University.

They all offered to visit the University of Bradford and deliver a workshop, a lecture and some guidance on our doctoral research. Every student is connected to one expert that has expertise on the topic or research method of the student’s project. During the PhD, each student has one opportunity to visit his or her international expert at their university. We receive more guidance on our projects, and have a taste of research in dementia care at a different university in another country.

The title of my doctoral research is;

Gaining a Better Understanding of Daily Life for People with Dementia and Co-morbidities and their Spouse living in the Community: An Ethnographic Study of the Lived Experience

I look at the daily life experience of people living with dementia and co-morbidities and their spouse, who live together in their own home. Last year the DTC connected me with Prof. Myrra Vernooij-Dassen as the international expert in my project. In April I had the chance to meet Myrra when she visited the DTC for her international visit. She delivered an interesting workshop on implementation science and a lecture on transitions in care. My supervisors and I had the opportunity to discuss my research with Myrra. After her visit, Myrra invited me to go to the Radboud University of Nijmegen in Autumn.

City Center of Nijmegen

IQ Scientific Center for Health Care at the Radboud University of Nijmegen

In October I visited the IQ center at the University of Nijmegen. During this visit, Myrra gave me some further guidance on my project. We particularly focused on the data analysis phase of my research, which I have just started. I also had the opportunity to see how dementia research is conducted at a Dutch university. Myrra introduced me to her PhD students, who showed me the campus, told me about their projects on integrated care for frail elderly, and the system of gaining a PhD in the Netherlands.

Doing a PhD in the Netherlands

Myrra invited me to attend some different meetings of her PhD students, this gave me some insight of what the PhD trajectory looks like in the Netherlands. I did my undergraduate study in the Netherlands, but carrying out a PhD in the Netherlands is a different experience. For example, doctoral Candidates, called “Promovendi”, are employees of the university. At the IQ center, PhD students have a weekly meeting with at least one of their supervisors. In Bradford we have monthly meetings, or more if the student and supervisors agree more meetings are needed.


Not only did I attend meetings of other PhD students, I also met with researchers in the center.The Alzheimer’s Society invested in the DTC to create future dementia care research leaders. In the current research landscape, it is important to network to develop research ideas that you can develop with other researchers and together take research further. International co-operation, exchange of ideas and results is an important part of development as a researcher, as well as contributing to the field.

In Nijmegen I had the opportunity to meet different researchers, to share ideas about dementia care research. We discussed different topics including end of life care, contact with health care professionals and cultural ideas about dementia. Meeting people who research different topics in the dementia field created a valuable exchange of ideas and possible links for future co-operation.


My visit to Nijmegen was valuable for my current project and my development as a researcher in the field of dementia care. I would like to thank Myrra Vernooij-Dassen, all her PhD students and other researchers of the IQ for their hospitality, time and interest in my project.

Bedankt voor de gastvrijheid !

Written by Denise de Waal PhD student at the DTC