This week I travelled to Diepenbeek, Belgium, home of Hasselt University, in the Province of Limburg, Flanders. Hasselt U is about an hour drive from Brussels and is a hotspot in several academic and applied areas. As their mission statement says, one of their main objectives is to “…combine academic excellence with economic and social relevance”. In fact, the university’s motto is “Knowledge in Action”.
I went there by invitation of Prof Dr Karen Smeets and Prof Dr Tom Artois, of the Research group in Zoology: Biodiversity and Toxicology (CMKDK), to serve as a member of the PhD Jury (we’d say PhD Committee in th US) of their most recent PhD candidate (Olivier), who as of yesterday is a full-fledged Doctor!
The brand-new Doctor (at right), his thesis and the slightly used Doctor (at left)
To be part of Olivier’s PhD jury is a very humbling honor for me. You see, this interdisciplinary research group has an excellent record of publications mainly on invertebrate biology (with an emphasis on flatworms… (:-)…) in terms of phylogenetics, taxonomy and toxicology. For a while, Drs. Smeets and Artois and I have talked about establishing a research collaboration between our research groups due to our common academic interests and it seems that we will make it happen; stay tuned!
During my visit, I was kindly given a tour of the university’s laboratory facilities and I was very much impressed with them. However, what impressed me the most was the vibrant research environment of the university, as well as the enthusiasm of all the members of the group as was evident in my conversations with them.
This was only my second visit to Europe and my first visit to Belgium. I loved it! I will be back in the United States in a few hours in time for my General Biology Summer course and to return to my flatworms of course!
Oh, and to come back to my wife and children too… (:-).
Before then, I want to thank all the CMKDK group for their kindness towards me and for keeping me company in a country where I did not speak any of their three official languages!
My special thanks to Karen and Tom for inviting me and honoring me as a colleague.
To Michelle and Frank, fellow “planariaphiles” (I do not think this is a word…). I am looking forward to great scientific collaboration, conversations and exchange of ideas!
To Andromeda, Nicky and An-Sofie (my very knowledgeable and helpful tour guides).
To Olivier, for a great PhD seminar presentation. Congratulations!
To Ria, for arranging all the details of my visit.
(Michelle and Karen: as promised, no pictures!)