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“Don’t be afraid to exit your comfort zone”

UvA researchers about their fellowship period at the IAS

The beginning of 2018 marked the start of the IAS fellowship programme. It provides researchers an opportunity to focus and collaborate for several months on a challenging interdisciplinary research topic in an inspiring setting with other bright and creative minds. Now, six months later, the first fellows are leaving; making way for new candidates. Two UvA researchers, who jointly applied for a fellowship, reflect on their time at the UvA Institute for Advanced Study.

“What I really wanted to do was spend time on curiosity-driven interdisciplinary research.” Rick Quax is Assistant Professor of Computational Science at the University of Amsterdam and research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study since the beginning of 2018. “The most inspiring thing about an environment such as the IAS is that you learn to collaborate with colleagues from all kinds of disciplines. The institute hosts many events which you can easily join.  You are always invited to share your perspectives on a certain topic.” Sacha Epskamp Assistant Professor of Psychological Methods and Psychometrics at the UvA: “As a research fellow, you enjoy a lot of freedom at the institute and at the same time you are offered many opportunities. Getting in touch with prominent researchers is one example.”

The IAS fellows have lunch together daily at 12.30. This has proven to be an excellent setting to discuss each other’s views and dilemmas. They are often joined by other researchers who are affiliated with the institute. “Many disciplines ask the same sort of questions, but in a slightly different way,” Quax explains. “I have noticed that it takes time to learn to speak the same language.” Epskamp agrees: “It is very useful to learn how colleagues from other research fields think. During my time as a fellow, I have gained some very practical skills that I can now use in my own research field.”

Do the fellows have any advice for new candidates to get the most out of an IAS fellowship? Quax: “You should not be afraid to exit your comfort zone, or to grant yourself the time to brainstorm about something.Even if you are not sure whether it will lead to anything.” Epskamp adds: “Grasp the opportunity to expand your network at the IAS, in all directions – you will gain a lot!”

Are you interested, or do you have colleagues in your direct network who could be interested in joining the IAS as a research fellow for a couple of months? The programme is open for researchers from the UvA, as well as from any other university or research institute.