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Rachel Carson Thesis Award


Foto above: awards 2023, Patricia de Cocq, jury, Rik Buiting, hbo-winner, Lotte Top, wo-winner, Judith Veraart, VVM.

What is the Rachel Carson Thesis Award?

The award is an initiative of VVM, network of environmental professionals and several environmental study associations. With this annual award we want to make the  environmental and sustainability research that students have conducted better known among a larger audience. The members of the jury come from the environmental work field, the universities and higher education.

The prize is named after the writer and ecologist Rachel Carson, who became known for her book 'Silent Spring' from 1962. Possibly the first book in which environmental issues take a central place. The title is a reference to the spring of the apocalyptic year that the birds no longer sing because they have been exterminated as a result of the use of pesticides.

Who can participate?  

The competition is open to full-time and part-time students at Dutch universities and colleges of higher education who have written a masterthesis or finished a graduation project on a subject with a direct relationship to environmental issues or sustainable development. Graduation projects that have already once been submitted for this prize, will not be taken into consideration. Eligible for participation are: bachelor theses and bachelor graduation projects such as advisory reports, videos, and other works from studies at colleges of higher education (HBO) and master theses from university studies (WO). The HBO and WO entries will be assessed separately.

What can you win?  

The pre-selection committees for HBO and WO assess all submissions and determine which works will be nominated. At a festive meeting where the winner is announced, all nominees can present their graduation work.

The VVM also offers the winners the opportunity to publish an article in our journal Milieu. This brings the student's work to the attention of a broad network of environmental professionals. The winners will receive a sum of € 500,- at most.

What are the registration criteria?

The student or his/her supervisor will send a digital copy (as a PDF) of his/her graduation work to the VVM office by December 1st, 2024 at the latest. The graduation project or thesis must have been graded between July 1st, 2023 and November 25th, 2024. The graduation report or thesis must be accompanied by:

  • a fully completed registration form, and
  • proof of assessment by the educational institution. The proof of assessment must clearly show that the final mark for the thesis was at least an 8.0. Theses graded with, for example, a 7.8 will not be taken into consideration. In the case of a combined mark, it is the mark for the thesis itself that counts (process, presentation, etc. do not count). The original assessment form is usually necessary to establish this.
  • a letter of recommendation by the supervisor
  • in the case of a thesis marked as confidential: the guarantee that VVM may publish it on its website. Prior to submission of the thesis public access must be guaranteerd. An e-mail to this effect from the submitter suffices as proof.

    How to apply? 

    You can apply by filling in the application form. When applying, it is necessary to submit all requested documents (digitally).

    Award ceremony

    In 2024, the award ceremony will take on 24 May during Groene Peper, the yearly event about sustainability in education. Hogeschool Windesheim in Zwolle is the venue for this freely accesible day.

    How will the assessment take place?  

    The assessment will be carried out by a jury consisting of experienced environmental experts from the government, the business community, higher education and universities. The composition of the jury is not yet known. More information about the composition of the jury will soon be available on this page. 

    This jury is assisted by two pre-selection committees. The pre-selection committees for HBO and WO read all the submitted graduations projects and theses and determine which works will be nominated for the Rachel Carson Thesis Award. The nominated graduations projects and theses are assessed by the jury. The jury appoints two winners, one from the HBO submissions and one from the WO submissions.


    The following criteria are used in the assessment of master's theses from university education:

    • Originality of the research approach: the extent to which the student has succeeded in using an approach that is not mainstream. For example, by combining certain methods in an unexpected way, developing a new approach, or applying an approach from another discipline to an environmental issue.
    • Applicability of the results in the environmental practice: the extent to which the student has succeeded in producing results that can be of use to environmental professionals in their daily work. For example, the development of a certain concept, approach, process, design, or the development of a measuring instrument.
    • Relevance of the research, both social and scientific: the extent to which the research conducted by the student contributes to the social debate on a particular environmental issue and/or to solving a social problem, and the extent to which the research is scientific relevant, in the field of method development, theory testing, and/or the addition of substantive knowledge about a particular issue.
    • Accessibility of the report: the extent to which the student has succeeded in writing a report that is characterised by good editing, and by a clear style, language, and design.
    • Scientific quality of the research: the extent to which the student has reliably and validly collected and analysed data in his/her research, and has justified the choice of methods used.

    These criteria are used in the assessment of when assessing graduation projects from colleges of higher education:

    • Originality concerns the innovative nature of the approach and the creative application of knowledge and insight.
    • Applicability concerns the usefullness of the proposed solution in the practical situation of the study and the possibilities for a wider application.
    • Relevance of the graduation work concerns the importance and added value of the work for both society and professional practice.
    • Accessibility of the report concerns the editing, the style, the use of language and the design.
    • Scientific quality of the work is evident from the good use of a theoretical framework and from the good translation of this into practice.

    Rachel Carson Thesis Award in brief

    Award for HBO (higher education) theses and projects en WO theses (university)

    graded with at least an 8,0 between July 1st, 2023 and November 25th, 2024

    Prize fund

    a maximum of € 500,-


    by December 1st 2024 at the latest using the application form

    What to send

    • thesis / graduation project
    • proof of assessment by the educational institution
    • letter of recommendation by supervisor    
    • for confidential work: guarantee of publicity


      VVM network of environmental professionals
      uaerub.[antispam].@vvm.info / 030 - 232 29 89

      Winners 2023


      The winners of the 20th edition of the Rachel Carson Thesis Award 2023 are:
      HBO: Carola Löh & Rik Buiting with their thesis Investigating environmental benefits of yeast-based casein production.
      WO: Lotte Top for her thesis An energy systems model for optimising and analysing multi-energy projects.

      The winners of 2023 (in Dutch)