23 April 2018

Former PhD student Leonie Derendorp

Keeping up with the latest technology

Leonie Derendorp

In 2006, I started as a master sudent at IMAU. Before that, I had finished a bachelor in chemistry (Utrecht University), combined with a minor in meteorology (Wageningen University). During these years my interest in meteorology had grown, but I didn’t want to completely abandon chemistry just yet. Ideally, I would find a way to combine the two topics. Luckily, chemistry and meteorology come together in the group of Thomas Röckmann, where I did my master thesis research. My research involved radiocarbon measurements on the organic and elemental carbon in aerosols. An interesting project, for which I built my own experimental system, analysed the results and wrote my thesis. My experience with laboratory experiments came in very useful, while the topic was relevant for climate research; during my chemistry study, I had sometimes missed this connection to the real world.

After finishing my master thesis I thought it would be great to extend my time at IMAU to obtain a PhD degree. Fortunately, I could start a PhD project in Thomas’ group on an even more interesting topic: examining the emission of volatile compounds from degrading plant material in order to find missing sources in the global budgets.

During my PhD thesis research I gradually came to realize what it really means to be a scientific researcher. While it provides the opportunity to work on new, challenging subjects, it also has some aspects that don't really fit me. For example, I don’t really like to travel for work (I do for holidays, especially with a bike!). Although these may seem minor issues, I decided that science was not something I wanted to do forever.

At IMAU I met Pim who became and still is my partner (and loves cycling too) and who had similar ideas about research. We decided that after finishing our PhD, we would move to Limburg where cycling is even more fun than around Utrecht. We only had to find a new job...

Although we both found a job, it didn’t last long. As a PhD student, one generally has lots of freedom in deciding how to do your work. This was exactly what we missed in our new jobs, where our bosses simply told us what to do. The solution was to start our own company, which in 2013 became PLint-sites (yes, with capitals P & L!). At PLint-sites we build websites, webshops and webapps.

Without an extensive network of potential customers it turned out to be a bit of a struggle to get things rolling, but this slowly improved. We found our first customers and delivered our first websites. While building websites, we also learnt that there is actually a lot to improve in the web-world. Websites, webshops and online platforms often have disappointing interfaces and are not really user-friendly, while nowadays there are plenty of tools available to avoid this.

However, this required us to learn a few more skills… but as I recently read in an online interview with a software engineer (Paul Milham): “So, as an engineer, I’m always studying new technology. If you want to stay relevant, you need to keep that mindset of always learning.” And that is exactly what we are doing: we build modern webshops and webapps for our customers, while keeping up with the latest technology!

Leonie Derendorp