Stories#057 Margo’s sustainable development engineering

#057 Margo’s sustainable development engineering

The story of Jordy’s opportunity scanning is a story of Margo’s sustainable development engineering

Alumnus Jordy van Zandwijk is the track manager for the master education programme of Technical Medicine. He oversees the quality of the master’s programmes and ensures that all parties involved in students’ internships in hospitals are satisfied. His key question: ‘how can we further improve education at UT?’ He discusses this with third-year ATLAS student Margo Dietrich.

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Monday 6 December 2021

Thinking and working along

Jordy: ‘Hey Margo, your name sounds German, but you speak English. Tell me, where are you from?’ 

Margo: ‘According to my passport I am American, but I grew up in Dakar, Senegal. When I was fifteen we moved to Italy, where I also studied. Nowadays my parents live in Germany and I study in the Netherlands.’ 

Jordy: ‘Wow, talking about wanderlust! How did you end up in Twente?’

Margo: ‘With my international baccalaureate (IB) I couldn’t apply to universities in Germany, because I hadn’t studied a second foreign language. Fortunately, my mother introduced me to a study advisor who knows Dutch universities well. I told her about my interest in sustainable development and my will to help others with technology. UT came out on top quite quickly there.’

Jordy: ‘I see! So you have seen many countries and education systems. Is there a big difference between UT and, for example, high school in Italy?’

Margo: ‘I think so. Education in Italy is straightforward. Teachers cover the theory you need to know and then ask you to reproduce it. I find the challenge-based learning at UT a lot more interesting. I come across so many things when I’m working in this way. So I also learn about subjects that are not directly related to my specialisation, but still very useful. On top of that, the ATLAS programme offers a nice mix of self-study, lectures and projects in which we work together.’ 

Jordy: ‘And which element from that mix works best for you?’ 

Margo: ‘I like it when a course is well structured, and at the same time gives me enough freedom. When what I need to do is fixed, but it’s up to me to decide how to do it. If I really have to choose, project based education suits me best. It shows how theoretical concepts work out in practice. Sustainable development engineering is about the tension between our economic and demographic growth – and its effects on our environment, nature and society. I find it fascinating to look for that balance right at the drawing board. In this way we can realise sustainable, future-proof innovations. That’s what matters to me in the end. That we can make the world a little better with new knowledge.’

Jordy: ‘You have great ambitions. And you sound like someone who has high standards. What do you do to keep yourself in balance?’ 

Margo: ‘You’re right about my high standards, yes. I can be a workaholic. The more work you ask me to do, the more work I put in. Fortunately, UT pays a lot of attention to students’ work-life balance. In addition, our ATLAS community is a close-knit club – we support each other a lot. In the first year we even all lived in the same building. We’ve all seen each other in pyjamas, haha!

Campus life and my fellow students help me take a break every now and then. For example by going for a swim, playing football or playing bass in our student band. It’s this combination that allows me to do a lot of work.’

Jordy: ‘I read that you are also a member of the Educational Committee of the ATLAS programme. You and your colleagues provide feedback about the programme and the lectures. I am very curious about that. How do you go about this?’

Margo: ‘Yes, that’s right. I think that’s special about UT, by the way. Teachers here take students very seriously. They really want to know what we think and use our input. I can have an actual impact on my education. In the semester team, teachers and students both share experiences and findings.’

Jordy: ‘And how do you make sure the committee’s voice represents all students? No, let me rephrase that: how do you prevent one positive or negative experience from becoming a general truth?’

Margo: ‘That’s a fair question. In our feedback we want to give as complete a picture as possible of the experiences and opinions of students. To do so, we use online surveys. Such a survey provides a lot of information. The problem is that many students do not complete it. And the people who do fill it in are often very positive or very negative. Whereas we are interested in the views of the middle group too. That is why we also take into account the signals we pick up when we are on campus, chatting with our fellow students.’ 

Jordy: ‘Can we as teachers do something to help you get more completed surveys?’

Margo: ‘I don’t really know. We actually do what we have always done. We accept the fact that not everyone participates and that we have to go after people all the time. I think it would work well to reward participation. Students like to get stuff for free! But as you can hear, we should probably think about this more. Students and teachers together, over a cup of coffee on campus?’

Jordy: ‘Sounds like a plan, let’s do that. And we could offer that cup of coffee as a reward, Margo!’


is a UT alumnus. He studied Technical Medicine, Medical Imaging & Interventions (Technical Medicine or TM for short) in Enschede. Afterwards, he joined the Experimental Centre for Technical Medicine (ECTM) at UT as PhD and teacher. Jordy’s research focuses on the application of MRI imaging and, more specifically: the imaging of blood vessels. Hence his position as TM’er at the vascular surgery specialism at Medisch Spectrum Twente. Since September 2021, he’s track manager for the master’s Medical Imaging & Interventions at the Technical Medicine major.

Margo Dietrich (2000)

is in her last year of the Technology, Liberal Arts & Sciences programme at the University of Twente. Her focus is on Sustainable Development Engineering, and she hopes to pursue a master’s in Environmental Engineering. Currently, she is taking classes in the Sustainable Innovations programme at Eindhoven University of Technology. During her time in Twente she has participated in the Educational Committee and Semester Team of her programme and spent a year in the University Council as chair of the Strategy and Internationalisation Committee.