I went to school in the Netherlands. I had a good brain but also lots of trouble at home. I did finish “grammar” school but could not relate much to my classmates who went on to university. I went to work instead, found my feet and then did a practical training in zookeeping. From there, I went on a journey personally, in my career and also for real living in different countries.
In grammar school I did Dutch, English, German, Biology, Geography, Economics and more which I cannot remember! When I was in school, I did not have a safe home to live. After school I worked for a year in homecare which was great, hearing from loads of different people how they had lived their lives, what they had done and if they would do anything different. I learnt so much from this. After that I completed a zookeeping training which took me to Austria and a bear refuge in Croatia. I realised that nature can take care of itself, and it’s people that need to be managed. I did a bachelor in Wildlife Management and lived in Poland and Bulgaria. I turned out to be stinking good in ecology and making a real difference, so I won a scholarship to do a Master in Ecology and Conservation in the UK. I specialised in managing collaboration processes. I bring people together to make really big changes in how we live together in society. Given that using all our things make such impact on nature, I focused on sustainable production and consumption. I did a PhD in industrial symbiosis. That’s about how we can use industrial wastes as resources in other factories. After that, I was finishing studying and started my career.
I always worked a lot alongside my studies. At farms, as cleaner in offices, in factories and, eventually, at university to make studying and working a bit easier. It wasn’t easy but I am proud of what I have achieved! I believe people can create opportunities for themselves against all the odds, and build a live for themselves. After finishing my PhD I started at the University of Leeds. I coordinated a large research programme that aimed to change how we manage resources and wastes in the UK. After that, I had more then 10 short contracts at the university on different projects. This was very stressful! I am now a senior researcher and manage three programmes.
As senior researcher I manage: The Transforming Foundation Industries Research and Innovation programme. It’s about making heavy industries such as metals, cement, chemicals and glass cleaner and greener. The Yorkshire Circular Lab. This is a “living lab” where we try new ideas to make better use of all of our things within the region. Circular economy for wind turbines. It’s about making sure that we can get all the materials that we need to build more wind turbines. And to make sure that the turbines last as long as possible and can be recycled in the end.
The University of Leeds is a huge place where over 5,000 people work in lots of different roles. Researchers, teachers and knowledge exchanges experts, managers and everyone who keeps the university going (managing buildings, cleaning, catering, etc.).
I live in Yorkshire near the Humber estuary with my partner and cat. I am a trained bear keeper and love nature. I am now a researcher in Leeds.
My pronouns are
I research how we make and use all the things that we use in our lives. From food and clothes to cars and homes, even the energy from wind turbines.
We use a lot of things in our lives. They are all made of materials that once were dug up or grown somewhere. This costs energy for which fuels are burnt, and that causes carbon emissions and climate change. It also impacts on plants, animals and people.
I research how we can use less materials but still live a good life. We can share things, use them for longer, reuse and repair things and, of course, put them in the recycling bin in the end.
I also research how we can produce things better in industry. Our factories use a lot of materials and energy but some are real superstars managing to save a lot. I help people in industry to learn from these “green” factories to use less materials and energy.
Did you know, for example, that to make a metal tea spoon, a factory will emit enough carbon emissions to fill a party balloon of 35 cm diameter? Imagine how many emissions will go into making a phone or a car! Emissions will be lower when a factory knows how to make their production processes better. But most emissions can be saved when we all use less things, or use things for longer. Instead of a car, could we walk, bike and use buses and trains more often? And could we rent a repairable phone instead of buying a new one every year or so?
My Typical Day: Every day is different and I love that about my job! It is never boring. The best thing about being a researcher is that you get much freedom to work on things that I find interesting, and that make a real difference to the world.
I travel almost every week to see my team, who work in universities all around the country. I also visit people who work with me in companies and government. Often I have to present at events and meetings, both here but also in countries around the world.
When I am not travelling, I tend to work from home where I do my research. I check what the most important things are that we have to find out next by reading articles and speaking with people. I write project ideas to win money for myself and my team to do the research. And then we do the research together with people who will use our findings, so that they can start using it straight away.
For example, I work on wind turbines. We need a lot of wind turbines to make green electricity. That will need millions of tonnes of steel, concrete and other materials. We can save resources with smarter turbine designs. Of course we want to make those materials as sustainable as possible, for example by using recycled materials. And how can we use turbine parts again when a wind farm is broken down? There are lots of challenges to do this, and I help to solve them.
What I'd do with the money
I would produce short social media videos to show how we share and save resources.
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
All the time. If I was there.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Retire in a sunny country at a guinea pig park.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Too many to name... old 80/90s stuff :-)
What's your favourite food?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Work less. Have a home. Build a zoo.
Tell us a joke.
Let me have a look in the book of German humour for that...