Corona halts coffee deal

Coronavirus halts UG coffee deal

Two large coffee dealers, including Douwe Egberts (DE), have withdrawn from the tender process for coffee machines at the UG because of corona. The university has withdrawn the tender for now.
22 June om 13:53 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 June 2020
om 16:02 uur.
June 22 at 13:53 PM.
Last modified on June 22, 2020
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René Hoogschagen

Door René Hoogschagen

22 June om 13:53 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 June 2020
om 16:02 uur.
René Hoogschagen

By René Hoogschagen

June 22 at 13:53 PM.
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The previous tender process, which expired earlier, and the current one were both based purely on volume. But now that there are far fewer people allowed in the buildings, the UG can no longer guarantee big sales. Right now, half of the 160 coffee machines in the university buildings are shut down. Some of the DE staff are out of work.

Feddie Nicolai, UG contract manager, says a new tender process is underway. The new tender will differentiate between the fixed and variable costs for the supplier. ‘There will be a price for each machine and a price for what that machine produces.’

This means that, should the buildings go in lockdown again, the coffee dealers aren’t stuck paying for machines that don’t make any money.

Smaller machine

‘That also means we have to start thinking more about the capacity of the machines’, says Nicolai. If people at a certain location only drink a few cups a day, perhaps that location would be better served by a smaller machine. ‘Or perhaps those people will have to go to a different machine a little farther away.’

The new tender is still for sustainably produced coffee like Fairtrade and wants to improve the quality of the coffee. ‘Instant coffee will be replaced by ground bean coffee.’

As long as there is no new deal in place, Douwe Egberts will continue to be the UG’s supplier. Nicolai hopes to finish the tender administration before the board of directors leaves for a six-week holiday. ‘We have to put it out there as quickly as possible. After all, we do want good coffee.’

UG researcher happy with dead pill bug

A picture of the fossil, taken with a light microscope. Photo: Mario Schädel and Joachim Haug, Bulletin of Geosciences

Fossil gives insight into evolution

UG researcher happy with dead pill bug

UG evolutionary biologist Timo van Eldijk is really happy with a pill bug. Even though it’s dead. That’s because the isopod is 245 million years old and that’s pretty rare.

26 May om 19:11 uur.
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om 19:11 uur.
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26 May om 19:11 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 26 May 2020
om 19:11 uur.
René Hoogschagen

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Hobbyist palaeontologist Herman Winkelvorst found the petrified isopod in a quarry in Winterswijk and sent a picture of it to Van Eldijk, who immediately realised how valuable the discovery was. ‘Everything there is older than even the oldest dinosaur’, he says. 

He forwarded the photo to experts in Munich, who were just as enthusiastic as he was. A complete isopod from the Triassic era, which lasted fifty million years, is extremely rare, says Van Eldijk. On top of that, this one is a new species.

Rock

After he’d received the picture, Van Eldijk went to Winterswijk to pick up the rock containing the fossil. ‘Next, I took a train to Munich. I had the rock in my lap. It’s been cut down by now, but back then it was a pretty big rock still.’

The German experts were astonished with how intact the fossil was. Only nine isopods from the Triassic period were previously known, but since this fossil is in such good condition, it is definitely number ten.

The ancient pill bug has been named after its discovery site in the province of Gelderland: Gelrincola Winterswijkensis. That’s because, as Van Eldijk says, ‘Winterswijk is a unique place.’ 

Tidal flat

In the Triassic era, the area was a tidal flat. ‘Kind of like the Wadden Sea, except with chalky sediment.’ This means the erstwhile Muschelkalkzee contains fossils of both terrestrial and aquatic animals. This isopod lived in the water and probably was carnivorous, says Van Eldijk.

The discovery of the creature is another piece of the puzzle to what life was like back then. It also gives insight into the evolutionary history of isopods, says Van Eldijk.

Van Eldijk and his fellow researchers from Munich and Utrecht recently published an article on the find in the Bulletin of Geosciences. The pill bug will be on display in the Naturalis museum in Leiden from July 1 onwards. 

Students ‘mildly’ punished for cheating

‘Most of them were remorseful’

Students ‘mildly’ punished for cheating

The twenty-three psychology students who cheated on their Statistics 1b and 2 exams last month will be allowed to retake the exams.
8 May om 11:27 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 May 2020
om 14:18 uur.
May 8 at 11:27 AM.
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8 May om 11:27 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 11 May 2020
om 14:18 uur.
René Hoogschagen

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The students were allowed to turn themselves in to the exam committee. Fifteen of the twenty-three came forward. Their current grade will be deleted, and they will have two new chances to retake the exam next year, just like other students. 

The eight students who didn’t come forward will receive a harsher punishment: they will only have one chance to retake the exam next year. They’ll also get a note in their file, which means they won’t be able to graduate with honours.

It turned out one suspected student hadn’t cheated after all; they will not be punished.

Lenient

‘We were lenient’, says Maarten Derksen, head of the exam committee. ‘We took the special circumstances the students were in into account.’ Although, he emphasises, that’s no excuse to cheat.

