Boundless mind

At Amsterdam Science Park, we believe knowledge has no borders. That’s why you’ll find cutting-edge institutes, top-class facilities and business incubators in one convenient location. You’ll meet motivated students, innovative researchers, talented scientists and adventurous entrepreneurs – all in an environment where it’s easy to work together. Cross-disciplinary initiatives and holistic thinking flourish. Ground-breaking research projects become successful spin-offs. That’s the strength of Amsterdam Science Park: connecting boundless minds.

Jo van den Brand

Jo van den Brand is Professor of Physics at VU University Amsterdam and a researcher at Nikhef, the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics, at Amsterdam Science Park.

“Science today is increasingly collaborative, which is why Nikhef is so important. It’s a joint initiative of five universities in the Netherlands, each of which has a special interest in fundamental physics. That means we are looking at the big questions together, from the building blocks of the universe to the nature of space and time."

“Nikhef is an exciting achievement in itself. Founded in 1975, it unites scientists from Amsterdam, Utrecht, Nijmegen and Groningen University and Amsterdam’s Vrije Universiteit (VU), where I am a professor. It allows us to join forces, rather than pursuing individual research directions. As such, Nikhef’s main strength is its combined intellectual power. This gives us a high-level environment of scientific discussion. Instead of being isolated in our own departments, at Nikhef we can enjoy a close interaction, talking to each other virtually every day.” 

“Amsterdam Science Park works hard to ensure a dialogue between science and industry and to provide support for research start-ups”

“We have an excellent infrastructure at Nikhef. We have around 280 people, including approximately 60 scientific staff, 90 PhD students and 20 post-doctoral researchers, plus 100 technical staff members. The others are support staff. Nikhef’s base is Amsterdam Science Park, where we enjoy excellent data analysis infrastructure.”

“We are working on big science here, which means large-scale research – our experiments are planned many years in advance, and run for decades. We work intensively with CERN and were closely involved with the recent discovery of the Higgs particle which was awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize. My own field is gravitational wave research and it illustrates the collaborative nature of big science very well. Over the last ten years, gravitational wave research worldwide has involved more than 1000 scientists and accounted for over $1bn in funding. You can’t do this kind of science on your own.”

“Curiosity is part of what drives us humans, and our research appeals to that”

“Nikhef is strong in developing technology, and a number of high-tech spin-offs have resulted from our work. Technology developed at CERN has been applied to medical instruments, and the scientific techniques used to detect cosmic radiation to the steel industry, to name just two examples. I set up one such start-up, Innoseis, with Mark Beker. It makes sensors which were developed initially for gravitational wave research. They can also be used for other ends, for example for earthquake monitoring and for oil and gas exploration. There are numerous opportunities for scientific innovations in business, and it is a good thing that scientists find applications for their research that benefit society. I am proud that start-ups spin out from Nikhef, an institute for fundamental physics."

“Amsterdam Science Park works hard to ensure a dialogue between science and industry and to provide support for research start-ups. We need to develop further in these directions. Scientists and industry people typically have different mindsets, so it’s important to ensure that they have the space to talk to each other to overcome a potential mismatch. For young scientists like Mark Beker, starting a company means leaving their comfort zone and acquiring business skillss. We must give them guidance, especially on practical issues such as the legal frameworks surrounding contracts."

“Nikhef is strong in technology, so we have naturally seen a number of high-tech spin-offs”

“The future of physics will be determined by what nature delivers us – perhaps dark matter particles, or maybe gravitational waves from the birth of the universe. Curiosity is part of what drives us humans. What is the universe made of? What is the nature of space-time and dark energy? These are the big questions that we are trying to answer today. I can’t tell you exactly when we will have the answers, but it’s a thrilling time for science– people in the future will look back and envy us.”