Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Femke Maij - Graduate school coordinator

Date of news: 31 October 2016

In this series "The life of" you get to know your colleagues, their career path, what their perfect weekend looks like and more. This month we have our graduate school coordinator: Femke Maij.


Name, nationality, current function & department?

Femke Maij, Dutch, Graduate School Coordinator of the Donders Institute.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Many possible jobs came along. It varied between pastry cook to architect and pharmacologist.

What has been your career path so far and how did you become Donders graduate school coordinator?

I studied Natural Sciences in Nijmegen at the RU and followed many courses provided by the biophysics department. My master internship was at the Clinical Neurophysiology department by performing TMS, EEG and EMG to study corticospinal excitability in a project with dr. Gijs van Elswijk, Prof. Dick Stegeman, dr. Jan-Mathijs Schoffelen en Prof. Pascal Fries. In 2007 I started my PhD project at the VU University in Amsterdam with Prof. Jeroen Smeets and dr. Eli Brenner, where I investigated perception during eye movements, mainly systematic errors that we make near the time of saccades. After obtaining my PhD I received a Rubicon grant to go to Birmingham to work with prof. Alan Wing on a project about tactile perception during arm movements. At the end of that project I applied for a Veni grant and again this got granted, since then I’ve been a Postdoctoral fellow until October 1st 2016 in the group of Prof. Pieter Medendorp. Last June I was contacted if I would like to become ad interim coordinator of the Graduate school, because Tanja Döller was leaving to Trondheim.

When can PhD candidates contact you?

For everything related to their PhD project. This can be e.g. PhD track, supervision, certificate, confidential chats, ideas, etc. Don’t hesitate to contact me!

Who are the colleagues you are working with?

Prof. dr. David Norris is the chairman of the board of directors and therefore the director of the graduate school (DGCN). Ellen Janssen offers administrative support for both the CNS research master and the graduate school programme. Vanessa Engel offers administrative support regarding PhD Track.
I also have a close link to the PhD council, the management directors of each centre, our public outreach officer Harriette Koop and Societal impact officer dr. Bart van de Warrenburg.

What does the Donders Institute mean to you?

It’s the institute where my scientific career started. During my scientific career I have been involved in projects of each centre over the past years. I believe the Donders Institute is one of the most important neuroscience institutes in the world.

Who inspires you the most and why?

This is a difficult question. Many people inspire me. One of the persons who is scientifically one of my role models is my promoter, Prof. dr. Jeroen Smeets. We still meet each other occasionally, and he has been a great supervisor during my PhD project and also after my project I could always contact him for some help. Marie Curie in a broader picture as she was one of the most important women in science with her discovery of Radium and Polonium.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

Perfect weekend would be to start with a nice dinner with my partner and daughter on Friday evening with a glass of wine. On Saturday and Sunday I would love to play with my daughter and spend time with my family and/or friends, do some day trips if the weather is nice. I also love to bake and do some jobs around our relatively new and lovely house. It should be a relaxed and joyful weekend with happy people.

What is your favorite book and why?

I love to read books and I’ve read many books, however the last two years (the age of my daughter) I have been reading mostly children's books ;).

What life lesson would you like to share to the Donders PhD candidates?

Enjoy your project!

To be more specific, as a coordinator, but I’ve also said this several times as a postdoc, I always feel I need to emphasize that it is your own project and you are responsible for your progress. Gijs van Elswijk gave me one of my most important lessons during my internship: ‘the topic of your PhD project doesn’t really matter, it is the match you have with your supervision team’. In other words, the project can be amazing, but if you don’t match with your supervisor, the project becomes quite hard. I realise this lesson might be too late for some of you, but it might be really valuable to realise that communication with your supervision team is extremely important. Don’t hesitate to contact your supervisor, mentor, Management Director or me if you’d like to talk about anything that might help you to improve the quality of your PhD project.