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.
Moniek Tromp is (Associate) Professor of Sustainable Materials Characterization at UvA’s Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences at Amsterdam Science Park. She is also actively involved in initiatives to engage women and girls in science and address gender bias issues.
“I head my own research group here at the Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), within the university’s research priority area of sustainable chemistry. What we do, in layman’s terms, is make pictures and movies of materials and chemical reactions and processes. We then apply our findings to materials and processes relevant to society, for example to the big industrial processes to make everything from food to medicine to plastics. Our research aims to create improved materials and processes that are more efficient and sustainable. For example, we are working on developing better batteries for electronic cars with BMW and Volkswagen. And in another, very different project, we are working with the Rijksmuseum to understand how paintings and sculptures deteriorate, and so how we can better clean and protect them.
In addition to researching and teaching, I collaborate closely with VHTO [the Netherlands’ national expert organisation on girls and women in science and technology] on various programs to encourage children and especially girls to opt for science-related subjects and professions, building on my gender and diversity experience in the UK and Germany. For example, we are currently developing a program for primary schools, across all groups and levels, to encourage kids to realise that they can achieve anything they want to – irrespective of gender (and race, culture and background). It’s important to start early, as research shows that gender and other biases are hardwired in our brains between the ages of four and six. Having different activities in every school year can hopefully counteract this process. We start in the first year with class visits by women in traditionally ‘male’ professions (police agent, fire fighter, doctor, captain) and end in the final year with lessons in which kids explore their own strengths and future career options.
“There’s a real culture of collaboration here at Amsterdam Science Park.”
Being based at Amsterdam Science Park is definitely a big advantage. There are a number of science institutes that we can interact with here, including AMOLF and Nikhef –Nikhef for example develops detectors that we can use in our research. Having them located just next door is a huge plus. In our building at the science park, it’s easy to meet different groups at faculty meetings, over coffee or just in the corridor – you can connect easily with them and there are plenty of good opportunities to get to know about other people’s areas of expertise, which can lead to important insights in your own work and nice and fruitful collaborations. In addition, the park has organisations like VHTO that promote science and develop special science and engineering programs for girls and women.
The people here at Amsterdam Science Park are open to working together with others in different fields. This isn’t always the case at every university where you can find more of an ‘island’ mentality. Start-ups and bigger companies are based here at the park too, which adds to our possibilities. At least half of our research is directly with companies, so this is an important point for us. Thanks to one of the frequent events here at the park, for example, we got to know about the spin-off company E-Stone, which is making concept batteries for stationary storing of, for example, solar energy. We met over drinks and now we’re working together – that’s the kind of initiative that can easily happen here. Amsterdam Science Park is good at initiating new projects and connecting people, and the Innovation Exchange (IXA) helps to match companies and researchers. Astrid Tuinder from the Amsterdam Science Park organisation brought us into contact with Tata Steel, and now we are in the very early stages of a possible project with them. The Amsterdam Science Park people seem to be good at knowing who’s doing what, and who should meet who. But they of course need to know you, so you have to make yourself visible. I actively went out to meet with and talk to everyone when I came to work at Amsterdam Science Park.
“Amsterdam Science Park is good at initiating new projects and connecting people.”
As far as improvements go, I think the visibility and attractiveness of the park to the outside world (in the Netherlands as well as abroad) could be increased. Amsterdam Science Park is a huge hub for science and technology – but I didn’t realize this before I came to work here. That needs to be communicated more.
“Amsterdam Science Park people seem to be good at knowing who’s doing what, and who should meet who.”
I took up the post here two years ago after being in various academic environments abroad for a decade or so. I am Dutch and did my first degree in Utrecht, so being here is like coming home for me, and I love the open atmosphere. It’s great to be in an environment that isn’t a series of isolated towers! There’s a real culture of collaboration here at Amsterdam Science Park and I appreciate the way they try to bring people together here.”