AIGHD in Person: Marjan Molemans  


For PhD student and epidemiologist Marjan Molemans, working in research is a puzzle – and AIGHD is the perfect fit.

Long before she joined the organization, Molemans followed the work of the team. She was attracted to the interdisciplinary nature of AIGHD. Seeking a career in research, she was inspired to apply in 2017 and she joined AIGHD as a junior epidemiologist with a focus on HIV and tuberculosis (TB).

“I really like doing research, it is like solving a puzzle. Each research question requires you to think carefully about how different pieces fit together. You also get to look at one topic in greater detail and explore news aspects of it,” says Molemans.


Enriching research through different methodologies

For Molemans, being in an interdisciplinary team means that she can draw upon a range of different research methodologies, including quantitative and qualitative methods. Most often, researchers are experts in either qualitative research methods or in quantitative approaches. The team at AIGHD includes researchers who are experts in both methods.

“Here at AIGHD, researchers with different backgrounds collaborate, which means that in one project we use different methods. The quantitative researcher is usually very good at defining variables that need to be studied, and in building a model that can measure these variables. The qualitative researcher can dig deeper and add depth to explanations. Sometimes, the methods clash, but usually, they enrich each other, allowing AIGHD researchers to study one phenomenon from different angles.”


Visiting the project sites gives a whole new perspective

With a goal of undertaking more research and increasing her list of published articles, Molemans began her PhD earlier this year under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Frank van Leth and Prof. Ria Reis, AIGHD Academic Staff.

“Frank and Ria are both experts in their respective field. Ria is experienced in qualitative research and medical anthropology, while Frank has got extensive knowledge in implementation research, epidemiology and medicine especially in the field of HIV and TB. Frank is my daily supervisor, which means I’m able to bounce ideas off of him and he treats me as an equal partner in our discussions. This has helped me grow.”

Molemans Enjoys the international aspect of her work.

“I work with international partners in my various projects. Through these contacts, I’m able to interact with people from different backgrounds. What I like the most is to meet these researchers in person and discuss the projects. I learn so much during these meetings.”

In the future, Molemans is keen to continue her work in the field of TB and HIV. She is working on a TB project in Eastern Europe and another one in Ghana. She is also involved in WHO-PEN, where AIGHD looks into the syndemics of diabetes, hypertension HIV and mental health.

“Last year during the TBnet academy I visited a multi-resistant tuberculosis ward at a hospital. There, I realized what a complicated treatment these individuals need to go through. It’s a good reminder that behind every data point there is a human being and that completely changed my perspective on the research that I’m doing.

Going forward, I would like to continue pursuing research that improves the quality of care for people in different countries and AIGHD is a very good place to do so.