Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences, University of Leuven, Belgium
A mentor or educator who inspired you? My biggest source of inspiration is Gert Desmet, who was the promoter of both my Master and PhD thesis, and has remained a close collaborator and friend. I feel truly humbled and honored to be able to continue my work with him knowing how large his influence and impact is in the field. Gert is enthusiastic, inspiring, motivating and overall just very kind. He never says “that sounds like a bad idea,” even when I am doubtful myself – he’s always up for a challenge and encourages me to do the same.
Qualities of a successful mentor or educator? As an educator/teacher: convey your enthusiasm about the subject you are teaching to students. Show your passion for what you are doing and demonstrate the relevance of it in day-to-day life, ideally with examples that speak to the mind.
As a mentor: be as accessible as possible and have regular meetings with your students. Show that you care and stay closely involved in their research, giving feedback where needed. Doing a PhD can be tough, especially towards the end when time is running out. In such moments, it is important to be supportive, help out where possible, and assure all will be well in the end.
Attracting talent… We need to stress the importance of separation sciences across a variety of fields: environmental, food, clinical, pharmaceutical, chemical, cosmetic… A skilled analyst has so many opportunities! We have to stop seeing ourselves as a tool at the service of these disciplines and take pride in all the ongoing developments that improve and increase the output generated in these fields.
Biggest challenge facing the field?We need to ensure that students are sufficiently trained in the fundamentals, so they can adequately troubleshoot and truly understand what they are doing and for what reason. I am a little worried about some evolutions taking place in our education system at the moment, where there seems to be an increasing interest in developing soft skills at the cost of the basics. Of course, soft skills are important as well, but I think these can more easily be developed at a later stage when you’re already active in a professional environment. It becomes much harder to catch up on the basics at later stages.
Most exciting development or trend? Artificial intelligence to rationalize, speed up, and automate the analytical workflow.