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NEON demo 2021: shining light on the research team

On the 29th of Oktober NEON held its first yearly demo. A year had passed since the NEON kick-off in 2020. It was a very tumultuous and unexpected time for all of us during this global pandemic, which for NEON has meant that we faced some bumps in the road during our start-up time. 

The demo event is to be a yearly point we invite all stakeholders to participate. The core of the NEON project is the research done by 33 PhD position in a wide range of disciplines – today 30 position are filled, some are over a year into their research, some have recently joined the team. The delivery of the first demo is a PhD poster fair. The 30 individual research focuses show us the landscape NEON is covering. 

After a word of welcome and project update by Auke Hoekstra, the PhD researchers got presented by an interactive, gamified poster fair. After the main event we had an open space to collaboratively shape our research agenda for the coming year.  On this page you can now find the post-event story, the PhD posters, the Open Space Output, the agenda and location of the event.

Post-event story

In the early morning hours, the NEON research PhDs started gathering at HQ. We had been brainstorming and planning this day for months, and now the moment was finally here, and we plunged right into all the preparations.

After a short period of initial awkwardness and impromptu organization, the set-up was well on its way. From the placement of the posters to the (newly established) music band practice sessions, everyone was in a pleasantly nervous rush to have everything ready & in place before the first visitors would arrive.  

I couldn’t help but notice how surprisingly easy it was for most of us to connect with one another – widely varying conversations, chatter and laughter soon filled up all the space.

It was both the excitement of seeing your colleagues for the first time in real life, and the realization that ultimately, you share a heartfelt ambition with these people around you, a genuine striving for a better world.

“Interestingly, even though I hadn’t met people before, it felt like we had known each other for some time.”
Younjung – Work Package 10

At this point, much appreciation is due towards Maurizio & Co., for their curiously amusing, double-functioning game design.

It served both as a (quite eccentric) coordination system for the fair and an icebreaker of sorts. Partners teamed up and hunted down all the missing pieces to their puzzle in a slightly confused, humorous fashion, all the while the PhDs got the opportunity to present their research, expand their networking and gain valuable insight from both industry practitioners and fellow scientists.

I think I can comfortably speak for all of us: this was a long-awaited experience. It felt affirming and so very real to engage with professionals that were external to our collective, “outsiders” to our academic practice, challenging and invigorating the assumptions and thought processes behind our science.

The work of a PhD candidate can oftentimes feel rather solitary and almost remote, in its own kind of way; it’s at the very core of achieving your doctorate. Surely, the interdisciplinary and collaborative organization of NEON does it’s fair part of balancing it out – but it’s quite something else to find yourself talking to industry experts, encompassing so many fields and business spheres, in the middle of all the changes happening in the renewable energy field.

“What struck me the most about the demo was the spontaneity that emerged from having so many people (motivated by Auke’s songwriting) in the same space. These moments of discovery and connection were a real highlight.”
Emil Beemer – Work Package 9

Besides the actual poster fair, both the walk-in lunch at the beginning & the loosely structured open space towards the end became a neat way to network, discuss and simply enjoy the company of such a smartly gathered group of people.

Once again I have to say: credit where credit’s due, much gratefulness goes to Helena for organizing such a varied assortment of delicious, sustainably-minded cuisine for the event catering!

Furthermore, much praise goes to Sophie for holding the responsibility in guiding the entirety of the group through the open space session, letting us experience the fine line between thematically organized talks and freestyle, fun discussions.

“When enthusiasm, appetite for work and solidarity come together in such an interdisciplinary environment, the common ambition feels closer than ever!”
Nikos– Work Package 2

All in all, this was an absolutely exhilarating experience that left a lasting impression on every single one of us. With much enthusiasm we look forward to our next demo, and hope to see you there again!

Written by

Amira– Work Package 3

PhD Posters

Open Space output

Agenda

12.30-13.30    Walk-in lunch

13.30-14.00    Welcome by Piet van Gool and Auke Hoekstra

14.00-15.30    Gamified poster fair by research team

15.30-16.30    Open space: collaboratively shape the research agenda

16.30-17.00    Musical wrap-up, looking ahead

17.00-18.00    Drinks & networking

Location

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