Turning a 'wild idea' into something real - together

Heleen Boers has been working as a Biomedical R&D Engineer at imec at Holst Centre since 2018. She does not think of herself a standard imec'er. As a movement scientist, she used to focus on the application of sensors and less on the technology itself. At imec, her passion for ‘making things' was ignited and now she works with electrical engineers, biomedical engineers and hard- and software engineers on innovations for the healthcare sector. As a former professional rower, she knows what it takes to make an athlete perform better. After leaving the world of professional sports, she is highly motivated to health care for everyone.

“As a movement scientist, you can do anything, really. With my technical Research master's, it was logical to look in the technical direction. Because I had rowed professionally, I first looked at positions in sports. But I came to the conclusion that I no longer wanted to work in sports. During the sports and innovation congress at the High Tech Campus Eindhoven, I watched a presentation by Rik van de Wiel, my current manager. He showed me how the Simband worked, one of imec's old wearables that allows you to check your health. I was hooked immediately: this was real innovation."

"A presentation on stress monitoring also caught my interest. I talked with the imec employee who was working on it. We exchanged data. Less than a month later, I received an e-mail. There was a vacancy for a Biomedical R&D Engineer on the use of sensors in rehabilitation. A position that was right up my alley."

Quite technical

"In the beginning, I found it quite exciting, because I noticed that imec is quite technical. I was more clinical: using sensors, but not making them. My first project was the use of motion sensors in rehabilitation, for which we also worked with the Anna Hospital in Geldrop.”

"Imec is a highly multidisciplinary organization. Biomedical engineers, electrical engineers, and hard- and software engineers all work in the same building as you. If you want to make something new, you can do so in a very short time. If you have a wild idea, there are enough smart people around to give it hands and feet and turn it into a prototype."

"Now we focus, for example, on implantables and inflammation-related problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammation in wound healing. For that, we need to develop something new. What chip are we going to use for that? How do we test the sensors? All questions we are answering together."


"When you work so closely with the builders and developers you learn very quickly. The great thing is that you really do it together. At imec we are not hierarchical at all, everyone is approachable. But, it's not thrown at you, you have to be proactive. But that is also inherent in innovation; you have an urge to want to know things. And a desire to look for the answers."

"It makes me proud when, in only a few months, we have created a completely new design for a sensor that has four or five different functionalities. A few months ago it was just an idea and now it's here."

"I like to bring different disciplines together to work on innovation within healthcare. That's where my strength lies, I create a team feeling. I also like to maintain contact with the customer."

"Making Things."

For her colleagues, Heleen symbolizes ‘vitality’. From the very start of the corona crisis, she attended meetings - "where there were no presentations" - walking outside. Then she would sent a picture of where she was, for example in the park or forest. "Also to inspire my colleagues to go outside, too."

Holst Centre's location, High Tech Campus Eindhoven (HTCE), is ideal for Heleen. "I can ride my bike to work, which is great. In addition, HTCE organizes a run and a triathlon in which we always participate with a group of colleagues. Or the Eindhoven Marathon, for example.”

Together with another colleague, Heleen has also initiated a weekly boot camp. She still likes to exercise, but it can not beat ‘making things’. "Also at home, I make all kinds of things: cabinets or lamps. I just like doing that."

Who: Heleen Boers

From: Netherlands

What: Biomedical R&D Engineer

Since: January 2018 at imec at Holst Centre