Greetings from...Hong Kong

26 September 2017

UvA scientists can be found everywhere: from a lab on the Roeterseiland Campus to the North Pole. Or, like Inez Zwetsloot, in Hong Kong, where she is currently working as a assistant professor at the City University of Hong Kong. Zwetsloot received her PhD last year and conducted research at the Amsterdam Business School.

What does a typical day at work look like for her? What is the most interesting experience she’s had while doing research abroad?

‘My name is Inez Zwetsloot and I am carrying out research into statistical methods to detect changes in date (statistical process monitoring). I am also involved in education and research in the field of operations improvement. Since living in Hong Kong my field of research has shifted a bit. I am part of the systems engineering and engineering management department here and we are part of the science and engineering faculty. Research here is set up from more of an engineering angle as opposed to a business studies perspective. That creates an enjoyable interaction; I learn from my colleagues and they learn from me.'

Smart watches for the elderly

‘The biggest project I have worked on so far deals with ‘smart elder care’. Watches have been developed  that measure blood pressure, number of steps taken, and the sleep of elderly persons who wear the watches 24 hours a day. In collaboration with care homes, we try to gain insight into the health of the elderly at the facility. I focus on smart statistical methods to rapidly detect changes in health indicators.'

Treacle waffles and stir-fry wok pans

‘The atmosphere here at work is more individualistic than what I was used to in Amsterdam. Everyone has a their own office (although my office is really rather small), which is nice, but it is also very quiet. In the beginning I had to find my way around through all the closed doors in the corridor, but now I have a better idea of how things work here. Just schedule an appointment to meet people for lunch. And I can always walk into someone else’s office if there’s something I don’t understand (an email in Chinese, a document, or the best place to buy a wok). If I have visitors from the Netherlands I treat my colleagues to treacle waffles – they find them delicious. This is a good way to break the ice, but working in a Chinese workplace continues to be an adventure.’

Napping students

‘What’s one of the most interesting things I’ve experienced here? That was on a Monday morning around 10:30. All of a sudden about half the students laid their heads on their desk and fell asleep. I had just given my first 90 minute lecture and I gave the students a 15 minute coffee break. Hong Kong students don’t get noisy during the break like their Dutch counterparts. They usually take a quick nap. Some others take their thermos bottle filled with tea leaves and fill it with hot water. Hardly any students drink coffee.

Aside from that difference, lecturing here is naturally different from lecturing in Amsterdam. Students aren’t very outspoken and are quite shy. But after a few lectures (and me continuously asking for their opinion), the shyness faded and they became more outspoken. To my surprise, I discovered they are quite direct here: if they don’t know the answer they say ‘I don’t know’, or they remain quiet – something very different to Dutch students who will always say something. They also give very frank feedback and they don’t hold back when giving their opinion. This is something I found to be quite surprising and refreshing.

Published by  Economics and Business