During a multiple-choice exam, students discussed the answers in WhatsApp group chats. Some of their fellow students were so upset with this that they reported it to the exam committee.

Remorse

The committee asked sixteen students this week for an explanation. The others had already explained their actions in a long email.

‘Most of them were extremely remorseful’, says Derksen. ‘They said the exams were difficult. Most of them just panicked and asked a few questions in the group chat. But others were online the whole time, discussing everything extensively.’

Derksen says the incident shows that multiple-choice exams are not a suitable option for online testing. ‘But this was an emergency. We’d have to postpone the exams otherwise, and neither the faculty nor the board of directors was in favour of that.’

Law faculty will make up exams before summer holidays

Law faculty will make up exams before summer holidays

All the law exams that were postponed due to the corona measures will be made up before the start of the summer holidays. The exam period will be extended by one week.
29 April om 12:09 uur.
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om 16:18 uur.
April 29 at 12:09 PM.
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29 April om 12:09 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 29 April 2020
om 16:18 uur.
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Inquiries made by UKrant showed that the faculty council has agreed to the plan proposed by the faculty board. 

The current schedule will be changed. First, students will sit the exams for block four, and then the exams for block three. There will be at least a five-day break between the blocks, and exams will be held every other day. Unfortunately, the schedule will not apply to all exams.

The faculty council is especially happy that this will allow students to move on to the next year without suffering any delays. The council members did point to the importance of things like technical support. They feel this proposal is the most feasible one and further discussion will only cause delays. ‘We have to make do with what we’ve got’, says Riëlle van der Velde with Progressief Rechten. 

Only option

Dean Jan Berend Wezeman said this was the only feasible option during the faculty council meeting last week when he announced the plan.

If exams were to be rescheduled for after the current exam period, it would take lecturers until mid-August to grade everything. ‘Then we’d still be doing online teaching in September’, Wezeman predicted. ‘We don’t think that’s a good idea.’

This schedule means everyone can still have a proper break in August. Lecturers who grade quickly can start relaxing as soon as mid-July. ‘That’s important, especially for lecturers who have kids’, said Wezeman, referring to the elementary school holiday, which ends mid-August.

One condition: all lecturers have to stick to the schedule. ‘We can’t have anyone saying they can’t make it because they have a wedding to attend or anything like that. We can’t take that into account, as it’ll mess everything up.’ 

Psych department tracking down students for cheating in online exams

Twenty students suspected

Psych department investigates cheating in online exams

The psychology department’s exam committee is investigating purported cheating during the online resits for statistics I.b and statistics II, which took place last week. They suspect approximately twenty students.
22 April om 11:16 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 April 2020
om 19:14 uur.
April 22 at 11:16 AM.
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at 19:14 PM.


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22 April om 11:16 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 April 2020
om 19:14 uur.
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April 22 at 11:16 AM.
Last modified on April 22, 2020
at 19:14 PM.
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‘We have proof that students were discussing the questions and their answers in WhatsApp group chats during the exam’, says Maarten Derksen, the exam committee chair. Other students in the group chats sounded the alarm.

They call upon any students who were part of the group chats to come forward to the committee. They have until the end of the afternoon on Wednesday. Derksen says they’re also approaching individual students. ‘Next, we want to decide what to do with the cheaters.’

Kicked out

They’ll go easy on the students who come forward themselves, he says. Anyone who doesn’t come forward and is proved to be guilty of cheating will most likely be kicked out of the course. ‘We’re not fully committed to that course of action just yet, but it’s likely.’

The English-language statistics II exam was administered to approximately three hundred students last Thursday, while statistics I.b was administered last Friday. Due to the corona measures in place, the exams were online, open-book exams. 

No proctoring software, which allows lecturers to keep an eye on students through their microphone and webcam, was used during the exams. Two weeks ago, the university ran a test using proctoring software during a different statistics exam.

Evaluation

The cheating incident will be taken into consideration in the evaluation of online exams. ‘We’ll evaluate not just the cheating, but also the technology’, says Derksen. He doesn’t think this will lead to any big changes. ‘It’s an emergency solution.’ 

Measures were taken to make cheating harder, and students have to promise not to cheat before taking an exam, but it’s difficult to monitor it all, he says. ‘Everyone knows that online exams are a nightmare.’

UKrant is doing a survey on students’ experiences with digital exams and alternative assignments. You can take it here.

The first online PhD ceremony concludes with a Zoom party

Photo UG

The first online PhD ceremony concludes with a Zoom party

The corona crisis has put a stop to all regular PhD ceremonies, which meant the UG had to come up with an alternative. On Monday, the first online PhD ceremony was held for medical toxicologist Danial Afsharzadeh.

7 April om 17:44 uur.
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April 7 at 17:44 PM.
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7 April om 17:44 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 7 April 2020
om 17:44 uur.
René Hoogschagen

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‘It’s weird’, says Danial Afsharzadeh. ‘I’ve been to various PhD ceremonies over the years, and they always involved all these people in the auditorium of the Academy building.’ But he found himself in an empty room, apart from the beadle and the UG rector. Everyone else attended the ceremony at home, in front of a computer screen. Even his girlfriend. ‘My family was supposed to come over from Canada as a surprise, but that didn’t happen.’

