University of Amsterdam PhD candidate wins best speaker award at the Burgers Symposium

Second-year PhD candidate Yuri Sinzato at the UvA Institute of Physics won the best speaker award for his presentation on the dynamics of cyanobacterial colonies in turbulent flows. The research is a major attempt to better understand and prevent toxic algal blooms.

The Burgers Symposium 2023 is the annual conference of the JM Burgers Centre (JMBC), the national research school for fluid mechanics in the Netherlands. The symposium took place on 31 May and 1 June in Lunteren. The Burgers Centre and Symposium bring together fluid dynamics researchers across different disciplines, including civil engineering, mechanical engineering, maritime technology, (applied) physics, aerospace engineering, applied mathematics, chemical technology, biology and physical oceanography.

Of the 46 PhD and postdoc speakers at the symposium, Sinzato was awarded the Best Speaker Award, which includes a €500 cash prize.

The physics of algal blooms
Sinzato’s work is exemplary of the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach. His research in the Soft Matter group at the Institute of Physics is part of a collaborative research project with the UvA Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED).

The project aims to understand the key role of fluid mechanics in algal blooms and to seek strategies based on hydrodynamics to mitigate their impact. This involves studying the physical dynamics of cyanobacterial colony formation in different flows, both numerically and experimentally.

An algal bloom refers to the rapid and excessive growth of algae (often cyanobacteria) in aquatic environments, leading to dense populations or ‘blooms’ of algae. These blooms often occur due to a combination of factors such as nutrient enrichment (particularly from agricultural runoff or sewage), warm water temperatures, and calm or stagnant water conditions.

Importantly, algal blooms disrupt the ecological balance, impacting water quality, oxygen levels, and the survival of other organisms. Algal blooms can also produce toxins that are harmful to human health, aquatic life and the overall ecosystem.