Name, organization: Yvonne van der Meer, Maastricht University
Current position: Professor
Areas of expertise: environmental Life Cycle Assessment, Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (environmental, economic, social impact), sustainability in higher education, heterogeneous catalysis
Roles in FibreNet: Supervisor of Carlos Andrés García Velásquez (ESR5), training officer, trainer in the online Life Cycle Assesment course for all ESRs
Why is FibreNet an interesting project for you?
It is an excellent network to get to know European public and private partners in biobased research and business. For a sustainability assessment expert, it is fantastic to collaborate with partners that are developing new biobased technologies and products.
Where were you born/ where have you lived as a child?
I was born in Vlaardingen, a town in the west of the Netherlands. It is located close to the Botlek area, a petrochemical industry district.
My favorite activities are gardening and walking in the hills in the Limburg area. I am active in a social network for our neighborhood and I am a member of the school council of the elementary school of my children. During holidays, I like to go hiking in the mountains in Austria, Switzerland and Italy.
How did you become a researcher/scientist?
My university studies started in Wageningen University. I studied molecular sciences with specializations in chemistry and biochemistry and a minor in teaching. My master thesis concerned the study of the mechanisms of drought tolerance in plants with the ultimate aim to improve drought tolerance of food crops. During my PhD in Delft University of Technology, I studied activation mechanisms in NiW and CoW hydrotreating catalysts with spectroscopic techniques, such as Mössbauer spectrometry and EXAFS (Extended X-Ray Fine Structure). The goal was to unravel structure-function relationships to improve the catalysts for desulfurization of diesel fractions in oil refineries to reduce SO2 emissions from diesel vehicles. I very much enjoyed the research, but I wanted to learn new things and develop myself further.
Therefore, after my PhD, I left the university for seven years and worked as a program manager for the Dutch national research council (NWO) and as a consultant on sustainable building materials in a company. When I returned to the university, I joined the office of the Maastricht University Executive Board, where I took part in setting up new initiatives: Brightlands Chemelot Campus, the research group and master Biobased Materials and the research institutes Aachen-Maastricht Institute for Biobased Materials and Chemelot Institute for Science and Technology.
Since 2015, I am back in academic research. I set up my own research group on sustainability of materials. The mission of my team is to provide suitable instruments and accurate sustainability assessments of chemicals and materials to guide the transition to a more sustainable production system. Since 2019, I am professor holding the chair Sustainable Chemicals and Materials.
Tell something about yourself, which other FibreNet people might not know yet:
I like dancing parties a lot!
What has been the biggest change in your working life, and how did you adapt to it?
During my working life, I regularly changed positions and activities. I learned to adapt myself, by learning new things and by interacting with people. In my current job, I benefit from what I have learned in other jobs, even if these jobs were very different. I did not plan my career, I just moved to the jobs I liked the most. This is the advice I also have for our students and employees: follow your heart, take part in activities you find interesting, put serious effort in your job and you will find your way!
How do you organize your time at work, reveal some of your effective time management tricks.
I find it a little difficult to advise others on this, as I work many hours a week. I enjoy it, but of course, I also want to do other things in life. The last years, I block time for my family and myself. At other times, I work focused on tasks I selected and this has improved my work-life balance. This is the advice I can give: make sure that you have your own goals and priorities clear, as this helps in making decisions on what activities you are going to spend time. The second advice is to ask advice or support if you find it difficult.