The ceremony itself, where he defended his research into potential treatment for liver damage, went fine, he says. ‘The sound was good, the connection was great, and every time someone said something, they were clearly visible on screen.’ He was in the usual spot PhD candidates are in, facing the screen. ‘There’s no need to worry about the official part’, he says when asked if he has any tips for others. ‘It’s all taken care of.’

Congratulations over livestream

But it’s not much of a party. While the PhD candidates are usually accompanied by their paranymphs when the committee retreats to the senate room to confer, Afsharzadeh had to leave the room on his own. He didn’t have any friends with him to help calm his nerves. 

He did graduate. From a distance, his supervisor Klaas Nico Faber gave a speech about his days in Groningen. His friends, colleagues, and family congratulated him from their respective houses during the livestream. He posed for pictures on the stairs with the rector. ‘Don’t worry, we were five feet away from each other.’ 

Shock

‘It was a bit of a shock at the end’, he says. ‘Leaving the building with the degree under my arm, all alone.’ At home, his paranymphs and his supervisor had organised a Zoom party to celebrate. ‘I’ll definitely have a real party once the corona crisis is over.’

Right now, he needs to go visit the reason he couldn’t postpone his graduation: his prematurely born son Oscar, who will hopefully be able to leave the hospital soon. On the afternoon that his father defended his PhD, Oscar was taken off ventilation.

Ten tips to survive quarantine

From Netflix to studying

Ten tips to survive quarantine

Maybe you’re not ill, but your brother or your girlfriend or that weird student that sat next to you in class last week has corona and now you have to quarantine yourself in your room for two weeks. How will you spend the time? Here are ten time killers.
13 March om 17:16 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 March 2020
om 18:00 uur.
March 13 at 17:16 PM.
Last modified on March 14, 2020
at 18:00 PM.

1. Get cookin’

You might be in quarantine, but you still need to eat. And if your neighbour doesn’t show up every day with soup and a sandwich, it’s tempting to just order in. Unfortunately, that’s unhealthy and expensive, so why not try your hand at some recipes yourself? Order your groceries online at the supermarket, Ekonoom, or Groentebroer, and they’ll deliver your vegetables straight to your door.

There are plenty of recipes online, ranging from simple to complicated. Try the historical recipes at The Historical Cookery Page

2. Binge something

Eight seasons of Game of Thrones will tide you over nicely.

The easiest way to get through the day is to watch the shows that everyone’s always talking about and you never got around to, like Game of Thrones, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Wire, Westworld, or House.

If you’re looking for something more current: Ziggo/HBO will start airing The Plot Against America on Tuesday, which centres around the question: what if the US hadn’t done anything to stop Hitler? The six-hour miniseries should keep you entertained for a while.

If you’ve got Netflix, here’s a tip: the German detective series Babylon Berlin, about Nazis, communists, and prostitutes, set in 1929. Season three has just come out; there are a total of twenty-eight episodes, each forty-five minutes long. You can do your own maths on how many hours that is in total. It’s not like you’ve got anything better to do.

If you’re a real nerd, you need to watch all 279 episodes of The Big Bang Theory. That’ll keep you occupied for two weeks.

3. Declutter your room

Turn on Marie Kondo on Netflix, or better yet, read her books, and get rid of all your old crap. Don’t forget to thank whatever you throw away.

Since you won’t be able to leave your house, literally getting rid of your stuff will have to wait, but as long as you’re not throwing out anything perishable you can just leave it in the hallway.

Larger stuff does pose a problem, unfortunately. While taking it to the dump yourself is free in Groningen, the city does charge for coming to get it: at least 47.30 euros. You could hire someone through voordeligvervoerd, which would cost you forty bucks. Maybe it’s a better idea to keep your old couch around for a while.

Kondo’s latest book could prove helpful for UG employees whose desks are overflowing: Joy at Work. It’ll help you continue your decluttering journey when you get back to work.

4. A thousand pieces

That’ll keep you busy.

Puzzles. Apparently, they’re hip again. Before you go on lockdown, drop by the Mamamini for an extra large box, or order some online. It’ll keep you busy for hours and it’s nice and zen. Add in a little podcast (see next tip), and doing nothing has never been more fun.

Once your quarantine is over, you can join the old people in the nearest care home. Don’t forget to disinfect your hands before you enter, though.

5. Podcasts

Put on a podcast to help you get through cleaning or doing that puzzle. Like Radiolab, which focuses on scientific and philosophical questions. If you’re more into crime, you can try Serial, which has been called the best podcast in the world.

If you want something a little juicy, we recommend Thirst Aid Kit, a podcast about celebrity lust and sexual desire. In their season one finale, they interview Chris Evans himself.

