I can really make a meaningful difference
What really makes the MSP special is the small-scale teaching and the close contact with students. Us as teachers get to know you as students very well and vice versa. Because of this, I can teach you a lot more than what you need to know to just pass my exams. I can really make a meaningful difference.
Making a meaningful difference
What really makes the MSP special is the small-scale teaching and the close contact with students. At my old institution, I was teaching large classes of 300 students. At one point, I realised that I did not want that to be my future. For instance, when I was giving an exam after 10 weeks of classes, I saw a girl and I thought, ‘I have never seen you before’. I had no contact with her in 10 weeks! But it is the opposite here at the MSP. Us as teachers get to know you as students very well and vice versa. Because of this, I can teach you a lot more than what you need to know to just pass my exams. I can really make a meaningful difference.
No double standards
In terms of my role as a teacher, I think it is important that I help you as a student to develop yourself—to coach you, so you can get to where you want to go. That is very important to me. Personally, I also want to become a better teacher and the MSP helps me do that, because of the nature of the programme and the opportunities it offers for professional development. I expect that you develop yourseld as a student and do new things and improve; I also do that myself, so I have the same standards for myself as I have for you.
Is evolutionary biology for you?
Evolutionary biology is a great field. I am very much a generalist, so I am not somebody who wants to know everything about three specific cells in the root tip of a particular plant, for instance. That is too small-scale for me. Evolution is a field where you need to know about everything. It is about genetics, ecology, zoology, botany. So it gives me an excuse to stick my nose into anything I like that has to do with biology, also human evolution. And it relates to history, which I also like. So, this is the perfect field for me. Perhaps it could be the perfect field for you, too.
Staying connected to research
The MSP focuses on teaching -everything is about the students and how they learn- but I still manage to stay connected to research. I had a traditional research career and my own lab when I was in Utrecht. In my opinion, the way that modern science functions is a lot of time is wasted in getting grant money, aiming for this one high-impact publication and those kinds of things. For me, that is not what science is really about and not what I want my focus to be. I want to spend my time actually researching those topics I find truly interesting and meaningful and not those that give me the highest likelihood of obtaining a grant.
So I still stay connected to research, partially by combining it with my teaching. I am able to do interesting things with students in projects, or in theses, or anywhere I can facilitate students in working on meaningful questions. I often give research questions that I find scientifically interesting to students and they try to solve them. That is one way of generating data that helps both me and the students. I also continue to work with people at a national and international level in the context of all kinds of collaborations. We might share data or manuscripts. For this, I spend some of my time visiting institutes, gathering new data, writing or doing fieldwork. These activities also sometimes take up part of my own time. So, should I consider that a personal hobby or part of my work? It is wonderful when these two things can be the same.
I teach the introduction to biology course, which is probably one of the first courses that you will take at the MSP. I also coordinate the practical courses, so the first time that you go to the lab, you will encounter me as well. I’m one of the first faces you will see here, and I want you to feel...
For me, Problem-Based Learning is about democratising the classroom. It is about realising that everyone has something of value to add (not only the teacher) and that everyone in the room can bring something to the discussion. It is a very productive way to solve problems and to move forward.
I have worked with many different kinds of students- economics students, law students, American exchange students- and I think the MSP students are quite special. I have a feeling that the students we have at the MSP are the type of people who are not interested in making it big in the world, but...