“It turns out that the deadlines for personal grants still need to be met”

Working from home during this time of corona crisis has slowly become our new normal. We have learned to work with the changing parameters and to negotiate our own personal pitfalls, adjusting to the demands of homeworking, and missing the campus and each other like never before. Cursor regularly calls a fellow homeworker to hear how they are doing. Today: Laura Pander, coordinator personal grants at the Research Support Office of Innovation Lab. She installed new tires on her sports bicycle, bought a noise cancelling headphone, and continues to take pleasure in her work, from her home in Nijmegen, supporting researchers who apply for a personal grant.

photo Privécollectie Laura Pander

If anyone can be said to be enthusiastic about their work, is has to be Laura Pander. “Hearing more about all kinds of research that takes place at TU/e is very interesting. The research for which people need a personal grant is often driven by curiosity: a piece of the puzzle is missing and the researcher wants to tackle that. In many cases, the ideas that researchers are working on are closely associated with the reason they decided to become a researcher at a university, so they are highly motivated.”

Being able to help researchers present a project idea makes her happy. “Do they use the right tone, is the structure convincing, is the applicant overly ambitious or not ambitious enough when they present their idea? Vici, Rubicon or ERC grants are important for a scientist’s career because they’re a recognition of a researcher’s qualities and of the proposed research idea. That’s why these grants are important to TU/e as well: as a hallmark of excellence of our researchers. The money that comes with such a recognition means that researchers are comparatively free to work on their own research idea.”

Close team

Together with her colleague Karoline Duijvesz, she provides researchers who want to apply for a grant with training and information sessions as well as personal support. This mostly takes places digitally these days, naturally, “it turns out that the deadlines for most grants, including personal grants, still need to be met.” And they are mostly successful, but Laura prefers to give feedback face to face. “We usually make an appointment to meet with the applicant in person because comments on paper can sometimes be misinterpreted.”

Working from home and performing tasks online goes quite well by now, but she misses her colleagues of the Research Support Office very much. “We are quite close as a team and even though we’re in touch via Teams every day, it’s not the same as talking to each other during a work day. I miss the little things and the spontaneous jokes.”

Laure lives by herself but has no reason to complain about a lack of noise, since she lives in the center of Nijmegen. “They started with the renovations to convert a nearby church into a residence a few weeks ago, and that leads to quite a lot of racket. I’ve decided to buy a noise cancelling headphone because the drilling and the coming and going of cement trucks started to drive me mad.”

Train time

The positive thing about working from home is that Laura now no longer spends two hours a day travelling to Eindhoven. But she also misses that train time in some ways: she doesn’t read as much anymore and she misses the two regular fellow travelers she used to talk to every morning. She now starts her day with her colleague, legalist Baukje Rongen. “Baukje and I send each other a short email or call each other every day. We started doing that immediately after we started working from home, because we always used to drink coffee in Atlas at the start of our day.”

She spends more time exercising these days. “I regularly go out for a ride on my bicycle, which is why I’ve installed new tires on my Cube sports bike.” Since the physical tai chi classes can’t take place anymore, she now follows them via Zoom. “I have five classes a week online now instead of one physical class. One of the extra classes is with the tai chi sword form with a wooden practice sword. Looks relaxed and easy, but you’d be surprised because there are so many details to consider. Fortunately, I have a large living room, which means I can wield the sword relatively easily, and nothing has been smashed yet.”

Long hours

Don’t think that Laura has time to spare now that she no longer commutes between Eindhoven and Nijmegen. “I have a small fish tank that’s hit by sunlight at the end of the day, so that the alga grows faster than the plants at this point. I should move that fish tank, but I still haven’t gotten around to it.” She does make long hours, she admits. “It’s so easy to finish some work at the end of the day, or to reply to a mail.” But she has no stress over this either: “It won’t be long before we’ve had the longest day, and then the problem with the fish tank will solve itself, because the position of the sun will change and the fish tank won’t be hit by sunlight anymore.”

Did she already say how much she enjoyed her work? “Researchers who are considering applying for a personal grant, or who are in the process of doing so, can always contact me and my colleagues at personalgrants@tue.nl. We’re glad to help.”

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