Meet our FPN Alumni


Pauline van Gils

Pauline van Gils was born and raised in Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands. She obtained her Research Master in Psychopathology at the University of Maastricht in 2020 after gaining her BSc in Psychology and Neuroscience also in Maastricht. She first did a research internship at Maastricht University, during which she investigated the efficacy of cognitive behavioral therapy combined with visual imagery methods in reducing feelings of anger and hostility. Afterwards, she did a clinical internship at the Zuyderland hospital in Sittard at the medical psychology department. There she worked with patients with brain injury. Then, she started working as a PhD researcher at the University of Twente and the University of Maastricht. The topic of her research is developing an intervention to help people who suffered brain injury and cognitive impairment after a cardiac arrest. The interventions she is currently investigating are strategy training and non-invasive brain stimulation (rTMS).

She is part of the Limburg Brain Injury Center. This is a group of researchers at the UM that do not only research and teaching, but also focus on spreading knowledge about the brain and brain injury to patients and the general public.


Job van den Hurk

Job van den Hurk is a cognitive neuroscientist. After his Bsc in psychology and Msc in cognitive neuroscience, he obtained his PhD at Maastricht University for his research on higher order visual processing. He then worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, where he studied how visual brain regions of congenitally blind people are functionally organized. He mainly uses functional and structural MRI as neuroimaging methods, and unravels the data using computational modeling and machine learning techniques. At this moment, he works as scientific director at ultra-high field MRI center Scannexus in Maastricht, as well as assistant professor at Maastricht University.

Job is co-founder and editor-in-chief of award-winning scientific platform BrainMatters, which intends to make neuroscience accessible to the broader public. He also writes blogs and articles for the writer’s collective, and is co-host of the Dutch tv show ‘Brainstorm’.


Karin Joanknecht

Karin Joanknecht is a friendship coach and runs her own business at Karin Connects. She helps young people build and maintain deep, enduring and satisfying friendships, where you can be fully yourself, while feeling accepted and connected. 

Friendship plays an important role throughout our entire life. Having strong and satisfying social relationships is the most important factor determining our enduring happiness. Studies show that having good friends keeps you healthier (both mentally and physically) and also helps you recover faster should you fall ill.

While we study to gain knowledge and create career options, it is also the time for a lot of us to form friendships that we hope will last a lifetime. But what if you didn’t find ‘the right friends’ yet, the ones that you feel a real connection with? Maybe there are times that you feel really lonely and like you have to shoulder it all alone. Or maybe you did make friends, but you’re not sure how to maintain those bonds as you transition into your new roles after uni, when your lives will start to diverge?

Karin teaches how you can create a connection every single time you meet someone (provided you want to connect with them). It works even with strangers. Imagine what that skill can do to your friendships!


Noa Kaesler

Noa Kaesler is a UCM and Legal Psychology alumni who is currently conducting her own research as a PhD candidate at the law faculty. Previously, she examined the impact of contextual information on the decisions in civil commitment trials for sexual assault cases. Another research that Noa contributed to that is still in the works examined lay people perspectives on false confessions. This was part of a 10 year follow up together with Jenny Schell-Leugers, Melanie Sauerland and Saul Kassin among others.

Currently, she is mostly working on her own PhD where she conducts research with the NRGD, which is the National Register of Legal Experts on the practices of Dutch defense lawyers. Her interdisciplinary background allows her to study legal psychological issues within the field of law from her perspective. As part of her PhD she enjoys teaching the master and bachelor students about legal psychology and supervises multiple students with their own works.



Erik Kikas 

Erik was born and raised in Estonia before he made the decision to move to the Netherlands to pursue his BSc in Psychology and Neuroscience at UM. Following his graduation in 2019, he took a year off to work on a project that involved transitioning to Canvas. In 2021, Erik completed his MSc degree in Neuropsychology where he explored the use of Virtual Reality (VR) glasses in measuring pupil dilation as part of his research internship. This project sparked his interest in the collaboration of technology and psychology, which he continues to explore in his work and personal life.

Currently, Erik is working as a Student & Career Counsellor and Project Lead at the School of Business and Economics, which is a faculty of UM. He is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and engages in daily discussions on various topics, including motivation, study skills, time-management, (mental) illness, and personal circumstances. Erik is also involved in leading projects such as the development of an online platform for blended counselling.

Aside from his professional interests, Erik is an avid enthusiast of technology and loves being outdoors. He also enjoys building things - two of his favourite projects have been building a camper van and an electronic longboard.



