"It enriches the children's experiences"
Meet the Professor 2023:
On Wednesday 22 March, 105 professors cycled to primary schools across Utrecht during the annual Meet the Professor programme. Collectively, they introduced 2,500 pupils from groups 6, 7 and 8 to academic research. In the run-up to the event, the schools received mail from the (then still unknown) professor who would visit them. The early morning of 22 March saw the first enthusiastic professors already assembling in the Utrecht University Hall for the joint opening: "This is easily the most fun day of the year!".
Prior to the school visit, there was a joint opening for all professors at the Utrecht University Hall. The pupils of group 8 of Al Amana Zuilen primary school were the guests of honour and were allowed to sit on the stage.
During a live game of Who is it? the pupils tried to find out through questions which professor would visit them. "Do you work at the Utrecht Science Park?", "Do you like cycling?" and "Do you do research on zoonoses?". More and more professors were eliminated, until Lidwien Smit was the last one on the yellow carpet. After the opening, Lidwien joined the school class and, together with the students, measured CO2 and particulate matter in their classroom. The class was very enthusiastic, and had so many questions!
During the opening, Femke den Boer, director of the Centre for Science and Culture, talked about the impact of Meet the Professor. Among other things, the programme contributes to science literacy, to the removal of stereotypes about science and scientists, and to the ability of children to make good choices.
A professor turns out to be an ordinary person
After the visit, one professor said, "It is easily one of the most fun things I get to do every year. The children ask unexpected questions, have fun ideas and they make you think at least as much as you make them think. The time flies by."
The students prepared for the visit in recent months by regularly opening a golden envelope, each time with hints about their professor. A teacher commented, "Because of the golden envelopes with hints, they become fascinated and then when the professor turns out to be an ordinary person, an hour flies by." And another teacher: "Students find out that doing research is great fun, that being curious and asking lots of questions is good. It enriches the children's world of experience."
Zoek het uit!
This year, the professors were given a stack of Zoek het uit! (Find it out!), a publication of Utrecht University launched during Meet the Professor. They handed these out during the visit to students in their class. Zoek het uit! contains twenty experiments children can do at home and introduces children to twenty Utrecht researchers. Read more about it here.
Meet the Professor is organised by the Centre for Science and Culture, of Utrecht University. It is the CWC's only programme exclusively for professors. Among other things, the CWC also organises Slimme Gasten (Smart Guests), a programme for young researchers who are trained and guided on school visits. At Operatie Breinbreker (Operation Brain Breaker), Summerschool Junior and Weekend van de Wetenschap (Weekend of Science), researchers from all corners of the university participate, as do with the Even Over Morgen (About Tomorrow) and Betweter Festival programmes, which focus more on adults.