Harm van der Geest, researcher, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
'Universities offer you the freedom to formulate your own research questions.'
I tend to stick around once I feel at home somewhere. I’ve been here since 1990. I started as a student, moved on to become a trainee research assistant, and eventually became a researcher and lecturer in 2003. I’ve always been fascinated by water. As a part of my work in the field of aquatic ecology and eco toxicology, I now mainly focus on water sediments (‘benthic’ ecology), which generally consist of sludge here in the Netherlands. Interactions between water and soil are fascinating to study. We conduct experiments in laboratories and other settings to study the various processes and organisms involved. The Dutch delta is a fascinating area to study, with lots of shallow water. Our water sediments are also an accumulation of the various European waterways.
Corporate research is limited by funding or laws and regulations. Universities offer you the freedom to formulate your own research questions. My research, and more importantly my interactions with students, is the best part of my job. New students with fresh ideas help keep me motivated.
The developments at the Science Park and new faculty building are incredibly stimulating. Our experimentation facilities have improved greatly. With all the various research groups now under the same roof, we regularly meet in the labs and collaborate on experiments. That’s definitely a healthy development with research questions becoming increasingly interdisciplinary. Every time I arrive here by bike and see the observatories on the roof and the students in and around the building, I get a real sense that this place is all about research. The new building has an innovative atmosphere.
(Harm van der Geest has worked at the University of Amsterdam since 2003.)