jolanda theeuwen

Jolanda Theeuwen

From the Netherlands

‘At Wetsus the relevance of your research project is clearly visible as you directly collaborate with companies.’

I grew up in a village close to Arnhem, here in the Netherlands. I hold a BSc degree in Chemistry from the Radboud University (Nijmegen) and a MSc degree in Earth and Environment from Wageningen University & Research. 

The main reason I decided to become a PhD researcher at Wetsus was the topic of my PhD project. I like that my research is applied and it has a large societal relevance. While writing my MSc thesis, I found it difficult to see the relevance of my research, which made it sometimes difficult for me to stay motivated. At Wetsus the relevance of your research project is clearly visible as you directly collaborate with companies.  

I very much enjoy my time at Wetsus. Here, there is a very nice environment that allows me to enjoy my work and learn a lot. Fellow PhD’s are always open for a chat (either for work or for fun) and my supervisors are very approachable and supportive. I feel very comfortable here.  

I think it is special how in Wetsus people with many different backgrounds work together at one place. Here, you can find experts in a wide variety of fields, from Membrane technology to Meteorology. I like it how even between people from different disciplines there can still be a lot of interaction. This allows you to look further than just your own field and to learn about water technology in a much broader sense. If you have a broad interest in sciences, this can be especially beneficial.  

I think it is beneficial for my future career that I maintain contact with people from companies as a PhD at Wetsus. This allows me to develop skills other than academic skills, as well. It taught me to communicate better with somebody outside of academia and my research field. It also allows me to look in the world outside of academia which helps me to decide what I would like to do in my further career. In addition, personal development is valued a lot at Wetsus. At an early stage in your PhD you follow courses on reflection, presentation, supervision and communication. I believe these skills will be very useful in the future.  

In December Sinterklaas comes to the Netherlands and every year he also brings a visit to Wetsus. One year my laptop was used during the event (and I was playing Sinterklaas ;)). On my laptop, I have a program running in the background that reminds me to take breaks and stretch my body enough. During the Sinterklaas party every 5 minutes, a pop-up appeared that said I needed to take a break. Sinterklaas told the big boss at Wetsus he should fire me, as it seemed I only take breaks. Shortly after this, I took my Christmas break. When I came back to work at Wetsus in the New Year I was no longer allowed to enter the building. Luckily, it was not because I got fired. There was a miscommunication and the reception was not aware of the extension of my contract.

I like living in the Netherlands, but as a Dutch I might be biased. 😉 As the Netherlands is rather small and you can travel around the country easily, it does not take long to get to your favorite type of landscape. We have nice forests, beaches, and cities. I think the people in the Netherlands are nice and approachable.  

In 10 years, I would like to be contributing to making science more accessible. This could be as a (academic) teacher, political advisor, scientific consultant or any other position that would allow me to explain the complex earth system processes in a fun and accessible way.  

Doing a PhD can be challenging from time to time but it can also be a lot of fun. It is a position with a lot of flexibility and freedom for quite a long period. Four years might seem long but they pass by fast as you will have many different experiences from which you will learn a lot.