This week's WUB focuses on science. The university provides scientific training to its students, but only twenty-five percent of them goes on to find a job in the field of science. The others benefit from having done two theses when they have to judge scientific results in their work.
Not all WAU students dream of being a scientist in future. Marjolein van Wijngaarden, an Environmental Sciences student, wants A nice house in Utrecht and a job, preferably science-oriented." Angelo Gloudemans, a Consumer Sciences student, wants to rebuild a fortress in Nijmegen, which was destroyed by Barbarossa in the eighteenth century; and Edwin Andreoli's ideal job would be developing nature reserves in the Netherlands.
The big dream of scientists is to invent an important new machine or theory. Many new insights are developed accidentally, says scientist Pek van Andel, author of the book The Anatomy of Serendipity, the art of making unsought findings. Being smart and working hard is not bad for a start, but most unsought findings arise from mistakes, accidents and jokes, Van Andel discovered. If you take jokes seriously, you have a good chance of discovering something by accident. Jokes often contain absurd associations."
However, inventing new ideas is not enough. A successful scientist should also be able to sell his or her ideas. The big shots in the relevant field of science and the funding agencies should become interested in your ideas. A nice start might be shaking hands with one of the big shots during a congress. A scientist only exists when he comes into favour with his colleagues.
The doctoral degree is an important milestone for a scientist. The Dutch PhD student used to be an employee of a department, and had to give a lot of courses. But nowadays the degree is an entrance exam for a scientific job. The quality of PhD supervision can vary considerably: sometimes the perfect supervisor leaves and his successor is not an expert in the same field. WAU's graduate schools have improved PhD supervision.
WUB journalist Laurens Vogelezang went to Costa Rica this summer. WAU has a regional research centre there, in which several departments develop land use planning. Their computer models can produce scenarios for sustainable land use, but it will be difficult to implement them into Costa Rican society, because agriculture there is in crisis. The Ministry of Agriculture lacks money and good management, and powerful banana companies dominate the scene.