Ilona de Kooter


Ilona completed her bachelor degree in Liberal arts and sciences in 2014 at the University in Tilburg. In 2015 she obtained her first Master degree, Health and Social Psychology, at Maastricht University. This degree was followed up with a second master degree, Mental Health, which she obtained in 2017.  After finishing this degree she started working as a psychologist in training at HSK. HSK is a mental health organization geared towards aiding people with mental health complaints such as depression, anxiety, compulsions, and trauma. In 2021 she completed a 2-year training to become a fully licensed CBT-therapist. Recently she started the 2-year postgraduate degree to become a GZ-psychologist. This September she will finish her first year. Since April of this year she started working at PGZ, a mental health institute specialized in autism and comorbidity, as part of her training to become a GZ-psychologist.



Joyce Mertens


Consulting work allows for the interaction with different companies, organisations and disciplines. Within Workforce & Organisation Joyce utilizes her expertise in human behavior, people management, resource planning & expectation management. Knowledge from psychology and organizational psychology is therefore important at Capgemini Invent.

Joyce Mertens works as a Senior Consultant at Capgemini. She applies herknowledge of the operational and project management for both her clients and her employer. These assignments can have sustainability aspects which makes the work even more attractive due to the social benefits. Examples of assignments are: reorganisations, facilitation of deployment of sustainability initiatives by educating the employees and organize an internal and external communication plan, identify BAU processes etc. Joyce Mertens followed all her education at Maastricht University – Bachelor of Psychology, Master of Neuropsychology & Human Decisions Science. Before she joined Capgemini Invent she also worked within EY for several years.



Emilija Oleškevičiūtė 


Emilija is the Director of the International Business and Communication Bachelor Study Programme at ISM University of Management and Economics (Lithuania). She is also currently teaching bachelor students such courses as Communication Theories, International Business, and Group Dynamics & Team Development. At the same time is also about to complete her PhD at Cranfield University in the UK. 

International aspect is a big part of Emilija's identity. Native Lithuanian with Polish roots who went for an ERASMUS+ study exchange programme in Czech Republic while studying Psychology in Lithuania. Afterwards pursued her Masters degree in Work and Organizational Psychology at Maastrich University. Also worked as and Early Stage Researcher for EU funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions project both in Germany and the UK.

Emilija strongly believes that things that limit us in life are only those that are in our heads. Hence our heads are the first thing we should take care of in order to reach our dreams and to get to places beyond our imagination :) . She is passionate about the topic of (International) Career Development which she had been and still is exploring during her academic journey as well as through her personal experience. She loves travelling (especially solo journeys), been to Bali and broke her kneecap while hitting a coconut tree with a scooter (no major harm done to the coconut tree!), loves reading, writing and cooking, is a nature's child and dreams of writing a book and travelling the world in a soon time (Peru is first place on her list :) ).


Eveline Persoon

Eveline Persoon works as a programme coordinator for professional development at EDLAB, Maastricht University’s Centre for Teaching & Learning. In this position, Eveline organises activities that help Maastricht University teachers and educators develop their professional competencies further. Next to this, Eveline teaches a university course on developmental psychology. Getting to this position did not necessarily happen through the “conventional” route. After high school, Eveline decided to become a primary school teacher. After three years of doing internships in various primary schools and learning a lot about pedagogy and didactics, Eveline felt that there was more to explore within the field of the developing mind. Studying psychology and later developmental psychology felt like a logical next step and led her to become a child and adolescent psychologist. Building further on her studies, Eveline decided to do a clinical internship, during which she realised that her heart really lied with teaching. Her desire to combine all her interests - teaching developmental psychology while helping other teachers develop themselves professionally - brought Eveline to her current position at EDLAB. In her private life, Eveline loves spending time with her partner and their newborn son, cooking, baking, taking long walks and going to the movies.


Ola Pres

Master in Neuropsychology

Academic year 2018/2019

Job title: Neuropsychologist at NTC (Neurologisches Therapiecentrum) in Cologne
Full time since July 2020

In a team of neurologists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, ergotherapists, social workers
and nurses


1.Rehabilitation of patients with neurological conditions:

  • Diagnostics:
    • neuropsychological assessements (paper and pencil and computer) 
    • testing eligibility to drive a car
  • Therapy (single sessions and groups):
    • relaxation group (Progressive Muscle Relaxation sensu Jacobson and Autogenic Training sensu Schulz
    • attention group
    • memory group
    • visual dysfunction group
    • planning and logic group
    • support group to cope with changes
  • Psychoeducation:
    • pain management
    • stress management
    • mindfulness
    • eligibility of driving a car of a neurologic disease
    • smoking

2.Neuropsychological assessments for geriatric patients at affiliated the hospital:

  • Identification of early cognitive changes related to various types of dementia
  • Conversations to cope with disease

3. Classes and courses for current employees that are in high risk for disease to prevent from occurring

  • Multimodal intervention with psychoeducation and relaxation techniques)


