Universiteit Leiden

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Jasper's day

Jasper Knoester started on 1 January as our new dean. How is he finding it, what kinds of things is he doing and what does his day look like? In every newsletter Jasper gives us a peek into his life as dean.

'I really feel like I'm walking around in a showroom of top science.'  

Monday 28 March 

‘Monday, the alarm clock feels extra early today because of the change to summer time. Because of that, the 6.48 am train to Leiden leaves Groningen in the dark again. I spend the time on board reading documents and catching up on e-mail.   

Once in Leiden, an inspiring start of the week awaits me. Today is the day I visit some of our facilities. Our Fish Facility and Cell Observatory are briefly on the agenda. Parts of them I have visited before and again I am impressed by the equipment and the knowledge and skills of the colleagues. 

Where I have not been yet is at NeCEN, the centre for electron microscopy in our faculty. This centre exists since 2012, in close cooperation with the LUMC and others, and has a national function. It houses the best microscopes in the Netherlands that can image biological and molecular systems down to the atomic scale. And all of this led and supported by a strong team. 

I am shown around by Ariane Briegel and Meindert Lamers. Immediately on entering, it is a feast for the eyes. To the left and right of me I see the 'NeCEN hall of fame': colourful pictures of diverse systems. From motors that propel cells to large protein complexes and entire viruses. All these works of art are the results of the excellent cooperation between researchers from all over the world and the NeCEN staff. Some of these images have already found their way into fine publications, while others are still on their way to the specialist journals. Exciting! I really feel like I'm walking around in a showroom of top science here.  

Downstairs, I first see the preparation rooms. Here, the samples are frozen almost instantaneously so that they are suitable for making images. The innovations in this area are impressive. Without a good sample, you can't do anything, no matter how good your microscope is. It surprises me in a positive way that, with the right preparations, there are now even techniques to obtain dynamic information.  

Then it is time for the microscopes, the two Krios-devices. These are high-tech electron microscopes. I am lucky enough to see a team from Utrecht examining the semen cells of bulls. It is impressive how they work interactively with the generated images: first, pieces of the first images are marked and then images are made in more detail. I leave NeCEN with a feeling of pride that this is possible within the walls of our faculty. A well spent morning! 

That afternoon I have a few more meetings and towards the evening I go to Utrecht for a meeting of the Dutch Physical Society. That works out well: after the meeting I can enjoy a small family birthday in Utrecht and can stay the night before the research visit to mathematics, which starts at 9 o'clock the next morning, also in Utrecht. It all fits together beautifully!'

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