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Jasper’s Day

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

From cells to satellites, a day filled with positive energy

Wednesday 13 April

Wednesday, that would normally mean working from Groningen, but this week I stayed in Leiden for a special day. Secretary-General Lidewijde Ongering of the Ministry of Economic Affairs is coming to visit us to see the activity and interaction between the knowledge institutes and companies on and around our campus. An excellent opportunity for me to get to know Lidewijde and also to get to know our local network better myself.

The visit starts around the corner at the Leiden Bio Science Park, the cluster of about 150 companies in the biomedical life sciences. We meet in the beautiful Biopartner 5 building, in which parts of our old Gorlaeus Highrise were used during construction. There are inspiring presentations about the strengths of the Bio Science Park, the challenges associated with its current growth and the relationship with our education. It is clear that there is an enormous need for young talent within the park. At the same time, we hear from our students that we do not do enough to prepare them for the labour market. My conclusion: we may benefit from joining forces better.

In the Biopartner 5 building, we also visit Mimetas, a young company that focuses on organ-on-a-chip technology: the growth of human tissue into artificial organs on which, for example, the effect of medicines can be tested. This is an impressive development, which, among other things, can further reduce the use of test animals.

After lunch, we cycle to Janssen, a major pharmaceutical player in the park, known among other things for the COVID-19 vaccines. Here too, an interesting conversation about the relation between government-education-business arises, that once again shows that we could benefit even more from the fact that we are neighbours. Both the company and the University.

We conclude the afternoon with a visit to Airbus. Here, a long-cherished dream comes true: watching in a factory where large parts of Ariane rockets are built. I think it is great! The Netherlands is a major player in earth observation with satellites and in the development of high-speed laser communication in space and the atmosphere. Airbus is part of the Space Campus that connects institutions and companies on the Delft-Leiden-Noordwijk axis. I must confess that I had no idea this sector was so strong in the Netherlands. It's good to see that so much is happening in our region in the biomedical sciences and in the 'harder' natural sciences.

At the end of the day I cycle to the faculty full of energy for two more meetings. Afterwards, I have the honour of ending this already very pleasant day with a dinner with Douwe Breimer, former rector of the University and founder of the LACDR. He still has a large network and a special position in the Dutch scientific world. It turned out to be a very successful evening, in which the useful and the pleasant were well combined. Around 23:00 I am in my hotel and decide not to read any more papers for tomorrow. Today has been a good day, a very good day!

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