‘You should work there when you’re older’
Job? Fourth year PhD student at Gravitational Waves research.
Career? I studied at the Higher Technical Education (HTS) and I worked on the development of production lines for, amongst others, Volkswagen and BMW factories. I really enjoyed the commercial dynamic, but I missed some meaning and depth. That’s when I applied for a job at Nikhef. Ever since 2012 I have been an engineer for, amongst others, XENON1T and LHCb. From 2016 I have been doing my PhD in the Gravitational Waves group.
What does your research focus on? I focus on three things surrounding the measurement of gravitational waves. First of all I try to minimise crack formation in the seismic isolation systems. Second of all I am involved in the development of an alternative sensor that measures changes in the gravitational field around the end mirrors in Virgo. And thirdly, the thing I enjoy the most; I work on a new control system for the gravitational wave detector, based on pattern recognition and artificial intelligence.
Unique? Yes, at Nikhef we made a miniature version of the Virgo detector. With that, we can test and compare different control strategies. Our set-up is small and modular. We can make it increasingly more complex in a very controlled way. This is important, because other scientists started too complex and hit a wall.
Fun fact? My father once did a welding job in the boiler room at Nikhef. He said: ‘Rob, I’m doing this job in a place, I don’t understand a thing they are doing. That’s where you should work when you’re older.’