Honestly, I never imagined I would end up as a lecturer. However, shortly after starting my PhD research I starting seeing this role in a new light. Through full-time research, I started to really understand and master the subjects I was studying. I have to admit that I passed many of the more mathematical subjects by ‘dumbly’ repeating the examples from lectures without really understanding the mathematical optimization techniques behind them. For my PhD research, I applied the same techniques to practical problems. Only then did I really gain insight. I realized that the combination of research and education is useful for students, but also for myself. So I combined the last years of my research with a teaching placement in the Industrial Engineering and Management programme.
I have been a lecturer and researcher in the Industrial Engineering and Management programme since 2006. I teach different subjects for this Bachelor's degree and the corresponding Industrial Engineering & Management Master's programme. I try and link it to my research as much as possible. I do this by illustrating mathematical techniques with examples from my own research projects, or by basing case studies directly on existing research projects. This combination is appreciated by students – it gives them more insight and makes learning more fun. And seeing students' appreciation and watching gain knowledge and insight feeds my enthusiasm. Incorporating hot research topics into my teaching keeps it exciting and varied for me and often provides new insights that I can feed back into my research.
My main subjects are about optimizing stochastic (uncertain) problems and computer simulation. Simulation especially is a very hands-on subject; you’re presented with practical problems that you have to simulate with the computer in a simplified way. You have to develop and implement creative solutions in your simulation and then evaluate them through experiments. Examples of simulation commands can be found in environments like a hospital (for patient planning, to determine how many surgery rooms are needed, etc.) or a factory (production planning, determining a purchase or delivery strategy, determining the layout, etc.).
The Industrial Engineering and Management degree offers students good career possibilities. There is a need for ‘techies’ with a business background in the job market, because they are equipped to come up with innovative technical solutions that match business needs. The Industrial Engineering and Management programme at the UT distinguishes itself from other programmes by focusing on creativity, problem-solving and problem-driven learning, project education and entrepreneurship. All this happens on a beautiful campus and in a small-scale setting, in which teachers and students interact informally.