Erik van Heijst in the Hot Seat

He can't sit still, as he himself says and that is why he has been so busy during his years of study here. In 2011 Erik van Heijst (25) started his Bachelor's in Chemical Engineering, which he completed in three years. After that, among other things, he became a board member of Recruitment Days and took Master's courses at Applied Physics. For the past eighteen months Erik has been leading the Groep-één faction, a position he'll be stepping down from in January 2019 is. To earn money on the side, at this point in time he is a 'guinea pig' for the Bachelor's basic course Data Analytics for Engineering, for which he tests assignments the second-years will get. But right now Erik has plenty of time to pull five questions from the hat and do his best to answer them.

Who or what reduces you to helpless laughter?

"When you're on a board you have to do something to make life more enjoyable. I spent a year involved in the daily administration of the Federation of Study Associations Eindhoven. You are in each other's pocket day in, day out. We used to make up strange contests, like 'The Golden Dumpling'. This was awarded by Recruitment Days (Wervingsdagen) to the person who was the worst at working with the new modules on the website. At the time I was the website commissioner (and also did external relations).

I remember collapsing with laughter one time right after I'd spent ages trying to install a VPN connection - and finally succeeded - because I was working at another association. I said, 'Yes, I can do things'. That drew such a reaction that we all had to laugh."

What do you most regret?

"That's difficult. I know the feeling, everyone knows the feeling, of course, but I can't think of an example of massive regret. I'll swap this question for another."

Who or what do you miss the most?

"At the moment I miss the students I started my degree with and the people I sat on boards with. I became friends with the people in my cohort. There are fewer and fewer of them left, unfortunately. At the Thursday drinks parties we say to each other, 'It seems as if someone drops out every few months'.

It's not that I will miss some place on the campus the most once I've gone. There isn't any particular place where I used to hang up my coat. Actually, I used to walk around a lot of the time. I was often in Helix in the Japiekamer, as we call the board room at Japie, and I'd walk to GEWIS, Simon Stevin and Prot (study association Protagoras, ed.), to all the study associations, in fact."

What strikes a nerve with you when you're talking to people?

"That nerve is touched when people ask me when I'm finally going to graduate. I can always explain that it is taking me eight-and-a-half years in total. That there's a delay of eighteen months that is not my fault. The overrun is due to the rules of the TN Department, which state that I have to do a pre-Master's year if I want to pass the Master's in Applied Physics. In my case that means taking courses that prepare me for Master's courses I've already passed. Absurd. And at the moment I am losing study time because I haven't yet got the papers in order I need for an internship in Connecticut. I want to go in March 2019."

Who do you most admire?

"Trump. Oh no, scrap that, ha-ha. No, I admire him the least of anybody I know. But his predecessor, Barack Obama, him I do admire. That is the most capable man I have ever seen. His method is to try to solve difficulties in a rational way. I see that here too in the approach taken by the Executive Board. Here's an example: on the University Council when we said to the Executive Board that a change in the timetable would have a really big impact, the board members decided to change course and spend longer discussing it. I think that's good."

What does the voice in your head say?

"If I answer that I'll be admitting that I have a voice in my head, ha-ha. But actually I do, and it is saying: it is time for a change, time for the next step. I'm going to do an internship abroad, at an ASML research lab in Connecticut. It is a rigorous step to stop me getting stuck forever in Eindhoven."

With friend and fellow University Council member Yoram Meijaard, he has meanwhile made a pact. "When we are old we're going to come back to TU/e. Whichever of us has done a PhD will become rector magnificus, and the other will become president of the Executive Board. When we told Frank Baaijens this, he laughed and said, 'Then we'll turn up pushing our walking frames to tell the participation body how they can make your lives difficult.'"

For our column In the Hot Seat we ask students and employees to pull five cards from our top hat full of questions. One question may be exchanged. The next interview will appear in January 2019.

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