“I want to positively affect society, and because technology has such a big impact on the world, I did a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. After my bachelor’s, I worked as a systems engineer for a few years. I liked it a lot, but I always felt that I could have a bigger positive impact on the world if I gained a deeper understanding of how the technologies I was developing affected society. I was always thinking of the bigger picture, for instance how we can help the world become more sustainable. The master’s programme European Studies on Society, Science and Technology (ESST) offered me the opportunity to take a step back and learn more about how technology affects society and how society determines which technologies are accepted.
A big part of the programme focused on the idea that technology doesn’t follow a linear path, but rather that it’s socially constructed. A lot of people act as if technology is an autonomous entity, especially non-technical people, but ESST shows that it's extremely socially and culturally situated. As an engineer I understood many of these concepts intuitively, but ESST provides you with a language and set of frameworks that allow you to talk about science and technology in a way you couldn’t do in engineering. The fact that we used this way of thinking in all analyses has significantly influenced my mindset.
What really influenced me the most was examining how there are multiple perspectives on everything. There’s not one truth. The goal of scientists is often truth-seeking and being open to new things, to innovation. But it made me realise how flexible everything is, even the truth. What people define as right and wrong is dependent on the culture they grew up in. The programme helped me to think in a more interdisciplinary way. It also taught me to be more open-minded to different perspectives.
What I really liked about the ESST programme was that there were 18 students, representing 13 nationalities. That made the discussions really interesting, in and outside of class. I was one of the few in the programme with a background in engineering, but that’s not necessary at all. My fellow students were journalists, arts and culture students, psychologists, anthropologists and political scientists.
I volunteered quite a bit with the Green Office, which is a great organisation. They're a dedicated team of students who are employed by the university to work towards sustainability at Maastricht University. I helped out as part of a team developing a student-run course, for example. And I was able to apply my knowledge as an engineer, by looking at things such as energy efficiency improvements and technologies for renewable energy that the university could implement.”
“In my future career, working in consultancy or conducting research, I will greatly benefit from the open-mindedness which is cultivated and highly valued here.”