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  • Nijenborgh4

    9747 AG Groningen


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Personal profile


Pieter van der Zaag obtained his doctorate in physics at Leiden University. In 1990, he started at the Nat.Lab. (Philips Research) in Eindhoven, initially working on ferrites, and moving via thin film magnetism, e.g. exchange biasing and spin-valves to microsystem- and nanotechnology. From 2000-2002 he worked as an expatriate at Philips Research Laboratories (Redhill, UK) on amorphous-Si and poly-Si technology for thin-film transistors for LCD displays, where he was promoted to principal scientist. From 2003 to July 2004, he worked at  LG. Philips LCD’s R&D Center (Anyang South Korea). Upon returning to the Nat.Lab. in Eindhoven, his research shifted to healthcare related topics. This entailed topics related to novel cancer diagnostics such as optical contrast agents, next generation sequencing, 3D biopsy analysis and liquid biopsies. Since August 2021 he is employed as associate professor in a joint appointment between the Zernike Institute and the UMC-Groningen to build up a group on the physics aspects of healthcare. His research activity focuses on novel cancer diagnostics e.g. through optical molecular imaging techniques for intraoperative imaging and unravelling 3D drug distributions in patient tissue. Over the course of his career at Philips, he has received a number of EU grants.  The 6M€ EU Horizon2020 LIMA grant on liquid biopsies, which he set-up and coordinated,  being the last one. Pieter van der Zaag is member of the NWO Round Table of Physics and chairman of the PTI “werkgemeenschapsbestuur” and vice chair of the European Society of Molecular Imaging (ESMI) Intraoperative Imaging study group. In addition, to publishing his work, P.J. van der Zaag, has been the inventor of over 70 patent (applications), for which he received various awards.  

3 top publications 2017-2022

1) F.J. Voskuil , J. Vonk, B. van der Vegt , S. Kruijff, V. Ntziachristos , P.J. van der Zaag , M.J.H. Witjes, and  G.M. van Dam,  "Intraoperative imaging in pathology-assisted surgery" Nature Biomedical Eng. 6 (2022) 503–514.

In this review, we discuss the future of fluorescence-guided surgery and argue that this should be intraoperative imaging in which the imaging of the resected specimen should be done ex-vivo optically in the operating room. The various optical techniques available are reviewed. We argue that light-sheet microscopy should be way forward.

2) R.C.M. Vulders, R.C. van Hoogenhuizen, E. van der Giessen, P.J. van der Zaag. "Clearing-induced tissue shrinkage: A novel observation of a thickness size effect." PLoS ONE 16(12) (2021) e0261417.

Here, tissue clearing induced tissue shrinkage is studied for the first time systematically. We showed for a classical clearing agent (benzyl-alcohol benzyl-benzoate (BABB)), that the shrinkage decreases significantly with increasing sample size, and found an analytical formula describing this.

3) P.J. van der Zaag, C. Varekamp, J. Pedersen, and B.H.W. Hendriks, "System for affecting a subject" Patent No. WO2019215056, 5-May-2019

In this patent application, we protect the invention of arming any interventional device (such as a stent placing devices, biopsy guns or balloon catheters), such that it can only deployed by triggering when it is at the correct place within an artery or organ of a patient.

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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