Same degree programme... different career

Marianne Heida (32) | Degree programme: Astronomy  | Work: Postdoc fellow at ESO (European Southern Observatory) in Munich

Foto Marianne Heida
Image: Henk Veenstra & Ivar Pel

‘I knew I wanted a natural science programme, so I chose Astrophysics. At the Open Day for Physics and Astronomy, I immediately felt at home among the nerdy folks there, and with the particle accelerator in the basement. Plus, it just sounds cool. Compared to other physics disciplines, astronomy is the most “tangible”: it’s all real. People have been looking at the stars for such a long time. Even now, I’m still fascinated by how much you can learn just by looking at the light. When I was a postdoc in California, I was the one actually peering through the telescope. Now I write detailed programmes telling the telescopes in Chile what I want them to observe, and then I review the digital images from my desk in Munich. After finishing my Master’s thesis in Utrecht and my PhD in Nijmegen, I stayed with science. At the moment, I’m researching paired stars known as X-ray binaries. How do stars live when they are in groups of two or more? This can teach us so much more about the lives of stars and the births of planets.’

Daniel Roy (45) | Degree programme: Astronomy | Work: Director and co-founder of Infi, an ICT company

Foto van Daniel Roy
Image: Henk Veenstra & Ivar Pel

‘I enrolled in Physics and Astronomy because that’s what my best friend was doing. I thought it was a really cool programme. Astronomy is physics on a massive scale. It’s a different way of arriving at theories. In physics, you create an experimental set-up, put something in it and observe what happens next. But there’s obviously no way to make two black holes collide with one another. Still, I thought of astronomy as something to do in the meantime. Computers were already around, it was inevitable that I’d end up working with them. I did learn a lot of valuable things from my degree programme, though: an ability to learn and think abstractly is essential in IT. And I met the three co-founders of Infi at the faculty, too. Even the name of the company comes from the course catalogue. There was just one course that all four of us took: Infinitesimal calculus, “Infi” for short. Using IT, we’re making futuristic dreams a reality. When you read about IT, it’s often  in a negative light: never-ending money pits in the form of failed projects, trouble with privacy and so on. Despite the fact that you can put it to some amazing uses! I take a lot of satisfaction from the idea that our software enables other people to achieve their dreams.’