Hi, my name is Wilco. After finishing my Bachelor’s programme in Applied Physics at the University of Twente I first switched to the Master’s programme in Applied Mathematics (Numerical Analysis & Computational Mechanics). After that, I still completed the Master’s trajectory in Applied Physics (Fluid Physics).
I very much liked the working atmosphere and the organization at the Faculty of Science and Technology. Moreover, the two Master’s trajectories were close to each other, such I could combine them quite efficiently within three years. I could even spend more than half of these three years on doing new research!
My choice for the University of Twente
I was born and raised in the East of The Netherlands and after finishing high school I did not feel the great desire to “discover the world” and move to a completely new place. My hobby, presenting radio programmes, was located here, and I wanted to keep doing this. Also, the people here are modest, sober, and open to each other, and you can recognize this attitude at the University of Twente. And then there is the unique campus with all its facilities… – the first time I walked around here it felt like I was walking in a holiday park.
From being a PhD student to becoming a teacher
After obtaining my double Master’s degree I stayed around at the Physics of Fluids group to start a PhD trajectory. The Physics of Fluids group is one of the largest research groups at the University of Twente, but somehow everyone remains unique within this group; everyone has his/her own expertise, and collaborations with colleagues within and from outside the group, and from industry, are intensely encouraged. The working environment is such that these collaborations become a natural process: your qualities are brought to the surface.
My research was mainly focused on the several ways droplets can deform. Sometimes this deformation occurs naturally and undesirably, such as in case of the entrapment of small air bubbles during inkjet printing. Together with OCÉ in Venlo we looked at the deformation of droplets before and after the impact. Sometimes the deformation is forced, such as at ASML in Veldhoven, where people work on Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) Lithography to create electrical circuits at nanometer scale. ASML chips are everywhere around us, such as in our smartphones. To create these circuits, an enormous amount of energy is needed and this energy is obtained by focusing a laser beam. This laser beam reflects on a deformed drop. By adjusting the shape of the drop we try to “steer” the energy of the laser beam.
When you do a PhD, you are involved in a lot of more things than doing research. For example, I contributed to the organization of a big conference, Flow14, the first international conference on micro- and nanofluidics. Also worth mentioning are the international “Summer Schools” within the field of fluid mechanics and soft interfaces. I spent one month in Les Houches, France, located at the foot of the Mont Blanc, with about 50 other junior fluid physicists from all over the world. This was one of the best times of my life. I was also largely involved in education: supervising (Master’s) students, teaching “Introduction to Fluid Dynamics”and “Dynamics”, and contributing to the “parents day”, organised by student association Arago.
I liked these educational activities and the interaction with students very much. For me this was the decisive factor to become a teacher at a graduate school. After doing my PhD I worked for a period of one year at Hogeschool Windesheim in Zwolle, as a teacher of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Product Design. Here I earned my teaching qualification. Nowadays I am back in Enschede, and in the field of Applied Physics; I am a teacher/researcher of Applied Physics at Saxion Hogescholen Enschede.
Using the skills you learned
As an applied physicist you learn an incredible amount of skills. Next to mastering detailed, sometimes abstract, theory, such as quantum mechanics or complex functional analysis, you learn experimental skills and you work on applications, which is where this theory comes to life. You develop a high level of insight and get an idea of the procedures to solve a theoretical or practical problem. During my PhD, I basically saw back all the theory from the Master’s programme in Fluid Physics – I mainly run computer simulations and later on I started doing some experiments by myself. Nowadays, as a teacher, I have become quite all-round, because of the firm base I developed during the trajectory at the University of Twente. I teach several courses at several departments. This variety makes the job so much fun.
My golden tip
Many people connect studying technology at a university to “intelligence”. However, I think another property is much more typical of students who successfully finish the Master’s programme in Applied Physics: a natural curiosity. If you have the urge to find out how something works and want to use the result on your way to find/develop something new, then Applied Physics at the University of Twente is the right choice for you. Always keep in mind your “why”: why do you want to master this theory? Why are you doing this experiment? Why are you running this simulation? What do you want to learn from it? This makes your work meaningful.
And: enjoy the many highlights of Twente!