Universiteit Leiden

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‘When a student sees the light, that’s what fulfills me’

'Education has always been something I am very interested in,' says the passionate Michiel Hogerheijde. He was already chairman of the astronomy programme committee and has been teaching for many years. Since 1 October, he is also the new Programme Director of the astronomy bachelor. 'I really enjoy having a role where I can shape the programme together with the lecturers and students.'

Until recently, Astronomy had only one Programme Director (OD). With the responsibilities expanding due to the relocation to the new building, the position has been split. Professor of Laboratory Astrophysics Harold Linnartz remains OD of the master of Astronomy and the position of OD of the bachelor became vacant. 'I have been involved in that organisational side of education for quite a long time already,' says Hogerheijde. 'I was chairman of the education committee for a long time, both for the bachelor's and the master's in astronomy. When a new position as OD became available, I was very interested in taking on that role.'

'There are lots of great subjects at the university, but this happens to be my subject'

Teaching, in fact, is a great passion of the brand-new OD. 'I think it is a core task of the university. And so it is incredibly nice to have a role in which I do not only shape my own subject, but can also help think about the way the entire programme is organised. From small details, to the curriculum and the goals we want to achieve with our education.'

'A study programme is something you create together'

Changing very fundamental things is not necessary at the moment, says Hogerheijde. 'I think we already have a very good programme! Although at the organisational and logistical level, there is always a lot going on. We currently have many students at the faculty and not always enough classrooms. All of that has to run smoothly, of course. It has to remain manageable for the staff and at the same time we have to ensure the quality of education for the students.'

Yet, there is one particular target on which Hogerheijde would like to focus in the coming years. 'I would like to strengthen the ownership of the study programme among both teachers and students. A study programme is something you create together. That is why I want everyone to feel that they have some ownership of it and can influence it'. The last thing he would want is for the OD to dictate things from above. 'There are all kinds of ideas among students and lecturers about how the format and content of education should be organised. My job is to make sure all this comes together into a policy that we can implement. I find that a beautiful role to have. And I think we can make the programme even stronger this way.'

Seeing the light

Alongside his new position as OD, Hogerheijde also continues to do research and teach. 'I teach the course Radiative Processes on the radiation we receive from stars, planets and everything in the universe. This brings together a lot of the physics and astronomy that students learn about earlier in the programme.' The interaction with students during lectures gives him energy. 'Or when I notice that a student saw the light. When they make the connections between different pieces of information and really get it. That's just incredibly fun to see.'

He hopes to convey his passion for astronomy both as OD and as teacher. 'Astronomy is an incredibly beautiful subject! There are lots of great subjects at the university, but this happens to be my subject,' Hogerheijde says with a smile. 'It is very nice to see teachers being so enthusiastic in their teaching. And to see how they try to weave their own research and the search for the limits of our knowledge into their classes. That's something we shouldn't give up.'

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