It may seem a little old-fashioned, but radio plays are still popular. Try the British radio play Home Front: the 617 episodes, each lasting fifteen minutes, will make the two weeks fly by. Finally, an oldie but a goodie: The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

6. Stay fit

You obviously stocked up on snack foods before going into quarantine. Yeah, you can’t keep a secret from us. Restrain yourself! Try to stay fit. It’s not easy, but you can do it in the confines of your student room, through a thing called convict conditioning.

It was developed by a prisoner, which is apt, since you’re currently a prisoner in your own home.

The idea is to use your own bodyweight. You need no weights or dumbbells. Just yourself, two chairs, and a table. If you want to get everything out of the training, you’d need to lock yourself away for six years or more, but at the end you’d be able to do a one-arm handstand push up!

There’s also plenty of cardio to do at home. Check out Chris Heria’s cardio video. You do need a bit of space, as well as an open window to get rid of the smell of your sweat.

You could also connect your old Wii and play a round of Wii Sports.

7. Use your imagination

Bingeing a show is well and good, but using your own imagination is even better. That’s right, we’re talking about reading. We know all that mandatory reading has turned you off it, but trust us, there is a lot of good stuff out there.

If you don’t have an e-reader and prefer to read paper books, there are other solutions. You can also read e-books on your laptop.

But what to read? Tip: ask your local booksellers. That’s currently a bit tricky, but Goodreads has done the work for you. Here are their lists for the best books of 2019.

8. Be a smartypants

You know a lot. After all, you’re a university student. This is the ideal moment to share your knowledge with the world. You can do so on Wikipedia. It’s super easy and your audience is much larger than the people who read anything you wrote or will write in uni.

The only problem is that no one will ever quote you, since your work ends up in a heap with everyone else’s. Think of it like academic volunteering.

9. Study

You’ll be all caught up when classes start again.

Our most sensible tip: study. If you have a hard time studying by yourself, just get an online study buddy. Take a gander at the Study with Me livestream on YouTube and you’ll find one in no time. Or click here.

10. Call someone

It’s old-fashioned, but that fancy smartphone actually has a function that allows you to talk to people. Live. So give your parents a ring. Or maybe your aunt? I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

If you enjoy talking to people and you want put some love out into the world: call an elderly person. A great uncle, your elderly neighbour, or a random person in a nursing home. No one is visiting them because of this darned virus, and there are plenty of people who need someone to talk to. They’ll be able to patch you through at reception.

Tip: have them tell you about the diseases of yore. Now those were scary.

Law students want online classes

Fear of coronavirus: law students want online classes

A group of international law students is worried about getting the coronavirus at the university. They’re asking the faculty board to make classes available online.
4 March om 10:56 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 4 March 2020
om 11:35 uur.
March 4 at 10:56 AM.
Last modified on March 4, 2020
at 11:35 AM.


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Door René Hoogschagen

4 March om 10:56 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 4 March 2020
om 11:35 uur.
René Hoogschagen

By René Hoogschagen

March 4 at 10:56 AM.
Last modified on March 4, 2020
at 11:35 AM.
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The fifteen students, who for the most part attend the Honours College, sent the International Office an e-mail on Monday asking for access to online classes for everyone. 

Vindicat

The students are worried they could catch the virus at the RUG from anyone who travelled to infected areas, like the Vindicat members who are currently on a skiing trip in northern Italy. They also think that sick students would be more likely to come to class if there’s no alternative where they can stay home.

The initiators say putting the videos online wouldn’t be much trouble, since ‘most classes are being recorded anyway’. Michaela Stavridou, one of the students, says the law faculty has been promising to put the videos online since the first academic year. ‘We’ve been told this in various classes, but we never got access. Only European law gave us access, but their videos were wrong.’

No recordings

Kirsten Wolkotte, the law faculty’s International Office coordinator, has not seen the e-mail yet, but can answer the question: ‘We never recorded any of the classes in the English-language programme, so there’s nothing to be put online.’ Only the part-time programme records classes.

Wolkotte also says it’s not as easy to arrange as the students think. ‘It would take an immense amount of work. I don’t even know if any of the classes are in rooms with recording equipment. We could find out of course, but there have been no infections in Groningen yet.’ 

She therefore sees no need to start recording classes, or to cancel any. ‘If the situation changes, we’ll reassess.’

Wolkotte pointed to the ‘need-to-know’ messages on Nestor, saying the students should read them. They contain information about the measures taken against the virus, and what people can do to protect themselves.

TopDutch solar team is recruiting RUG students for 2021

TopDutch solar team is recruiting RUG students for 2021

After the surprising results last year (fourth place, best Dutch team), the TopDutch solar team wants to recruit more RUG students to participate in the World Solar Challenge in Australia.
4 February om 15:05 uur.
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om 15:05 uur.
February 4 at 15:05 PM.
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4 February om 15:05 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 4 February 2020
om 15:05 uur.
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February 4 at 15:05 PM.
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Last year, the team only had one RUG student: Friso Resink. The third-year student of engineering physics served as a strategist for the northern solar team; he made sure the solar car’s energy was used in the most optimal way.

