August 2012, One of those good old days, at least a very sunny one. I am walking together with some newly started PhD candidates and some master students through the nature area ‘Westbroek’ in the Netherlands. They have saved my day by counting seedlings in an experiment that sounded so simple in the beginning, but that turned out rather laborious. In return I will give them a crash course plant species identification. A clear win-win situation. Of course we head to nature area that I know so well. The place where I myself made my first vegetation surveys, where I fished thousands of seeds out of the water, spend weeks counting reed stalks in pouring rain and measured wind, water and soil quality trying to understand how plants colonize pond shorelines. I am sort of walking into the good old days of my PhD thesis there. On this sunny bright new day, we have a very nice time looking at plant leaf points, flowers and random fliebertjes (an brilliant Dutch word, don’t ask me to translate this). On our way out, we meet a photographer, who takes a rather spontaneous picture of us.
Years later, I visit Westbroek as I have to bury some tea bags for an experiment there (see www.teatime4science.org). At the entrance I find an information board with a picture of some hikers. On closer inspection these hikers appear to be us, on our plant identification excursion. I think back on those good old days. Things have changed, one PhD turned doctor, the students turned PhD candidates, and one of them got together with one of the PhD’s of our excursion. Despite the pouring rain I notice bright new days…
March 2019. Today I am opponent in a Dutch defense ceremony. On this bright new day, I remember those good old days of my own defense in the same building. Now I will sit at the other side of the table, together with the evaluation committee. My PhD supervisor which again is part of the evaluation committee, has been upgraded to professor. This means that she has to wear an official toga and beret. In the toilet it still says “Tork” on the paper tissues, but I now know this means more than a brand name. The PhD that we have to question about his thesis is one of the people of the excursion, but the information board in Westbroek is replaced by something new.
A Dutch defense is a very official and big party, with official dress codes, formal speeches and ways of addressing, pictures of medieval scientists on the wall and a whole audience of family, friends and colleagues watching the scientific discussion. This highlight can only be reached after years of hard work, and the new Doctor now enters into the life of a scientist filled with many paper- rejections, constant job-insecurity, high workloads and other things that I am sure have been touched upon by other people in other blogs. Remembering good old days and creation of new bright ones are a very important counterweight. So today we celebrate! Congratulations Sven Teurlincx, you did great!
Link to the work of Sven https://nioo.knaw.nl/en/employees/sven-teurlincx