I am an Assistant Professor at the Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences at Erasmus University College (EUC). EUC is the international honor’s college of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR).

My research focuses on applying behavioral insights – including nudges – to influence people’s behaviors. For example, I test whether we can get students to join a study group (which we know increases learning) by making participation the ‘default’ option. Next to studying how we can improve engagement and performance in education, most of my research focuses on improving health behaviors, such as encouraging people to go to their medical check-ups.

While I use a range of quantitative and qualitative designs, conducting randomized controlled trials to test what works is at the heart of my research. I am particularly excited about the possibilities of conducting rapid, high-quality and low-cost experiments within online settings. My most recent work involves applying behavioral insights within a MOOC (massive open online course) and e-health applications.

Next to behavioral insights, I am also passionate about applying evidence from rigorous research – i.e. what works – to public policy. I do this by conducting consulting work for public organizations, including a large NGO and a municipal health authority. With these organizations I work on strategically choosing to implement interventions that are evidence-based, and testing the effectiveness of promising interventions that have not been sufficiently evaluated.

My interest in what works also spills over to my teaching: I am currently developing a MOOC for the Coursera.org platform about how science can contribute to tackling global challenges. Moreover, I teach a course on evidence-based policymaking and I also teach courses in intermediate statistics. These courses all focus on increasing students’ scientific literacy: being able to use science to separate fact from fiction. I am a big fan of the blended learning (flipped classroom) format, which I use for all of my courses.

research interests

  • Behavioral insights, including nudges;
  • Health promotion, in particular maternal and prenatal health;
  • Impact evaluations (example of project);
  • Evidence-based policy making;
  • Ecological/multilevel research.

current research projects

  • Multidisciplinary meetings and care pathways increase coordination in antenatal care: a clustered randomized controlled trial (abstract);
  • One size fits all? Testing heterogeneous effects of nudges with a massive open research lab. Testing the effectiveness and possible heterogeneous effects of nudges (including messenger effect, defaults, social norms and priming) on students’ performance within a Massive Open Online Course);
  • How universal are nudges? Using behavioral insights to nudge women of low socio-economic status to increasing their physical activity with an e-health app.

PhD supervision

Ashleigh Woodend, MSc, Applying behavioural insights for improving maternal health (Expected 2017)

Lisenne Giel, MSc. Closing in on the performance gap in education: a nudging approach (Expected 2019)

papers & co 

Ashleigh Woodend, Vera Schölmerich, and Semiha Denktaş. (2015). “Nudges” to Prevent Behavioral Risk Factors Associated With Major Depressive Disorder. American Journal of Public Health. e-View Ahead of Print.

Posthumus, Anke G., Schölmerich, Vera LN et al. “The Association of Ethnic Minority Density with Late Entry into Antenatal Care in the Netherlands.” PloS one 10.4 (2015). (open access version)

Schölmerich, V.L.N. (2014, November 18). Born into Inequality. Erasmus University Rotterdam. (PhD thesis, download here)

Schölmerich VLN, Posthumus AG, Ghorashi H, Waelput AJM, Groenewegen P, Denktaş S. (2014) Improving interprofessional coordination in Dutch midwifery and obstetrics: a qualitative study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:145 (open access version)

Schölmerich VLN, Erdem Ö, Borsboom G, Ghorashi H, Groenewegen P, Steegers EAP, Kawachi I, Denktas S. (2014) The Association of Neighborhood Social Capital and Ethnic (Minority) Density with Pregnancy Outcomes in the Netherlands. PLoS ONE 9(5): e95873. (open access version)

Peters IA, Schölmerich VLN, Veen van DW, Steegers EAP, Denktaş S. (2014) Recruitment of non-Western ethnic minority participants for reproductive health peer education. Journal for Multicultural Education. In Press.

Posthumus AG, Schölmerich VLN, Waelput AJ, Vos AA, De Jong-Potjer LC, Bakker R, Bonsel GJ, Groenewegen P, Steegers EAP, Denktaş S (2013). Bridging Between Professionals in Perinatal Care: Towards Shared Care in The Netherlands. Maternal and child health journal. (abstract and link to open access version)

Denktaş S, Jong-Potjer LC, Waelput AJM, Temel S, Voorst van SF, Vos AA, Schölmerich VLN, Bonsel GJ, Kooy van der J, Quispel C, Poeran VJJ, Peters IA, Vujkovic M, Bakker R, Steegers EAP (2012). Preconception Care: A Review of the Evidence, University Medical Centre Rotterdam, Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. (pdf)