The other students hailed from the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, the Noorderpoort college, and the Friesland college. ‘We want a more equal distribution’, says Resink.

The students don’t necessarily have to study anything technical. The team is also looking for media or business studies students. ‘They could act as press contact, focus on logistics, finances, or the contact with project partners like Fokker.’

Full-time

He’d advise the new batch of students to use the project to write their thesis on. Last year, he had already picked a different topic. ‘That was my greatest mistake.’ Anyone on the solar team is expected to do it full time.

‘We’re trying to get the university to see it as a year of board work, so the students can have their tuition fees reimbursed. But we’re still working on that’, says Resink. 

Hardy

What is expected of the new participants? You have to be a team player, says Resink, because you’ll end up being friends. ‘You have to be ambitious, adventurous, and hardy.’

Don’t expect the trip to be a vacation, though. ‘It’s a year of really hard work, with its ups and downs. Australia isn’t easy, either. There are times when you’ll get little sleep and it can be really stressful to get the car ready on time.’

You can sign up for the TopDutch Solar Racing team until March 22, through become@solarracing.nl.

14,000 couldn’t log on: system malfunction fixed (UPDATE)

14,000 couldn’t log on: system malfunction fixed

A technical malfunction meant that 14,000 people at the RUG were having trouble logging on to their RUG accounts on Tuesday.
14 January om 12:27 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 15 January 2020
om 11:26 uur.
January 14 at 12:27 PM.
Last modified on January 15, 2020
at 11:26 AM.

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Door René Hoogschagen

14 January om 12:27 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 15 January 2020
om 11:26 uur.
René Hoogschagen

By René Hoogschagen

January 14 at 12:27 PM.
Last modified on January 15, 2020
at 11:26 AM.

The malfunction took place on Monday night and continued into Tuesday morning, when mainly staff accounts were still affected, which meant staff members had trouble logging in.

The CIT had initially hoped to fix the problem over the course of the morning , but later said the problems would likely persist throughout the day.

They have since found the cause of the system malfunction, but they can’t comment on it.

RUG spokesperson Jorien Bakker has nothing to do with the implementation of the new university-wide software program.

No data has been lost, says Bakker. ‘The problem only pertains to the login system.’

‘I always tell them good morning’

Sjoerd Veenstra has been an animal handler for fifty years

‘I always tell them good morning’

Animal handler Sjoerd Veenstra has been working with mice, tarantulas, and zebra finches for fifty years. He’s never wanted to do anything else. ‘I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a basement somewhere.’
By René Hoogschagen / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen / Photo Reyer Boxem
21 October om 15:20 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 October 2019
om 9:27 uur.
October 21 at 15:20 PM.
Last modified on October 22, 2019
at 9:27 AM.

‘Oh my God, I’m going home’, Sjoerd Veenstra said in his thick Groningen accent when he spotted the decorations on his desk. ‘Is that today? Is it my fiftieth anniversary working here?’

Absolutely. It’s been fifty years. He started on October 14, 1969, when he was just fifteen years old. Imagine that: working for the same company for fifty years. Doing the same work every day, for fifty years. He is now sixty-five years old. He won’t retire for another year.

There’s no way he would escape the celebrations. His fellow animal handlers at the RUG put an inflatable gate near the entrance with an Abraham doll, streamers, and balloons. The number fifty was everywhere, from the main entrance to the aquarium rooms. All his colleagues dropped by, even the ones that weren’t working that day.

Gratitude

It was a great gesture, he says, making a face. ‘Much better than a party in a big room with lots of speeches.’ Everyone singing his praises? No, thank you. His wife and colleague Roelie Wiegman nods. ‘We’d rather have a little bit of gratitude every day than everything at the end.’

Sjoerd, a grey-haired man with a deep voice and a single silver earring, isn’t lacking in gratitude, though. His name is mentioned in numerous PhD theses. The academics thank him for taking care of their research animals, for his company, for the great conversations they’ve had. They even visited him at home. ‘It’s too bad I have to say goodbye to them every four years’, says Veenstra.

We only discuss work on the way home, and that’s it

One person he never said goodbye to was his fellow animal handler Roelie Wiegman. Veenstra had been working at the RUG for twenty years at the Biological Centra in Haren, when Wegman joined in 1989. ‘We gave it a lot of thought’, Veenstra says, serious. Wiegman nods. A relationship with a colleague can be a risky venture. What do you do if it all goes wrong?

‘But our love was stronger’, he says. And it’s still going strong. Although they’re not obvious about it. Wiegman is still using her maiden name, she works with different animals, and they keep their work and private lives separate. ‘We don’t want to bother our other co-workers’, says Wiegman. What about at home? Do they ever discuss work there? ‘No’, Veenstra says resolutely. ‘For a little bit on the way home’, Wiegman adds, ‘but that’s it.’

When work got hard because of a personnel shortage in the nineties it was nice to have a partner for a colleague, says Veenstra. They’d come home exhausted, fall asleep on the couch, and then still had to make dinner. They had a hard time keeping the house clean. ‘I don’t think anyone else would have put up with that.’

