With deep grief, we let you know that our good colleague and dear friend Gudrun Koppen passed away on 31 January 2024, at the age of 55. She was born in St-Niklaas, Belgium in 1969. Very courageous and keeping a positive spirit, she finally lost an unfair battle against cancer.

Gudrun graduated as an Engineer in Chemistry and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Ghent. She obtained a PhD in 1999 from the Free University of Brussels in Applied Biological Sciences focused on “Single Cell Gel Electrophoresis (Comet Assay) for plants: a tool to asses DNA integrity”. With this work, she was a pioneer in applying the (FISH) comet assay to detect DNA damage, DNA repair and DNA replication in plants.

Since 1999 she worked at the Flemish Institute of Technological Research (VITO, Belgium), in the unit Environmental Risk and Health. She mainly performed research in the field of human biomonitoring. She had a deep interest in molecular epidemiology and biomarker development in the areas of genotoxicity, inflammation, oxidative stress, and exhaled breath analyses.

Gudrun was one of the founders of the first Flemish Human biomonitoring project (a.k.a. the Flemish Environment and Health Studies (FLEHS) and organized the first Belgian project for DEMOCOPHES. She was an internationally recognized expert in the use of genetic toxicology data in chemical hazard identification and mode of action. She was involved in many projects, including Human Biomonitoring for Europe (HBMI4EU), the comet network (ComNet) project, MAternal Nutrition and Offspring’s Epigenome (MANOE) study, and the Non-invasive Noisy breathing Infants (NiNbi)-study.

She was an active member of the International Comet Assay Working Group (ICAWG), Belgian Environmental Mutagen Society (BEMS) and European Environmental Mutagen & Genomics Society (EEMGS), member of the advisory board of the European Respiratory Cluster Antwerp, and vice chair of hCOMET COST action.

She was a talented scientist, asking the right scientific questions, fascinated by the secrets of biology and exploring them analytically with ratio and care. She published more than 140 scientific articles and was very active in the dissemination of science in public magazines. She was a supporter of early career scientists, supervised countless undergraduate and PhD students.

All the scientist that have collaborated with Gudrun, will remember her for her positivism and cooperation. Her recurring theme was creativity and knowledge: seeing new research opportunities everywhere, making cross-links between disciplines, prolonging management meetings by elaborating on science. Her desk was always filled with mountains of paper full of knowledge and content.

Gudrun was a wonderful and very much loved colleague. She was as a very active and inspiring women. She was mother of three children. She was a top athlete, an athletics trainer for children and enjoyed sports. She admired life and nature. Her energy was contagious.

Gudrun had such a big heart and a good smile. She was a great scientist, a beautiful and vibrant person, and an even better friend, with whom we shared many memorable moments together.

We will keep her in our hearts forever.