What do you do?
I guide a group of young scientists studying new materials, I teach bachelor and master students in physics and nanoscience and I am responsible for the training and working conditions of all the doctoral students at the University of Groningen.
Why did you choose this field?
I was always fascinated by nature and wanted to be an explorer when I was a little girl. At high school I liked all the sciences and chose to study physics because it was challenging and because I loved doing experiments. In my second year of university, I had a boyfriend who was a bit older and already doing his PhD, and when I saw what life in his research group was like, my mind was made up: I wanted to become a professor in condensed matter physics and lead a group like that.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I was always encouraged by my parents, teachers and university professors, so I always had the idea that it would be possible to realize my dreams provided that I worked hard for them. Of course I never thought that I would receive prizes and honours for my work or that I would become the president of the European Physical Society representing all physicists in Europe. What I am most proud of is not so much the things I discovered but the career success of the students I trained during my career. What I also am happy about that I can actually contribute to make the start of PhD students the professional world easier and help them to realize their aspirations.
Why do you love working in STEM?
The way research in physics works is wonderful: you think of a question and of measurements that could provide a reply, then you do the experiments and after often lengthy discussions with your collaborators, you understand what you saw and you know at the same time that you are the only people in the world who at that particular moment have understood this. This is a fantastic feeling! Another great feeling is when you tell what you learnt at a conference and your colleagues share your enthusiasm of having understood a particular aspect. I also enjoy very much seeing how a student becomes better and better over time and develops from a pupil to a colleague - knowing that I could contribute to this growth gives me a lot of satisfaction.
Best advice for next generation?
If you like the sciences, are curious and not afraid to work hard sometimes, just go for it! Don't worry about anything: when a problem arises, you will think of a solution and master challenges one at a time. The most important thing is that you are happy doing what you are doing and sometimes you just have to move for another environment where people appreciate you for what you are and how you work. There are plenty of opportunities out there for you to realize your dreams.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
Always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals (Michelle Obama)