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Personal experience - Casper

'Research into the formation of planets and brain scans: honours inspired me to go into science'

Casper is passionate about the natural sciences, which is why he chose to enroll for the Faculty of Science Honours Programme during his Bachelor of Physics and Astronomy.

‘I really like the creative side of the sciences. I don’t want to learn only facts; I also want to find innovative solutions and solve puzzles. I have broad-ranging interests and I strongly considered following the university-wide honours programme for Bachelor’s students. But I decided to join the faculty honours programme because it involves the cooperation of the entire faculty and has an interdisciplinary character, and this combination of scientific focus in my field and collaboration with multiple disciplines appealed to me.’

In the first year of the honours programme, Casper and a few other students formed a group to study planet formation. ‘With our shared interest in astronomy, we decided to focus on planetary formation, and one of the big questions: how was our earth formed? We did intensive literature research and met with our supervisor on a weekly basis to prepare a research proposal. We focused our research on the rings of Saturn, which consist of ice. We wanted to investigate how this ice clumps together to form large blocks and then falls apart into smaller pieces again; a model of planetary formation.’

Casper and his fellow students presented their research at a symposium and to an astronomy research group in London. ‘In London, we visited Queen Mary University, where we talked to various research groups, one of which invited us to give a presentation. That was a very special moment: I felt like we were really being taken seriously and they listened attentively to what we had to say. I was impressed with the way the discussions were held and the motivation of the group. It was one of the most valuable moments of the honours programme and it inspired me to decide to become a scientist.’

In the second year, Casper conducted an individual neuroscientific study. ‘I analysed data from brain scans of mice and wrote a software program based on the data. It was a very interdisciplinary project that delved deep into the subject matter. I also realized that I really liked the social component of the work; I hope that my own future work also involves such socially relevant applications.’