Hard work

Has he ever considered changing careers? He shrugs? ‘I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a basement somewhere…’ He’s content taking care of the animals and the researchers. These days, fish are his only charges. It’s a good job, and ‘the fish team is great’. As long as he doesn’t have to kneel. ‘I can’t get back up anymore.’

After fifty years of hard work, he physically no longer at his peak. He’s been declared partially unfit to work and only works in the mornings. ‘We didn’t have labour laws when I was young’, Sjoerd says as an explanation for why his limbs are so stiff. Taking care of the animals was much harder work than it is now. ‘I carried all these heavy buckets, walked through that came up to my ankles, on uneven ground. Now they check everything, like if you’re lifting stuff right.’

The students used to come by for a chat. Now they don’t have the time

Another thing that’s changed is the social contacts he has. Before, when he was still working in Haren, people would simply stop by and chat to the animal handlers. ‘They knew the coffee was always hot and they actually had time for a chat. These days, the students don’t have as much time.’ Today, the animals are at Zernike, and Sjoerd doesn’t know half the people working in the same hallway. ‘We’re at the very end of the hallway and everyone just passes us by.’  

While Veenstra currently takes care of the fish, he used to take care of gulls, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, oystercatchers, and zebra finches. The tarantulas were the trickiest. The round jars they live in sometimes had to be cleaned. ‘I’d hold the jar they were in at the bottom and put a clean one on upside down.’ He holds his muscular arms aloft, as though he’s holding two jars. ‘The spider would have to go into the other jar. But sometimes I’d drop the jar and then the spider was on the ground.’ And then what? ‘You’d better get a jar over that spider real quick.’

Animal testing

He used to be able to take animals home after a study was done, but that’s no longer allowed, Veenstra says as he walks through the aquarium room. Machinery hums, air bubbles rise up, the fish swim. Some of them are alone, others in groups. ‘If they get aggressive, I separate them’, Veenstra explains. They’re not the kind of animals you can pet, but he likes them. ‘I always tell them good morning’, he says, laughing, ‘but they never answer me.’

Animal testing is still a sore subject. One of Wiegman’s friends is opposed to the whole thing. ‘So we just don’t talk about it anymore’, says Wiegman, resigned. They don’t perform any of the animal tests. They only take care of the animals, make sure they get fed every day, that they’re happy. 

Animal testing will probably always be necessary

These days, it’s not that easy to just do research that involves animal testing. First, a committee has to decide whether it’s truly necessary. The animal handlers themselves keep an eye on things as well; if they see something that’s not right, they speak up. ‘But I think we’ll always need animal testing’, says Veenstra.

In the photo for this article, he’s looking at the fish that will be used for research. Some people can get really angry at that. Veenstra shrugs. ‘I’m almost done anyway.’ Just one more year until retirement.

Groningen solar car nabs third place in World Solar Challenge

Team RUG/Hanze does surprisingly well

Groningen solar car nabs third place in World Solar Challenge

After 635 kilometres under the scorching Australian sun, the TopDutch solar team consisting of RUG and Hanze students has surprisingly reached third place during the World Solar Challenge. They have more than two thousand kilometres still to go.
By René Hoogschagen / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen
14 October om 13:51 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 October 2019
om 16:34 uur.
October 14 at 13:51 PM.
Last modified on October 14, 2019
at 16:34 PM.

‘It went really well’, says RUG student Friso Resink when he talks about TopDutch solar team’s first day of the World Solar Challenge in Australia. It was ‘super hot’, though; temperatures reached 41 degrees Celsius. Their current position: third place, with a time right behind the team in second.

‘We’ve driven 635 kilometres’, says Friso over the static in his satellite phone. TopDutch was only thirty seconds behind the Delft team and just ahead of Belgian team Agoria from KU Leuven.

Currently in the lead is a team from Twente, who managed to drive an extra fifty kilometres. ‘It was a great day. And the mood is good’, says Friso.

Monitoring

Friso doesn’t drive Green Lightning, which is what TopDutch named their solar car. He’s in the ‘chase’, a car decked out with equipment which monitors whether Green Lightning is doing everything it should and keeps an eye on the weather.

Friso, a physics student, worked together with another team member to design a program that calculates how fast or slow the driver has to go to make the best time.

‘I’m just staring at screens that display data all the time. I’m not even looking at the car itself.’ Was he nervous? Only at the start of the day, he says. ‘We didn’t have a lot of time to test the models, but after a while, everything just fell into place.’

Landslide victory

The real start of the race was on Saturday, when the qualifying rounds were held at the Quorn circuit in south-east Australia. To everyone’s surprise, the Groningen team won in a landslide victory: they had the best time of any solar car ever. This was an especially great feat for a newcomer and earned them the starting spot on Sunday.

‘We’re at the same camp site with the other teams’, says Friso. You’d think all those students would have a great time together. Sitting around a fire with a guitar and a didgeridoo. But no, says the RUG student. ‘It’s seven thirty here right now. After we hang up I’m done, I’m going to bed. We have to get up at five in the morning.’

