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.


Jikke Hesen

Jikke was born and raised in Limburg. In 2016, Jikke moved to Groningen to start her Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy at the University of Groningen. Here, she discovered her particular interest in philosophy of psychology, neuroscience and the mind. As a result, she decided that she would like to know more about the scientific side of these disciplines and took on extra (statistics) courses to develop scientific skills. After she completed her BA Philosophy in 2019, she started her first Master’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience at Maastricht University. In the same year, she also enrolled in the Research Master Philosophy of Mind at Radboud University. 

Towards the end of her second master’s degree, Jikke was unsure about pursuing a career in academics. She liked doing research, but also discovered that doing literature research (which is common in Philosophy) can be quite a lonely endeavour. Additionally, she realized that her interests are very broad and looking at the same specialised topic for four years seems like a long time… until she came across the vacancy for her current PhD position.

Currently, Jikke is working as a PhD student at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience. Her research focuses on the different causes of obesity and overweight, looking at variables in the biological, psychological, environmental and behavioral domain. Even though the topic is unrelated to anything she had studied before, she enjoys learning about the topic and likes the multidisciplinary and practical nature of her research project. Together with the other PhD students in her research team, she hopes that she can contribute to personalized treatment for obesity. 


Iris Hillege

Iris Hillege is born and raised in the Netherlands. She obtained her Master in Developmental Psychology at the University of Maastricht in 2019, after completing her Bachelor's degree in Psychology there as well.

Since this year, Iris has been working at De Gezinsmanager as a Master Psychologist for both adults and children & youth. In her current role, she addresses a wide range of issues, providing her with the opportunity to apply her expertise to diverse cases. She uses techniques from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and schema therapy.

Prior to this, she spent three years at Het Rughuis as a Lifestyle and Vitality Psychologist as well as a CBT Psychologist. At Het Rughuis, Iris was an integral part of an interdisciplinary treatment team, which included the Lifestyle and Vitality Psychologist, CBT Psychologist, Psychosomatic Psychologist, and Physiotherapist. In this unique treatment program, Iris focused on lifestyle themes such as structure, daily schedule, sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Additionally, she addressed issues related to movement anxiety, self-image, and mood disorders. Alongside her colleagues, Iris established treatment plans based on therapy goals, monitored progress, and adjusted the plans as needed. She was also responsible for clinical measurements at the beginning, during, and at the end of the treatment program.

Before her role at Het Rughuis, Iris worked at the university as a Student Recruiter and Operational Assistant for the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience.


Noa Kaesler

Noa Kaesler (she/her), a graduate in UCM and Legal Psychology, currently pursues her PhD at the law faculty while also working as a chef in a fine dining kitchen. Her varied professional experiences highlight the importance of life beyond academia.

In her doctoral research, Noa examines how criminal defense lawyers in the Netherlands make decisions about using experts. Additionally, she co-coordinates the Cold Case and ICCAP projects, where students engage in real cold case investigations to advice the police. Recently, she embarked on a new project with her thesis students, exploring recanted confessions.

As a young professional, it wasn’t that long ago since she had to think about life after university and knows how stressful it can be. She's looking forward to chat with you and to hopefully ease the transition from university life to the professional world.


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. In 2022 she started the 2-year postgraduate degree to become a GZ-psychologist. This September she will finish the two year degree. As part of her training to become a GZ-psychologist she has worked at a different mental health care institute for a year. This institute specialized in autism and comorbidity.


Lea Krapp


Lea has a passion for human behaviour in the dynamics of the workplace. Her journey began with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 2018. Seeking to delve deeper into the intersection of psychology and organisational dynamics, she pursued a Master of Science in Work and Organisational Psychology at Maastricht University in 2022.

Lea embarked on a career path blending psychology and recruitment. Over the past 3.5 years, she has been dedicated to sourcing, engaging, and hiring top talent, leveraging her expertise to drive organisational success. Her strategic approach goes beyond simply filling roles but rather encompassing the development of comprehensive recruitment strategies and the integration of data-driven methodologies while also coaching candidates through their career processes, enabling them to excel in their next steps.

Currently, Lea works as a Talent Acquisition Partner at LinkedIn, based in Dublin. In this role, she is responsible for managing the hiring for the DACH region by selecting top-tier talent to drive growth and innovation.

Outside of her professional life, Lea finds balance through her love for sports and shared adventures with her dog in Ireland.


Marilien Marzolla

Marilien Marzolla grew up in a small town in the south of the Netherlands. She completed her BSc in Psychology at Maastricht University in 2017, where after she completed the Research Master in Neuropsychology. She did her research internship at Oxford University, working on neurofeedback for stroke rehabilitation at the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging. Her internship led her to a full-time research assistant position in the same research group, where she worked until 2020. She applied for PhD positions back in the Netherlands and got a job as junior researcher in the Neuropsychology & Psychopharmacology Department at Maastricht University. With a new grant, she was able to turn this into a 4-year PhD position and is now working on sensory hypersensitivity after brain injury within the Limburg Brain Injury Center. Being in the final year of her PhD, she is now mainly working on finishing her last study and writing her thesis. Next to her research activities, Marilien is teaching at FPN and working with patients at the memory clinic in the hospital.  


