Interview with Nikhef alumnus Sander Mooij

Travelling the world

“When I completed my dissertation on effective theories in cosmology,” says Sander, “I definitely wished to continue my work in this field and felt that the world lay at my feet. You see, for my research I have always been in a position to travel the globe. This is one of the many exciting opportunities that Nikhef offers to all its PhD candidates, and I had certainly jumped at it.  It literally gave me the chance to broaden my horizons and expand my scope, and it gave me exactly the type of orientation that I needed to apply for an international post-doc position. And thanks to all my travels and the papers I authored or co-authored, I was able to build a considerable professional network to assist me on my quest.”

“When I started to look for a new position, I decided to give it my best shot. Believe it or not, but I wrote as many as one hundred and one application letters, which resulted in firm offers from research institutions in Chile, Hong Kong and South Africa. I found myself a bit spoilt for choice, to be honest, but I opted for the Group of Cosmology and Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Chile, a group led by a fellow physicist who had completed his post-doc studies in Leiden. I currently work on cosmological perturbation theory and on inflationary models in which the Higgs field is responsible for inflation. Chile is a fascinating country, which is an additional benefit, and Spanish proved to be much easier to learn than Chinese …”

“Luckily, I am still in a position to travel the world and stay in touch with my network. I do this by visiting people and pro-actively communicating my research. All of my past and present activities have increasingly enabled me to become the master of my own fate, so to speak. And I find that making subsequent moves has become easier. I still have one exciting year left in Chile, but I have already landed my next dream job in Lausanne, Switzerland. This time I only needed to write ten application letters, and I recently spent a week at the institute to learn more about its work and to meet my future colleagues. I still have a long way to go before I can get a permanent job in this field, but doing a PhD at Nikhef has certainly given me a perfect position to enter the academic job market.”