The Groningen team has another 2092 kilometres to go before they get to Adelaide. Will the stage be Dutch only? ‘If we’ll get to the stage, you mean?’ Friso asks. ‘The way it’s going now…’ But he’s wary to make a real prediction.  ‘We’ll have to wait and see.’

You can follow the solar races on Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

Companies demand to be hired by the RUG

A consortium of three installation companies has demanded the RUG hire them to outfit the new Feringa Building. The companies took the RUG to court on Tuesday.
By Rob Siebelink / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Special consortium UCE had been in the running to build the vibration-free, biochemical laboratories in the RUG’s fancy new building. It will be a large, complex job that estimates say will cost around eighty million euro. Recently, the university notified the consortium that their services would not be required.

According to UCE lawyer Mark Lim, the three companies were rejected for the ‘wrong reasons’ after spending nine months ‘working hard to acquire the job’. On behalf of the companies, Lim said the RUG has not acted in accordance with European tender regulations.

Fudging the numbers

Peter Hoekstra, council for the RUG, disagrees. The consortium’s proposed price (ninety million euro) is more than the university can or is willing to pay. The RUG originally budgeted the project at fifty-six million euro, which was later bumped up to seventy-five million and then again to eighty million. The job was then privately awarded to a third party.

Hoekstra accuses the consortium of driving up the price by ‘fudging numbers and estimations’. He argued in court that UCE estimates unrealistically high prices to make more profit, aided by the tight construction market.

‘Contractors and construction companies think they can just ask any price they want’, the RUG’s lawyer said. ‘UCE didn’t try hard enough to figure out a cheaper option.’

He named the construction site costs as an example, which the three companies estimated at 2.7 million. ‘With that money, they could buy all new materials and install golden toilets in the Porta-Potties.’

Ten million

The consortium says the ninety million euro they quoted was fair and in line with the market. But the university opted for a company that quoted the job at ten million euro less. Hoekstra: ‘Ten million is a substantial difference.’

The consortium claims the RUG wasn’t allowed to do business with the other party in the first place and acted counter to tender regulations. They say the RUG backed itself into a corner through ‘unrealistic cost estimations and raising the wrong expectations’ and that the three companies are now suffering the consequences.

Damage claims

UCE demands that the judge rule in favour of the consortium and award it the job, or they will submit damage claims of up to seven hundred thousand euro. The RUG is willing to discuss compensation but says the proposed sum is much too high.

The parties didn’t reach an agreement on Tuesday. The case will continue at the Groningen court on Monday, June 3.

64,000 square metres, 1,400 students, 850 employees

The Feringa Building, named for RUG Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa, will be the third new building for the Faculty of Science and Engineering, after the Bernoulliborg and the Linnaeusborg. It’s meant to replace Nijenborgh 4, which is fifty years old.

The new building, which will have 64,000 square metres of floor space and approximately three kilometres of laboratory tables, will be home to 1,400 students and 850 employees. It will be one of the biggest buildings in the Netherlands. The Feringa Building is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2023.

 

Lift accident victims receive 1000 euro

The RUG will pay thirteen of the people involved in the lift accident that occurred in January 2019 one thousand euro each in compensation.
By Giulia Fabrizi / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The amount serves as an advance to the eventual claims settlement. ‘Everyone who’s made a liability claim will receive the amount’, says RUG spokesperson Jorien Bakker.

‘The sum is independent of any medical costs or other expenses the students and employees have claimed.’ According to Bakker, thirteen of the fourteen victims have made a liability claim.

The RUG will determine the claims settlement for each individual case.

Lift accident

The lift accident happened in January of 2019 at the medical sciences building at the Antonius Deusinglaan. A lift containing fourteen RUG students and employees, fell from the ninth floor, got stuck between the fifth and six floors because of the emergency brake, and fell all the way down at a speed of approximately thirty kilometres an hour while emergency personnel were trying to rescue people from the lift.

One of the victims was taken to the UMCG after the accident. The university immediately started investigating the possible cause of the accident.

Board president Jouke de Vries said that the victims, in addition to slight physical injuries, had mainly suffered psychological complaints. ’You can imagine what it’s like being in an accident like that. Some people don’t really know whether they can trust this kind of machinery again. They’re not sure whether they can still safely use lifts’, said De Vries when the investigation’s results were announced.

Investigation

The investigation showed that neither the lift’s balance nor its breaks had been properly calibrated. The defect in the brakes had been discovered earlier, but the maintenance company hadn’t fixed it properly, if at all. The balance hadn’t been tested correctly, an independent certification agency determined, which meant the lift cage was heavier than the counterweight.

The eleven other lifts in the building were subsequently checked as well, but they were all in fine working order.

RUG scores 2.4 million in research grants

Three RUG researchers will each receive an 800,000 euro Vidi grant from research financier NWO. NWO has granted 84 out of 443 requests this year.
By Christien Boomsma / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

All three Vidi grants will go to researchers at the Faculty of Science and Engineering. Experienced scientists can use the Vidi grant to develop their own line of research. The grant is intended to reward innovative research projects with real impact.