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.


Renzo Riemens

Renzo 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 program 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. After successfully completing his Research Master studies in 2016, Renzo started a joint PhD program focused on neuroepigenomics and stem cell-based models in Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) between Maastricht University and Julius Maximilians-University in Wuerzburg, Germany, under the primary supervision of Dr. Daniel van den Hove and Prof. Dr. Thomas Haaf, respectively.

During his time as a PhD student, he furthermore visited the group of Dr. Tim Vanmierlo at the University of Hasselt in Belgium for a research stay. In 2020, Renzo was awarded a Kootstra Talent Fellowship for young talented scientific researchers by the Maastricht UMC+ Research Committee, which allowed him to kick-start his postdoc position in the group of Prof. Dr. Daniel van den Hove and Dr. Gunter Kenis at the Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, Maastricht University.

During his time as a postdoc, he furthermore secured a ZonMw Memorabel Fellowship and an Alzheimer Nederland pilot grant to further fund his research. Currently, Renzo is working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, where he teaches in several bachelor and master programs and conducts research within the context of neuroepigenomics in AD through 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 depend 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, has 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 Union Commission as an expert in aviation psychology and leads an international group of human factors psychologists for CANSO in an effort to make our skies safer and greener. She is an accredited Organisational and Clinical psychologist in Austria as well as being a certified Aviation Psychologist with the Europan Association of Aviation Psychology (EAAP) 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,


András Wagner


After several years of experience in talent development and HR system analysis I teamed-up with colleagues from different angles of the world of HR and launched the #Decoding HR positions initiative. 

According to our experience, sometimes students have no clear picture of what their first days or months would really look like in an HR position, what is more, they are not necessarily able to fully understand phrases or context turning up in job advertisements due to lack of industry knowledge or experience.

We are not only helping you get a clear vision of what different HR positions and career paths mean or what a typical day looks like. We also describe possibly occurring conflicts and ambiguity of work. What is more, we can deep dive into your questions, assumptions and visions together, utilising any content you have found and bring along.

Join the workshop where I am happy to share my experience and we can deep dive into your questions about starting a career in HR.

Be part of the  #Decoding HR positions Kick-off campaign and fill the 3-min survey here:

Find us on LinkedIn: 


Gabriëlla S.Z. Warning

Gabriëlla Warning was born and raised on a sunny Caribbean Island called Curaçao. A few days shy of her 18th birthday, she moved to Maastricht, the Netherlands, to pursue an education in the social sciences. Maastricht University seemed exceptionally interesting to her due to the problem-based learning method and of course, the uniquely vibrant atmosphere of Maastricht itself.
She started her student years with a bachelor’s in health sciences. In the second year, she chose the ‘Mental Health’ track, and she thoroughly enjoyed the deep dive in psychology. One of her topics of interest were sexual boundaries from different perspectives. Afterwards, she obtained a master’s degree in Mental Health. During this study, she was able to make her acquaintance with the intellectual disability sector of mental health which turned out to be surprisingly fitting for the kind of healthcare professional she aspired to be. After this internship, Gabriëlla was not quite ready yet to say goodbye to her student chapter and decided to pursue a second master’s degree in Global Health. This master’s program zoomed out from one profession to the ever-changing global dynamics of health from an economic, political, historical, financial, and cultural perspective. At the end of this study (and after three dissertations), Gabriëlla was undoubtedly ready to finally start working. She was able to return to her previous internship as a well-prepared psychologist (in Dutch: Gedragswetenschapper) for people with an intellectual disability and additional psychological disorders at Maasveld, Koraal. She has been in this sector for almost four years and was also able to continue to work on the topic she was enthusiastic about: Sexuality. In September 2024, she will start with a specialisation to become a consultant for Sexual Health within the organization.


Melloney Wijenberg

Melloney Wijenberg is an alumna of the research master specialization Neuropsychology, she is now working as a health care psychologist in training (in Dutch knows as the "GZ-opleiding"). She works at Adelante, a rehabilitation center in Limburg (NL). She obtained a PhD in the field of Neuropsychology. During her PhD at the Limburg Brain Injury Center, she investigated the cause and treatment of persistent complaints after mild traumatic brain injury. She also had several teaching positions, mainly focused on clinical (neuropsychological) skills for bachelor, master students, healthcare psychologist in training and occupational therapists. She is passionate about combining clinical work with research and educational activities. Are you as well or do you have questions about this? I am looking forward to meet you during the alumni event!