500 blogs later: This is what happened with the founders of Donders Wonders

“Friends! How are you? Donders Wonders will publish its 500th blog soon – it’s a miracle! And we’ve been asked to write that post. How cool is that?!”

This post is also available in Dutch.

Six years ago we were asked to start a blog for the Donders Institute. The aim was to explain to a general audience what was going on in brain research. We were PhD students. We volunteered because we liked writing. We were interested in science communication.

Most of us had never blogged before, so we knew very little about WordPress, journalism or social media strategies, but we gave it a try. And we learned along the way. We had great fun during endless discussions about topics, editing styles, Dutch versus English… One by one we finished our PhDs, leaving the blog in the hands of new bloggers, and all went our separate ways.

For the very special occasion of this 500th Donders Wonders blog post, we give you a brief insight into our current lives. This tiny little window into what happens to scientists after their PhD hopefully inspires you to keep wondering where you will go next.

Name: Jeanette Mostert
Place: Amsterdam / Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Current job: Science communication advisor

After Donders Wonders: I started teaching within the BSc Psychobiology programme at the University of Amsterdam. After a few years I returned to the Radboudumc genetics department as science communication advisor and teacher at the Faculty of Medicine. My job entails many different things because I kind of created the job myself. My main task is to help scientists in our international consortia translate their science to the general public, and to facilitate dialogue with patient organisations. I still write blogs and I help other scientists write blogs for our consortia websites. I also still follow the Donders Wonders blog.

Name: Julian Tramper
Place:  Dhama Sacca, Candeleda, Spain
Current job: Scientist

After Donders Wonders: My brain started working on its limitations. We are completely ruled by our own mind. Try to have no thoughts for one minute. Do you see my point? We have the idea that we are totally in control of our decisions, but this is an illusion. Consider the following: If you really had a choice, would you choose to get angry or upset, to have worries or doubts, to feel sad or lonely? There is a way to overcome this: through meditation. If you can observe your thoughts and sensations, you will learn that those are not you. Once you realise this, the mind loses its power over you, less and less negativity enters your life, and you start to feel more and more at peace. For this you don’t need to go Spain, as I did. You don’t need to go anywhere. Go within and you will find it there. Visit my blog, juliantramper.nl (in Dutch), to find out more.

Name: Susanne Vogel
Place: Hamburg, Germany
Current job: Senior researcher and teacher

After Donders Wonders: I started working for a public university, but soon switched jobs when it became clear that I would not be able to secure a permanent job there in the foreseeable future. I now work at the Medical School Hamburg, a private university. My research and teaching still concerns the effects of stress on human thinking and behavior. Mostly, I am now interested in the reasons why individuals differ so much when they encounter stressful or even traumatic situations. I hope that this will help us to better understand why some individuals are at risk for stress-related disorders and why some are resilient – and to use this knowledge for prevention or therapy in the future. Like Jeanette, I still really enjoy reading the Donders Wonders blog.

Name: Winke Francx
Place: Graz, Austria
Current job: Clinical psychologist

After Donders Wonders: I decided to leave science and start working as a clinical psychologist. I’m working in a psychiatric rehabilitation hospital where people with a psychiatric diagnosis get an intensive therapeutic bath over a period of 6 weeks. They get psychotherapy and, when necessary, diagnostic re-evaluations. Furthermore, ergotherapy, mindfulness training, relaxation (when necessary, including biofeedback), physiotherapy, music therapy, and assertiveness training are all part of the program. Most therapies are given in a group. We treat all diagnoses except addictions. I like the group setting especially since the interaction between the patients often reflects the problems appearing in our ‘real’ lives.

Name: Richard Kunert
Place: Berlin, Germany
Current job: Data scientist

After Donders Wonders: Much like Winke, I decided to leave academic science but somehow didn’t know what else to do. So, I moved to Berlin and looked for inspiration. Twelve months later I became a data scientist. Now, I analyse data for the travel company Secret Escapes and couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out. I can concentrate on the part of research that I enjoyed the most: discovering patterns in data. I no longer do this in the service of scientific discovery but instead to help customers find holiday deals they really want: a different context but actually a surprisingly similar activity. Blogging is a passion that I still pursue with my Data Science blog called Rich Data (rikunert.com).

Name: Lieneke Jansen
Place: Leipzig, Germany
Current job: Postdoctoral researcher

After Donders Wonders: Dopamine brought me to Germany. After my PhD, I started as a postdoctoral researcher at Leipzig University Medical Center and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences. I am investigating what certain bad eating habits have to do with the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Why dopamine? Because dopamine plays an important role in motivating us to act, to put effort in walking that extra mile for a tasty chocolate bar, or to move countries to do research on a topic that you find so incredibly fascinating. As for science communication, it’s been difficult to pursue my passion in Germany. But now, with the language barrier getting smaller and smaller, I finally picked up my long-lost hobby and try to talk science in German!

Name: Alina Lartseva
Place: Nijmegen
Current job: Software Tester

After Donders Wonders: I started to educate myself on climate change, following some online courses and reading the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. I went through something of a personal crisis; I knew in the back of my mind that the planet was not doing well, but I didn’t realize the situation was that dire. At the end of last year I quit my job in digital marketing because I couldn’t reconcile it with the need for radical change in production and consumption and the whole world economy, basically. In a few days I’m starting a new job at the Dutch Chamber of Commerce and I’ll see where it goes from there. In my free time I’m working with some environmental organisations to help build a local climate movement. Environment has been on the losing side from day 1, and it’s still losing. Honestly, I don’t know if a victory is truly possible, but I have to try. Will you help me?

Name: Romy Bakker
Place: Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Current job: Business analyst

After Donders Wonders: One of my personal reasons to start blogging for Donders Wonders was to explain how brain research applies to society, as it sometimes can be difficult to understand why we run so many experiments and write scientific papers. I always enjoyed writing for Donders Wonders! Like Richard, Winke, Julian and Alina, I also decided to leave science after my PhD. After taking some months off to travel in South America, I started working as a business analyst for a Dutch health insurance company (Zilveren Kruis). I still do research and analyses but with different data, shorter deadlines and no scientific papers to write. At my department we develop policies for contract negotiations with healthcare providers. I mainly support my team with data insights. I really enjoy being involved with the innovation and strategy in healthcare.

Original language: English
Authors: Jeanette Mostert, Julian Tramper, Susanne Vogel, Winke Francx, Richard Kunert, Lieneke Jansen, Alina Lartseva, Romy Bakker
Buddy: Roeland
Editor: Monica
Translator: Felix
Editor Translation: Jill

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