Researchers

Anastasia Borchevsky, with the Groningen Van Swinderen Institute, will develop new calculation methods as support for experiments on the fundamental characteristics of atoms and molecules.

Giulia Mancini with the Zernike Institute for Advanced Mathematics will be making new, extremely powerful microscopes see how certain materials react to light. This would allow for the creation of new materials for opto-electrics, switches, and sensors.

Mathematician Steffen Müller at the Bernoulli Institute will try to solve an old number theory problem.

Leiden

A fourth Vidi grant was awarded to Sander Wezenberg, who wants to apply the way living organisms communicate to the communication between synthetic molecular systems. But Wezenberg has since left for the University of Leiden, which means they will be the institution to benefit from the research money. Leiden received eight other Vidi grants.

Personnel faction: statement on zero tolerance should be more specific

Casper Albers with the personnel faction on the university council says that the RUG’s statement on zero tolerance should be more specific and defined.
By Rob Siebelink / Photo by Piter Siebenga / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

‘Any allegation of harassment, hate crime, bullying or victimization will be treated seriously, regardless of the seniority of those involved. Anyone found to have behaved unacceptably may be the subject of disciplinary action’, the statement says.

The personnel faction was happy with the statement, but it’s not specific enough, says Albers. He then referred to the case of a professor at the UvA, who has been accused of abuse of power and misconduct, but who was able to keep working while his colleagues and superiors were aware of his behaviour.

‘The statement mentions sanctions. Do these only apply to the perpetrators, or can we also sanction the people who neglected to act when they should have?’ Albers asked.

Victim

The only really specific thing in the statement, the faction says, is the request toward victims to take action. But Albers says that it wouldn’t be fair to put the ball only in victims’ courts.

‘Thanks to many brave women and their #MeToo stories in academia, people have finally realised that something should be done. But it’s the academic community that should step up: we should all make sure that the university is a safe work environment, and not only ask the victims to speak up.’

Preventative

According the Albers, the policy focuses too much on what should be done after transgressive behaviours have taken place. He thinks the university should also focus on preventative action.

‘If something like this happens as much as it does – and the things we know about are only the tip of the iceberg, really – it’s no longer an incidental issue, it’s structural. Over the past few years, we’ve already discussed the cultural change needed at student associations due to the many issues during the hazing period.’

That cultural change is important for the RUG as well, says Albers. ‘We are a team, and this is our joint responsibility. We have to ensure a safe work environment. Inclusivity isn’t just a choice; it’s a requirement.’

Ombudsman

The board of directors say they’re still working on ‘making the statement more specific’. Board president Jouke de Vries says it’s too early to instate an ombudsman, something the personnel faction suggested as well.

The RUG has a confidential adviser and that’s working for people, although De Vries does acknowledge they have less power than an ombudsman would. De Vries wants to wait and see what happens with pilot programmes at other universities. ‘After that, we’ll thoroughly explore the option.’

The full statement can be read here.

Deadly stabbing doesn’t deter RUG people

The deadly stabbing at the Jaagpad near the Zernike campus last week Tuesday doesn’t appear to have scared many RUG staff or students.
By Giulia Fabrizi / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Both the RUG and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences issued a warning on Monday advising people not to walk or bike alone on or near the Zernike campus. But on Tuesday afternoon around lunch time, many of the people near the ACLO were still walking on the Jaagpad alone.

Warning

International relations student Rachel Koehoorn (20) did hear the warning, but it didn’t scare her. ‘We don’t really know what happened’, she says. ‘For all we know these people knew each other and were having a fight.’ Besides, she says, it’s daylight. ‘It feels safer. I might not walk alone once it gets dark. Not because of what happened, though. I wouldn’t walk alone anyway.’

Some people apparently didn’t even see the universities’ warning. ‘I had no idea’, says a RUG employee who’d like to remain anonymous and who spends her lunch break walking along the Jaagpad alone. She isn’t worried. ‘A lot of people are talking about the incident, but I don’t feel like I’m in danger.’

Fastest route

Cycling along the Jaagpad, student David Staar (22) is distracted by the essay he has to hand in tomorrow. ‘I heard about it, but I didn’t realise that the stabbing took place here until you asked me about it just now’, he says. ‘They haven’t caught the guy yet, right? It would be great if they did sometime soon, but I’m not going to be avoiding this place either. It’s still the fastest route to class.’

On Tuesday evening, May 14, an as yet unknown assailant stabbed and killed 27-year-old Hidde Bergman from Midwolda at the Jaagpad near the Zernike campus. Bergman was jogging there when he was attacked.

Tips

The police haven’t commented on the motive for the stabbing. On Sunday, they released a composite sketch of the possible perpetrator. This sketch led to 76 tips on top of the one hundred tips the police had already received.

On Tuesday night, television programme Opsporing Verzocht focused on the stabbing.