Growing Up in Science conversation series
Growing Up in Science is a conversation series featuring personal narratives of becoming and being a scientist
The Maastricht Young Academy initiated a local chapter of Growing Up in Science in October 2020 at Maastricht University. The opening event took place on the 9th of October 2020, and featured Prof. Dr. Rianne Letschert, Rector of Maastricht University. Since then, several successful GUS sessions have been held, where the speakers have shared their unofficial stories, and have imparted some wise words of advice and encouragement to the audience members. Find summaries of the past events below.
Global Growing Up in Science initiative
The Growing Up in Science initiative was established in 2014 at New York University by prof. Wei Ji Ma and prof. Cristina Alberini.
"At a typical Growing up in Science event, one faculty member shares their life story, with a focus on struggles, failures, doubts, detours, and weaknesses. Common topics include dealing with expectations, impostor syndrome, procrastination, luck, rejection, conflicts with advisors, and work- life balance, but these topics are always embedded in the speaker's broader narrative."
- For more information about the origins of GUS, follow this link.
Past Growing Up in Science events hosted by the MYA
Second Growing Up in Science event with Robert Suurmond
On the 19th of November 2020, the Maastricht Young Academy had its second Growing Up in Science event with Robert Suurmond, a young assistant professor (tenure-tracker) at the School of Business and Economics (SBE). Robert spoke about his work experience in the academic world as well as his personal life, which grew increasingly intertwined as the COVID19 crisis unfolded. He expressed the initial difficulties of switching from working at work to working at home and how this has progressed into the ‘new normal’ -where some aspects are similar to pre-lockdown life and where some aspects have changed. One such change that he is grateful for is having the opportunity to watch his son grow up. Another change - which Robert feels could be bettered - is the lack of networking opportunities available, even those as small as the chats over coffee in the workplace.
Third Growing Up in Science event with dr. Veerle Melotte
In the third Growing Up in Science session, which took place on the 10th of December 2020, dr. Veerle Melotte, associate professor at the Faculty of Health Medicine and Life Sciences of Maastricht University, shared her unofficial story. Veerle drew attention to the fact that there is a greater reality behind the professional achievements one can read about another on paper. Veerle herself did not find and follow her academic career path without delays and doubt, where she started and completed her PhD at a somewhat later stage than her academic counterparts, all the while experiencing the aspects of life which are not added to the résumé: marriage and motherhood. Her unofficial story truly shows that there is more to success than meets the eye. Veerle ended the session on an encouraging note by signifying that - despite one’s doubts and uncertainties - good mentors, passion, and self-belief play intrinsic roles in life and career, and that one is never too old to make a change.
Fourth Growing Up in Science event with dr. Rajat Mani Thomas
On the 14th of January 2021, dr. Rajat Mani Thomas, assistant professor at Amsterdam UMC, shared his unofficial story in the fourth ‘Growing Up in Science’ session. Rajat is an individual who truly ‘grew up in science’: his father was a neuroscientist, and he lived on the university grounds where his father worked, and grew up around the neighbours and children of people in science. His childhood curiosity for the sciences (emphasis on the plural) has unmistakably shaped his unorthodox approach to academia. Considering himself a ‘scientific mercenary’, Rajat has worked across multiple fields of science and topics, to the benefit of being able to deliver fresh perspectives to different problems at hand. Through his experience, Rajat highlights the importance of collaborative science, which he believes will help to overcome the increasingly competitive nature of academia. Rajat left the audience with two salient pieces of advice: give randomness a chance, and give time to activities that go beyond just research.
Fifth Growing Up in Science event with dr. Jamiu Busari
On the 25th of February 2021, the MYA hosted the fifth Growing Up in Science event with dr. Jamiu Busari. Jamiu started the session by grounding it in the context of Black History Month. What followed was a grippingly insightful narrative of his academic career, where he contextualised his success to the audience through the lens of a person of colour who has faced inconsistencies and inequalities in academia. Jamiu highlighted a poignant moment in his career where he realized that he could not continue fighting to prove himself through overextending himself at the expense of his family, and potentially his career. Here he further realized that it’s not the promotion that matters, but rather the joy and fulfilment out of what you are doing. Through these realizations, Jamiu fostered who he is now: a fervent advocate for diversity and inclusivity. Jamiu ended the session by stating his will to make the university one that fosters allyship, is equitable and inclusive, creates opportunities, is based on earned achievement, and where everybody has equal room to participate and grow.
Sixth Growing Up in Science event with Prof. Wei Ji Ma
On the 11th of March 2021, the Maastricht Young Academy hosted its sixth Growing Up in Science event with Prof. Wei Ji Ma. This was a significant event not only because Wei Ji is a founding initiator of the global Growing Up in Science initiative, but also because it marked the beginning of the mentorship discussion by the MYA at Maastricht University. Wei Ji’s unofficial story is the stuff of urban legends: he skipped four grades in primary school, had a very early start to university, and began his PhD at the young age of 17. His PhD experience proved valuable in unexpected ways: he learnt the importance of having a good mentor (unfortunately through having a bad one) as well as that genius can only get you so far. Wei Ji’s mentorship experiences in academia led him to later initiate the global Growing Up in Science series, where it’s impact can already be seen by the many institutions that have established local chapters of GUS. At Maastricht University, the mentorship discussion is just beginning, and we cannot wait to see where it brings academia.