Jasper van Houcke and Hans Cappon, lector Aquaculture in Delta Areas and Water Technology respectively. PHOTO AV SERVICE HZ

‘To become a lector is the highest achievement'

Paul Vader, editor HZ Discovery

HZ recently appointed two new lectors, Hans Cappon as lector in Water Technology and Jasper van Houcke in the research group Aquaculture. Both have worked at the HZ since the very beginning of applied research, have obtained their PhDs alongside their work as HZ researchers and were coordinators of their research groups. This makes them the first lectors who were not externally recruited. With so many similarities, it makes one curious as to the differences. HZ-Discovery spoke to the brand-new home-grown HZ lectors separately and put the same questions to them.

What or who do you see in the mirror when you get up?

Hans: I usually see the sleepy head of someone who has struggled to get out of bed. I have not been sleeping as well as I used to for a number of years now. I also prefer to be left alone when I get up. I need time to wake up. Jasper: I see someone with a passion for nature, who wants to do something with it, a rather impatient person, but a team player who likes to involve students and staff in discussions.

Was becoming a lector your ambition or a coincidence?

Hans: That was a coincidence. You should know that I am not someone who stays in the same place for very long. After having worked at the HZ for ten years, I started looking around. When the HZ asked if they could keep me here to take over from Niels Groot as lector, I said yes. Jasper: That I came back to work at the HZ after my studies was a coincidence; becoming a lector was my ambition. From the time I studied at the HZ, my aim was to become a researcher after which a lector or professor is the highest achievable position.

What did you learn from your predecessor?

Hans: Niels (Groot) not only has an extensive network, but also a very good memory. That means he knows a lot of people and also what they do. I have no idea how he does it and I cannot do it. What I have learned from him is to stay very calm. I have rarely seen Niels in a state of stress. Jasper: I learned a lot from Jouke (Heringa), especially on how to conduct discussions with companies. He was not a lector but rather a coordinator. We have also had periods without a lector. I learned how to better connect with the scientific world from the lectors Klaas Timmermans and Aad Smaal.

What will you do differently?

Hans: I want to be more substantively involved in the things that go on in the research group. Niels was less able to do that, because he was only at the HZ for one day a week. However I am already noticing that it is getting difficult, because I spend a lot of time on people and projects outside the HZ. Jasper: My predecessors were only appointed for one day a week, which meant that they had less opportunity to connect with the team. I want to involve the team more in the developments that are taking place, while being careful not to get in the way of the new coordinator.

Jasper van Houcke

Jasper grew up in Zeelandic-Flanders, studied AET at the HZ and then did a master's degree in aquaculture in Ghent. As he could not find a suitable job straight away, he applied for the position of English teacher at the HZ. His CV ended up with Jouke Heringa, who was setting up the Aquaculture research group at the time. He appointed him as the first full-time researcher at the HZ. Besides Jasper's work for the research group on various projects, he successfully completed a PhD project at Wageningen University. His PhD project examined how different algae affect the taste of oysters. Jasper is married to Bianca and has two children.

Hans Cappon

Hans studied mechanical medical technology in Eindhoven. He started his PhD research at the KU in Leuven, but abandoned it after just under a year due to uncertainty about its funding. He then worked for TNO for ten years in impact biomechanics, that is the mechanical matters that break down in a body following an accident. While working at a TNO start-up in Eindhoven, he came into contact with former lector Wim Brouwer, who was looking for someone to set up the water purification research group at the HZ. In 2009, Hans started his PhD in water purification at Wetsus in Leeuwarden and Wageningen University and completed it in 2014. In it, he examined the potential of using ultrasound to purify water. He then continued to work in Wageningen for one day a week. In addition to all this, he completed a higher vocational education course in theology in Ede in 2009. Hans is married to Mariska and has three children.

How do you regard the research culture at the HZ?

Hans: When I came here, Wim Brouwer and Anja de Groene were the only lectors. The HZ was a pure educational institution. There are very few people left from the research team of that time who still work here. All the new people are part of the educational-research culture and consider it to be normal. But I have seen it change a lot. And I think we are doing well. Jasper: Compared to universities, we have not been around that long. We are going in the right direction step by step. We are leading the way in the technological domain, but I am impatient, as I said, and I think it could happen a lot faster.

What can the HZ do to make you feel happy?

Hans: The HZ must make clear choices in research themes and stick to them. Not by defining different priorities after three years. And we also have to stay on our toes and look at what's happening in the world around us in order to align our research with it. Jasper: The researchers and coordinators still have too much process work to do around the projects, which they do not want to do or are not even capable of doing. We do receive legal and financial support, but this could be improved, by for example having someone to supervise the organisational part of a project. A few years ago, we had a project office, but that work has shifted back to the researchers.

What task would you rather leave to someone else?

Hans: It's crazy to say now, but I don't like interviews. Mireille Martens recently gave an interview to Omroep Zeeland about a project at a beer brewery. I was happy to leave that to her. And besides, she did it very well. I have fortunately handed over many operational tasks to the new coordinator Emma (McAteer), such as annual reports and performance reviews. That doesn't really interest me; I'd rather concentrate on the content. Jasper: We are still looking for a coordinator, to whom I would like to transfer the financial and administrative tasks as soon as possible and which I hope they will be happy with.

What would you rather read: a student thesis or a scientific article?

Hans: I have no preference, with both you sometimes come across things that surprise you. Jasper: Actually, a student thesis, but because I have often been involved in the research and I know what it includes or should include, I prefer a scientific article, as it teaches me new knowledge.

Where do you see yourself in five years? And where will the research group be then?

Hans: I hope that by then, the independent position of higher professional education lectors will be more widely recognised and that we will no longer be seen as second-rate professors. For example, I recently found out at a PhD ceremony that some didn't know what the word 'lector' should be in English. Jasper: I hope that the scientific foundation of our research field, low-trophic (extensive) aquaculture, will then be more stable. The research group will not necessarily be larger, but it will have a different composition, that is to say more senior researchers all with their own specialism. It will also enable us to link up more effectively with education, for example in the new master's programmes that the Delta Knowledge Centre will be developing.

What good advice would you give yourself?

Hans: Keep smiling! Don't let social developments that frustrate me, such as how we deal with refugees here in the EU, ruin my mood. Jasper: Count to ten more often, be less stubborn. To sometimes let the issues of the day go and have time to think of new things.

What advice do you have for your colleague Jasper/Hans?

Hans: Aquaculture was very good at linking up with education and they have lost sight of that a little. I would advise him to get back to that. Jasper: Hans is a pure scientist who must continue to do what he loves, which is research. He should not end up in a position where he can't fulfil his personal ambitions.

Which question were you expecting and would you like to answer?

Hans: Knowing the interviewer, I was prepared for anything, so I didn't set myself up for specific questions. Jasper: I had prepared myself for a substantive conversation, but this is just as much fun.