Interview - Ferdi van de Wetering

"The TU/e formed me and enabled me to participate in our modern society with success and pleasure. I am proud of that. Staying in contact with fellow alumni strengthens that feeling." 

Ferdi van de Wetering

Age: 33
Degree program: Applied Physics (BSc, MSc and PhD)
Current position: Project Leader at ASML (Taiwan)

What is your fondest memory of your student days? 
"I don't really have a single fondest memory, but I look back with great pleasure on the many activities that were organized over and above studying. These included activities organized by both the 'J.D. van der Waals' Applied Physics study association and the Applied Physics group, EPG, in which I did my Bachelor's Final Project (BEP) and graduated. Besides the weekly Drinks, a subject we'll get back to later, “Van der Waals” organized a wide range of activities, such as lectures, local and international excursions, and bowling nights. You really got to know your fellow students then (that is, you got to know them from a different perspective). The beer flowed freely, of course, either during or afterwards. During my BEP and the completion of my studies, the EPG group (Elementary Processes in Gas Discharges) was a multicultural melting pot. Numerous group activities were organized, from international cooking workshops to brewing (and later drinking!) your own beer. The group stimulated the senses outside office hours too, with many a fierce discussion over lunch on a whole range of topics."

What is your favorite memory of life on campus? 
"For a while as a student, I was a member of the E.S.H. Da Vinci longbow association. At the time, a few nets were suspended as hammocks between the trees on the stretch of grass between 'Vertigo' and the Auditorium. We used to train in the evenings (in what was then the W-hal, now MetaForum) and on many an occasion I would do my cooling down in one of those nets."

Who is your hero at TU/e? 
"I don't really have a hero. I do have tremendous respect for the entire academic staff, who manage to hold out in an extremely dynamic world. In addition to their core task, performing frontline scientific research, they have to secure grants, teach and supervise students, as well as perform countless bureaucratic/administrative duties. On top of which, the specifics vary from one year to the next. I take my hat off to them all. I couldn't see myself doing that, so I opted for a career in the business sector."

What is the most important thing you learned at TU/e? 
"I think TU/e offers an excellent breeding ground for maturing students. When you leave school at just 18 years old, you're still wet behind the ears, figuratively speaking, when it comes to your place in the world and society. The following five years (at least) largely define both your professional and personal development, as well as your outlook on the world. That makes it all the more important to be somewhere that offers a fair and balanced perspective of that world, somewhere like TU/e. You meet lecturers and students with different characters and backgrounds. You are surrounded by intelligent people who always keep you alert, keep challenging you. You consequently develop a critical and self-reflective perspective which will stand you in good stead for years to come, long after you finish your studies."

Who would you like to join for a drink, and in which TU/e bar?
"The bar is obviously the 'Van der Waals’ Salon, and specifically the one in the now demolished N-laag building. That was a building with a typical 1960s industrial charm: gray concrete blocks with visible pipes and ducts everywhere. It might sound a bit strange, but that is exactly what made it such a stimulating and inspiring setting in which to practice physics. On the ground floor of G-wing, right at the end, was the bar. It was full of beer-related stuff, and consisted of a sitting area with table football and an area with a corner bar and half a dozen fridges behind it. They were much needed because the bar only sold bottled beer, no draft, but there were around a hundred different beers. I would be there practically every Thursday evening, from my early student days to my doctorate. I suspect that's how I developed a love for special beers, something my liver has still not been able to recover from. While I was studying for my doctorate, the N-laag building was demolished to make way for Flux and the Salon was temporarily relocated to the Cascade building; it is now permanently in Flux. Both locations were significantly inferior to the Salon in N-laag, in terms of both furnishings and atmosphere. As a pub, the Salon in N-laag was the place to be on a Thursday, a meeting point for students, PhD candidates, technicians, academic staff and the Dean alike. In other words, for anyone with any reason to be in the N-laag building and who enjoyed a beer and a bit of idle gossip. That was where the distinction between students and staff faded. You could suddenly find yourself discussing the problems surrounding Eindhoven Airport with the Dean, for instance. They are still trying to replicate the atmosphere in the new Salon in Flux but, with the limited space and sterile furnishings, they're nowhere near achieving that. So there is not any specific person I would like to meet up with in my original Salon, but I would love to relive a Thursday in that old Salon, surrounded by people of all ranks and classes at Applied Physics."

What is the added value for you of being an active member of an alumni community?
Being a member of an alumni community makes it easier to see and speak to your fellow students and contemporaries every now and then. It's wonderful to be able to reminisce about our time at TU/e and to relive old memories. It's easy to get caught in a nostalgic spiral. It's also a nice way of finding out which path other alumni took after their studies and how they are doing now. Very interesting and useful; it can help you in your own career."

How do you stay in contact with the TU/e? 
"Firstly, I am a member of the Applied Physics alumni association, VENI, and I was actually an administrative officer for a number of years. The activities that VENI organizes every two or three months make staying in contact with fellow alumni and TU/e easy. I also still very involved with TU/e and like thinking things through with the TU organization. I sometimes take part in brainstorm sessions, for example, and other occasions when the TU asks its alumni for input, as recently happened regarding the new accreditation for the Master's program in Applied Physics. I am also lucky enough to have many fellow students among my friends. I am currently living in Taiwan, which makes maintaining physical contact a bit awkward, but modern technology is a great help in that respect."


About alumni

Alumni of TU/e are all heroes, each in their own way. Some are more visible than others, but all are equally valuable. Many alumni still have a warm relationship with the university. They stay connected. Some give guest lectures or share knowledge by coaching students, for example. Others give a donation that contributes to research or talent development. In this series of interviews, we seek out alumni and ask them the following question: how did TU/e shape you into the person you are today?

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