Shirley studied medical microbiology at the secondary laboratory school van den Broek Institute in Amsterdam. She then obtained her doctoral degree in Medical Biology at the University of Amsterdam. She worked for several years at the Public Health Service of Amsterdam (GGD). Her career as a lecturer in higher professional education started in 1997 at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, and in 2000 she joined the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences. Shirley performs her PhD research at the Research Centre for Innovative Testing in Life Sciences and Chemistry, her thesis is entitled: “Standardization of the bicycle ergometer test as challenge model to assess nutritional effects on gut health and immune system”.