Renzo Riemens

Renzo J.M. Riemens was born and raised in the south of Zeeland, the Netherlands. In 2014, he successfully obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences with a specialization in Molecular life sciences at Maastricht University, after which he entered the Research Master programme in Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience with a specialization in Fundamental Neuroscience. For the compulsory 9-month internship, Renzo joined the research team of Dr. Raul Delgado-Morales and Prof. Dr. Manel Esteller at the “Institut d'Investigació Biomédica de Bellvitge” (IDIBELL), in Barcelona, Spain. During his internship, Renzo was assigned to a project aimed at characterizing and optimizing a neuronal in vitro model system derived from human neural stem cells within the context of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). After successfully completing his Research Master studies in 2016, Renzo started a joint-PhD programme focused on neuroepigenomics in AD between Maastricht University and the Julius Maximilians-University, in Wuerzburg, Germany, under the primary supervision of Dr. Daniel van den Hove and Prof. Dr Thomas Haaf, respectively. In 2020, Renzo was awarded with a Kootstra Talent Fellowship for young talented scientific researchers by the Maastricht UMC+ Research Committee (WMUMC+) to fund his ow post-doc position. Currently, Renzo is a post-doc fellow in the group of Prof. Dr. Daniel van den Hove and Dr. Gunter Kenis at the Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Maastricht University, further expanding his research on neuroepigenomics in AD trough the implementation of both targeted and epigenome-wide (single cell) approaches, as well as induced pluripotent stem cell-based model systems.


Marwin Snippe

He studied the bachelor of Psychology and continued his study with the master Social & Health Psychology. After his master, he ended up working at CZ – a health insurance company – doing data analysis on health fraud. Investigating health companies on possible fraud he also continued (and continues to do so) working on a PhD in Psychology. The subject of the PhD centres on self-identity in the health psychology theory: the Theory of Planned Behaviour. At this moment, he works as a data analyst at Stichting Radar in healthcare. Using regression analysis, structural equation modelling and factor analysis he tries to create new insights in health psychology. At his work, he tries to gain further insight in how to better provide insights to enrich the alumni experience using visualisation as a main tool. His hobbies are mindset, personal development and motivation.

Sophía Thijs

Sophía is one of the many examples how to have a multi-career path and yet respecting boundaries. She likes to share research's results why it's highly necessary that we need a new definition of 'being successful’.  We can all relate to the pressure of graduating, making money and being busy. In 2022 she shared in a TedX it’s not only about certificates and achieving goals to feel more successful and happy. It’s more about combining two perspectives at the same time: working towards a goal ánd being content through other ways of fulfillment whíle working towards that goal. Example: a professional football player most likely will score more goals per 90 min, depending on other success factors (team cohesion, having fun during trainings or staying resilient during fallbacks).

As a Flemish person she came into the assertive Dutch work culture and started working as a psychologist at the age of 23 by visiting multi-problem families at their homes. The university nourished the sole dogma that it's normal to work as hard as possible towards a post-master's degree, but she felt like a weirdo because she didn’t want to do this. It took years to dare to apply a different method in her work as a psychologist, specifically because she experienced herself what it's like to have mental illnesses within her closed ones; and to dependent on professionals. By giving duo-lectures with a student, she shows the power of professional experience and personal affinity.

As a young adult, she found herself wanting to develop other talents besides the prescribed path of working as a psychologist. Now, 13 years later, she balances work between these areas:
- 3 days working as a psychologist with adults and companies (Faresa, Belgium),

next to 
- working 2 days in her own company Met Sophía. In the latter, she's been guiding students and adults to use exercise and nutrition as long-term solutions to obtain mental & physical fitness. She offers affordable help for students who need help in preventing burn-out or addiction,
- volunteering & training new volunteers of ngo @ease (,
- running a co-living house and
- 1 day of not working; 'living' the life, while devoting time to relationships.

She balances life by expressing herself through singing, trail running and creating portrait photoshoots with her sister.


Lea Vink

Lea Vink hunted pirates, driven a warship to Antartica and circumnavigated the globe four times before deciding to become a psychologist in Europe. She is now the head of Human Performance and Psychology for Austro Control in Vienna, helping pilots and air traffic controllers meet the high performance requirements and avoid human errors. She also works for the European Aviation Safety Authority and leads an international group of aviation psychologists for CANSO in an effort to make our skies safer and greener. Her work on cognitive neural networks is helping to shift the study of psychology away from simply asking people how they’re doing, and instead seeing how they’re doing in real time with ever increasing precision. Lea is a New Zealand and Dutch citizen who grew up in Singapore and also proudly transgender. To find out more,