Interview with Nikhef alumna Lucie de Nooij

In praise of wonder, curiosity, and an open mind: contributing to children’s television

Of all the possible fields in which our PhD graduates may continue their careers after leaving Nikhef, children’s television would seem to be a relatively unlikely candidate.  But is it? It is a field where Lucie de Nooij feels completely at home working as a science and technology editor for the iconic Klokhuis series.  “All things considered,” she says, “my relationship with physics and Nikhef spans just over two decades, going back to when my primary school class paid an educational visit to the Institute. I vividly remember my sense of wonder and the thrill of it all, but couldn’t possibly know that I would return one day.”

In 2014, within the framework of CERN’s ATLAS experiment, Lucie completed her dissertation on a particle that is produced during proton-proton collisions and a few other simultaneous processes. She explains: “It was the culmination of the journey I embarked on when I started my physics studies and later joined CERN’s Summer School. This unique environment showed me what it means to work in a multidisciplinary and multicultural international team of people on a joint mission. My work has taught me many wise lessons that continue to stand me in good stead today: not only content-wise, but also in terms of team management, giving and receiving constructive feedback, looking at things from many different angles, and communicating scientific knowledge.”

“My travels in the world of physics paired with Nikhef’s unconditional support, especially when times were hard, have made me who I am today. I have always had the opportunity to raise and study fundamental questions, to explore different perspectives and to satisfy my curiosity. What more could anyone want? It gave me the courage and the confidence to apply for my current job. My move was actually inspired by my own daughter. She’s very young, and I kept asking myself how she, unbiased and with the kind of open curiosity that’s so typical of children, would view the world into which she was born. I wondered what kind of questions she would ask, and what conclusions she herself would draw on the basis of what she would see and hear. This has enabled me to contribute to Klokhuis’ programmes for today’s young viewers – and their parents, too. Working for the series requires a well-developed sense of wonder, innate curiosity, and an open mind: precisely those characteristics that typify successful scientists, whether they work at CERN or for Klokhuis.”