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.
'It's my first conference since 2019 and it's a delight to see friends and acquaintances again.'
Monday 22 Augustus
‘Due to jet lag, I wake up before 5 a.m. in Chicago, where I am for the American Chemical Society congress. It's my first congress since the end of 2019. So Sunday it took a while to get used to sitting in a large hall for a whole day, hearing story after story. But also a delight to see friends and acquaintances again for the first time in almost 3 years. Many will have had similar experiences in the past few months.
I use the early morning to go over the lecture I will be giving in a few hours. I enjoy breakfast and have contact with the home front. Then on to the gigantic McCormick Place Conference Center, which completely absorbs the convention with many thousands of attendees. Some of the halls fit complete truck combinations and that is exactly what happens during shows of the truck industry. I don't get very excited about this location, but it is certainly impressive. It is also beautifully situated along Lake Michigan, one of the attractions of this city.
The morning goes well. It's a great coincidence that a colleague from the U.S. has already sparked off the theme of my own story in a wonderful way. I can respond well to that. There are contributions from young researchers that interest me a lot and, as a final piece, I see that the structure of a large molecular aggregate that we have been working on for years finally seems to have been solved with cryo-electron microscopy. Good news that opens the door to an even better understanding of these systems.
'I am pleased to learn that he will be testing recent theoretical work from our group with new experiments.'
At lunch, I meet a good friend from Chicago, whom I met during my time at MIT. He is the reason I ever started working on proteins, which has produced a fruitful line of research. We exchange news about work and family. He is in a particularly good mood, as he has just been elected to the National Academy of Sciences. We will celebrate together on Wednesday. In the afternoon, there are more lectures and I speak at length with a PhD student from Purdue University, whose story spoke to me in the morning session. I am pleased to learn that he will be testing recent theoretical work from our group with new experiments. I know his supervisor well, and the prospect of working with her group again cheers me up.
Late in the afternoon, I leave for the Museum of Science and Industry, where awards are given for special achievements in physical chemistry. A gathering that makes everyone happy, including me. In the USA people are put in the limelight much more actively than in the Netherlands. It is quite normal there for the scientific community to contribute financially to the awarding of prizes. Besides prizes for special research achievements, also prices are awarded for longstanding services to the scientific community. A fine form of Recognition and Appreciation!
Back at the hotel I prepare the lecture I am going to give tomorrow at Northwestern University. I will have more speaking time there than at the conference, which gives me a chance to make the story more didactic and also a bit more lighthearted. Finally, I am attaching the cover of the book Goldilocks and the Three Bears to illustrate my argument for the optimal noise level for quantum diffusion: not too big, not too small, but just right, just like the choices Goldilocks faces in the story. Hopefully it will catch on tomorrow.'