62nd Dies Natalis: may we live in hopeful times

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In challenging times, hope serves as a bridge from despair to possibility, offering us the strength to persevere and believe in a better future. That message was central to the 62nd Dies Natalis of the University of Twente. That strength to persevere is certainly a requirement with all the challenges on our path, rector Tom Veldkamp outlined the turbulent landscape of our society and that of the university in particular. Tom Veldkamp: "May you live in interesting times" is a well-known Chinese proverb. It is certainly not a positive wish; an interesting time is full of challenges and problems. I would like to give it a positive spin: may we live in hopeful times."

The University of Twente chose the circular economy as the substantive theme for this Dies. Tom Veldkamp: "By 2050, the Netherlands wants to be a fully circular economy. All products and raw materials should be reused or recycled. In an ideal world, you would end up with zero waste; waste is always a raw material for something else. That is a huge task that we need to work on together. And which we are already doing a lot about, and with us many alumni working at governments, knowledge institutions, large and small companies on new innovations to make it happen."

The keynote speaker at the Dies was Jan Hendrik Dronkers, secretary-general at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. For him, the UT is familiar territory, not least because he was born in Enschede. But also because in previous positions at Rijkswaterstaat, he regularly cooperated with UT, especially in civil engineering. Recently, UT and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management signed a collaboration agreement to bring scientific knowledge and policy practice closer together.

At the beginning of his contribution, Dronkers raised the question of whether we need wizards or prophets for the challenges we face. He answered the question in his closing words: "The wizard and the prophet are both indispensable in government and the academic world. Making circularity the norm requires systemic change and innovation. Individually, neither the wizard nor the prophet is right, but together, they can tackle problems. Not by condemning each other but by challenging each other, keeping each other on their toes, letting the facts speak for themselves and allowing for the unexpected. This is the same academic spirit on which the partnership agreement between the University of Twente and the ministry is built."

Many people do not know how much we actually do on circularity, said Tom Veldkamp in his opening remarks. A glimpse of what is happening at UT was given by three UT graduates: Devrim Yazan, Associate Professor at the Faculty of BMS, talked about his project Industrial Symbiosis Hubs 4 circularity , which aims to help industries work better together to achieve circularity. Chantal Ermling (photo), a bachelor student in Industrial Engineering & Management, spoke about her learning experiences in the Circular Economy Transition minor. Sissi de Boer, Associate Professor at the TNW faculty, discussed the more technical aspects she is working on, for example, in the Recovr project. One sub-project is using proteins from potatoes as raw materials for new foods , such as sweets.

Award ceremony

During the Dies Natalis, several awards have been presented to talented academics.


The Overijssel PhD Award, sponsored by the Province of Overijssel, was presented by deputy Erwin Hoogland to Meike Nauta who researched explainable artificial intelligence for her PhD thesis.

Mariana Belgiu won the Professor De Winter Award for her article entitled PRISMA and Sentinel-2 spectral response to the nutrient composition of grains, which was published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment: the leading journal in this domain.

Shira van Lohuizen, a Master’s in Applied Communication Science (2004) and Master’s in Applied Education Science (2005) graduate, was presented with the twenty-first Marina van Damme Scholarship. Van Lohuizen is currently working as an independent entrepreneur. In recent years, she has focused on encouraging collaboration in complex networking environments.

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