Naomi van den Berg (23) will represent WUR at Roche Continents, a prestigious event for a hundred top-talented students of European universities. During the five-day programme in Salzburg, the master’s student Forest and Nature Conservation hopes to learn how to successfully convey science to a large audience.
Naomi van den Berg
During Roche Continents, a hundred top-students of arts and science get together in Salzburg to brainstorm. The programme selects professors who each nominate one student. The nominees then pass a selection procedure by Roche. This year’s theme is The Power of Passion.
‘My passion is the communication of science’, Van den Berg says. ‘I think science could reach a much larger audience through the internet. The internet in its current state contains a lot of pseudoscience and wrongly interpreted science. This causes “science” to become an empty concept, which only scientists take seriously. I think it is important to find ways to properly convey climate and natural science to the public. This may be complicated, but it is certainly not impossible.’
Van den Berg followed a bachelor’s programme at University College Utrecht, because she was not yet fully certain about what she wanted to study. ‘I had an economical/societal package in secondary school, but during my bachelor’s, my tutor told me: “Naomi, you’re a tree hugger in disguise.” I started following a course in the natural sciences, and I have entirely switch since. My professor of cell biology at the time, Fred Wiegant, was the one to nominate me.’ Van den Berg assisted Wiegant in the development of a module on evolutionary biology. ‘I think he appreciated the fact that I had a different perspective, because I could see what difficulties people without a background in biology would have to face.’
What does Van den Berg hope to gain at Roche Continents? ‘I hope that the arts students who will attend Roche Continents can teach me how they reach people. I aspire to eventually get a position where I can reach many people, perhaps politics or something similar.’ Van den Berg is an active member of the youth think tank The West Wing, which was set up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and of YOUNGO, a youth constituency of the United Nations that focuses on climate change. ‘Through such activities, I hope to learn how to communicate science to a larger audience, but also how to translate science into policies. This involves a lot of various aspects, and I find that intersection of science and policy very interesting.’