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Working together to make the institute flourish

The youngest institute of the Faculty of Science has had a real growth spurt in recent years. It is up to Martina Vijver as the brand-new scientific director to secure that growth and further develop CML. 'This is a challenge that I am really looking forward too,' says Vijver. 'Together with my colleagues we are going to make our institute shine.'

What is the role of a scientific director according to you?

'As scientific director, you ensure that other people can do their research and teaching as well as possible. You make sure that we are a leading institute. To do so, I build bridges to many different partners. Not only within the faculty, but also in national and European contexts. That is crucial for us because right now sustainability has become important in all projects. We are always part of this discussion somewhere. That everyday interaction with society is very typical for the CML.'

Do you think you bring a lot of those connections with you?

‘In this position, you really are someone who provides networks and that kind of knowledge. You have gained experience, won awards and worked with many different people and agencies. With such a background, you can put young people into new roles and position them in such a way that they can grow. By doing so, you can generate impact by saying Young people, shine. How incredibly fun and inspiring is that?

Martina Vijver has been collaborating as an ecotoxicologist in European contexts for years. During her research career, she secured several personal grants such as a Veni, Vidi and an ERC consolidator grant. She also won the World Cultural Council outreach award in 2017.

What is the first thing you will do at CML?

'Our institute is developing continually. We are no longer the environmental activist club we once were. Geert de Snoo brought us into the faculty as a scientific institute, and under Arnold Tukker we have grown from 40 to more than 150 employees. That's tremendous growth!

That's why I'm focusing on internal cohesion in the coming period. Questions like: Can we still find each other? Are collaborations possible within the institute or university? To this end, we are going to divide our research into five themes. A completely different structure that we have been working towards together for some time.'

What kind of themes are they?

'We would like to be highly visible to society, so we have chosen themes that point towards the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, namely: food, water, biodiversity, resources, and the urban environment. As CML, we stand for fundamental science that finds its way into society.'

You are the very first female scientific director of this faculty. How does that feel?

'I think it should become normal to have women in these kinds of positions. Not that women should feel obliged to take such a role, but it should be possible if you aspire to be in a managing or leading position.

As director you can generate impact by saying Young people, shine. How incredibly fun and inspiring is that?

I am glad to be able to be a more visible role model. Being a professor is already great; I enjoy it immensely. My new role is different, though. As a professor, it's easy to close yourself off from the world for a while and immerse yourself in your research. That's no longer possible now, I'm included in everything. As a result, my exposure is higher and it thus enlarges my responsibility as a role model.'

Who are you a role model for?

'Well, I hope I am a role model for many people. At least for all young researchers and academic staff. But when I give a lecture, also for the students I teach. Oh, and for my own children, of course!'

Your schedule was already filled to the brim, will this still fit in?

'Of course, my new position comes at the expense of other activities. In my case, I will temporarily be teaching much less. And that's a shame, because I'm bursting with ideas. But then again, maybe I should just think 'I will delegate this to other people.' That way I make room for the younger generation, and I can help them to grow in their careers.'

Are colleagues going to see a different side of you?

'Yes, I will definitely be taking on a different role. I think people may have to get used to that, but I know what I stand for: open communication, good lines of communication and transparency. Nobody makes a decision on their own, that is just not how this institute works. That is what I am going to stand for. Everyone doing their part to make the institute flourish.'

Are you looking forward to it?

'Yes! I think it will be great fun. It is wonderful to be able to lead such a tremendously diverse team. I am going to devote my energy to making the whole institute shine.’

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