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Baby brainstorming during doctoral research

Sometimes (oh let's be honest, always) it is the notes in the margin that pique our curiosity. Like, ‘bar stool due to pregnancy’ in the Auditorium's weekly planner, set against the PhD conferral ceremony of TU/e researcher Nathalie Kerstens, held today.

photo Bart van Overbeeke

And there she is indeed, at the end of this Tuesday morning, sitting on a bar stool rustled up from the Auditorium basement. A doctoral candidate in the bloom of pregnancy, some eight weeks away (if nature keeps to its customary planning) from meeting her son face to face for the first time.

For Kerstens and her partner this is their first baby, she tells (adding a proud, laughing smiley) when we mail her, full of curiosity. And yes, at times some grit and determination were required, as she admits, to succeed in combining her pregnancy with both completing a thesis and working full time as program manager, business collaboration at TU/e innovation Space (a post she has held for over a year). But, as she also says, “The brainstorming sessions with my partner about names we liked, birth announcement cards and the like were a nice distraction.”

Uniting industries

Sweet though this baby distraction may be, there is no room for it this morning. The focus of this morning's proceedings in Auditorium 4 is, first and foremost, her doctoral research, conducted at the ITEM group of the Department of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences, in collaboration with the Netherlands Space Office and the European Space Agency. For this study, Kerstens looked at various aspects of the process of uniting two industries to enable the market development and launch of new products and services - more specifically the bringing together of aerospace and energy, and how aerospace technology can help create a sustainable energy sector.

“I looked at how these processes get underway and how knowledge is shared. This is because this process is not as straightforward as you might think, given that people with different backgrounds often have trouble locating each other, find it difficult to communicate with one another, and are not always able to assess the value of a possible connection with another industry.”

But the session involving our seated protagonist is now over - this baby, under the capable supervision of Isabelle Reymen, Sharon Dolmans and external supervisor Christina Giannopapa of ESA, has been birthed. Now it only remains for that other, most important baby of all to make his appearance, in the second half of March.

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