I am Assistant Professor of Disaster Resilience and Humanitarian Assistance. I have a track record in the field of disaster risk reduction, disaster resilience, humanitarian assistance, self-recovery, and decision-making. I have studied and worked in humanitarian assistance/aid, post-disaster reconstruction, shelter and settlement, migration in Europe, and adaptation to climate change of the built environment for more than 10 years, especially in hazard prone areas in low-income countries. I lecture on humanitarian engineering, disaster risk reduction, disaster resilience, methodology, and organize in-situ/fieldwork research for students.
At the Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), I currently lead a project called Enabling vulnerable communities to build back safer, financed by a personal VENI grant from the Dutch Research Council (NWO). This project explores decision making during post-disaster reconstruction to find pathways for effective assistance to build back safer housing. I am interested in decision making in complex multi-hazard situations, linked to challenges of climate change. I aim to develop assistance strategies for both governmental and humanitarian actors. I am also interested in digital tools to support safer self-recovery after disasters.
I am a member of the Centre for Disaster Resilience at the University of Twente, and support research proposals and communication. I also serve as a daily board member of Technology for Global Development, at the Eindhoven University of Technology, bridging the gap between science and practice. I actively engage with stakeholders from the Global Shelter Cluster, allowing me to stay close to the experiences and processes taking place in my fields of study. I also serve as an author, guest-editor, and reviewer for leading journals, including Disaster Prevention and Management and Disaster Risk Reduction. I am part of a movement calling for more inclusive disaster studies. I engage in research, monitoring and evaluation and advisory consultancy work. Currently, I support different municipalities and regions in adaptation to climate change for the EU Adaptation Strategy. I regularly present at different conferences, and engage in organizing conferences or conference panels, in collaboration with academic peers.
Before my current position at the University of Twente, I worked as a researcher, project leader with local and international NGOs. As a researcher and practitioner, my work has taken me to multiple complex and disaster-prone places, such as Nicaragua, the Philippines, Nepal, Senegal, and Argentina. I have experience in the development of fieldwork in hostile, complex, and remote areas. In my fieldwork and education, I collaborate with numerous NGOs, including CRS, Cordaid, IFRC, Medicin Sans Frontieres, Habitat for Humanity, Stichting Samenscholen, Bambu Social.I have also been an academic, lecturer and visiting research at several universities, including the University of Sydney and the University of Catalunya.
I hold a PhD degree (2020) on effective communication to reduce housing vulnerability in post-disaster reconstructionfrom the Technical University Eindhoven. I conducted field research in remote communities in Nepal, the Philippines, using a mixed-method approach, including 1600 household surveys and structural housing assessments, 65 focus group discussions, and 120 key stakeholder interviews. I studied socio-technical pathways to the adoption of hazard-resistant construction knowledge. I received a personal grant for my study from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and several other research prizes. In 2013, I simultaneously completed two MSc degrees in Architecture and Building Technology receiving cum laude honours for both (top 7%).
I am fascinated about humanitarian assistance and governmental policies and aggregated outcomes of individual decisions in the context of post-disaster reconstruction. My research line focuses on exploring how reconstruction decisions may lead to more disaster resilient communities and built environment. I explore complex adaptive socio-technical systems and seek for application in assistance approaches. I study effective humanitarian and governmental assistance to the most vulnerable groups in low-income countries. I am highly driven to find out what works and when.
Most of my current work links individual decisions of households to personalized disaster risk reduction assistance in multi-hazard situations in low-income countries. I aim to innovate humanitarian assistance, optimizing indicators to impact safer housing outcomes, aiming to develop targeted and personalized assistance. Therefore, I study how building technologies that enhance safety are used by key stakeholders in the construction sector, analyzing risk perception, information sharing, decision-making, knowledge networks, and knowledge adoption. I have a special interest in the situation of self-recovering communities, left without humanitarian or governmental assistance.
I earlier used cluster analysis to characterize households’ intentions to build back safer from surveys, explored barriers and drivers in the reconstruction using focus group discussions and key-stakeholder interviews, analyzed social networks to explore the influence of key-stakeholders in the construction process, and assessed of seismic resistance of reconstructed buildings.
I publish in a variety of journals including Disaster Prevention and Management, Earthquake Spectra, Disaster Risk Reduction, Integrated Disaster Risk Management, in book chapters and edited volumes. Eefje was coordinating guest editor of two special issues of the International Journal for Disaster Prevention and Management giving a stage to Early Career researchers “Emerging voices and pathways to inclusive disaster studies” (2020). This resulted in one season of podcasts on Disasters Deconstructed.
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As a senior lecturer in disaster risk reduction, I have taught Bachelor's, Master's and Graduate School Levels and holds University Teaching Qualification (BKO) and multiple Senior Qualification Teaching (SKO) certificates.I am currently supervising PhD students. I became Sustainable Teacher of higher education in the Netherlands (2020) for my efforts to engage students from different disciplines in understanding, preparing, and responding to disasters, and yearly involving students in action research in migrant camps across Europe. At the University of Twente, I am co-developing a new Masters programme Humanitarian Engineering. I am also a guest-lecturer for the University of Sydney (Humanitarian Engineering), International University of Catalunya (UIC), TU Delft.
I have been involved in teaching at the Eindhoven University of Technology since 2008. Between 2014-2022, I worked at Avans University as co-founder and Director of the Disruptive Events educational programs on (inter)national Disaster Resilience, Migration and Climate Change and Coordinator, lecturer and Coordinator of the Graduation School for at the Academy for Sustainable Built Environment. The main tasks include curriculum development, quality control, and coordination.
Courses Academic Year 2022/2023
I recently received a Veni Grant (2022) and works on enabling vulnerable communities to build back safer after disasters. She also provides technical support for the Policy Support Facility of the EU Mission on Climate Change Adaptation to the city of Valencia, the city of Cox and the region of Varna.
As project leader for the lectureship New Materials and their Application at Avans University, she involves students and teachers in the development of a more Circular Emergency Shelters in collaboration with Doctors without Borders (MSF) and Wijnroemer Relief Goods (WRG). Earlier she was project leader for the development of a 3D printed bridge out of recycled plastics in collaboration with the municipality of Den Bosch, the province Noord-Brabant, Sparkling Plastic and the Spark Makerzone.
Since an internship in the slums of Argentina (2010), I have sought to improve the living conditions of vulnerable groups. During my MSc thesis, I investigated disaster recovery in Haiti, designing a modular community shelter to share essential construction techniques. After my studies, I co-designed and constructed a hurricane-resistant school in Nicaragua (2013) and observed the value of appropriate persuasive communication. In 2015, I led the reporting and technical development of shelter prototypes and manuals as part of the European S(p)eedkits project, and conducted field tests, including monitoring and evaluation in Senegal, in collaboration with the Red Cross. I have aimed to build an international cross-disciplinary network giving my unique advantages to bridge gaps between research, education, and humanitarian needs. I am constantly active as a research advisor for NGOs. In addition, I worked on award-winning projects at architecture offices, including Mecanoo architects, Menis architects, and Flavio Janches.