Meet the Professor - An Interview with Hans de Graaff April 7th, 2017

Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Hans de Graaff and I am a teacher in mathematics for the Econometrics students, but also for the EBE, IB students and the Master students who are doing their track in Supply Chain Management. I studied technical mathematics in Eindhoven. After graduating there, I did not consider doing a PhD nor working in the private sector, because I wanted to teach. Although, I initially did not start studying with the idea of becoming a teacher, I really enjoyed the little bit of teaching I did during the end of my studies, so that is how I decided to become a teacher. After graduation and after a few years of teaching in Eindhoven end Tilburg, I started working at Maastricht University, so I have been teaching here for almost 30 years. I was here before the Econometrics program had even been set up and SBE was just running for 3 years, without the “B”.

What was your most rewarding moment as a teacher? And what do you like the most about your job?

I won the Best Graduate Teacher Award in 2012, that was a really special moment for me. I am always happy if I can motivate the students to work on difficult topics. The first-year students have to get used to courses like Analysis and Linear Algebra, but if we succeed in that I am always really satisfied. If later on I see second and third-year students walking around SBE, truly enjoy being and studying here, I always think: yes, it was useful that I have taught them the first-year math courses. 

Did you do some research in the past?

Yes, I did some research in the past, mainly on Game Theory and Dynamic Modelling, for example differential equations. It is interesting, but I could not only focus on that. I enjoy teaching more. Additionally, I am only working part time (3 days per week). That is not enough time for being a good researcher. 

Have you seen any changes in the E&OR program over the years?

We switched from having books in Analysis and Linear Algebra to using the lecture notes from Matthijs Jansen to make it a little easier for the students. At the beginning of every year, we as colleagues always say: “this is a particular bad year”, but that is of course not true, it is just a feeling. For us it is getting easier and easier each year, but the new incoming students struggle a lot. Though, at the end of the year you are left with a really good and hard-working group. But then after summer, we start again with a beginners group, so naturally the level drops. 

Where do you see the E&OR in 10 years?

I did not see many changes in the past 20 years, so I hardly doubt that there are going to be big changes in the next years. Of course, over the past five years the number of students increased. Before that we had 40 students at the beginning of each year, now we start with 80. But I don’t think that the student population will increase much more, because it is such a unique study. 

Did you ever consider studying something different than technical mathematics when you were younger?

Yes, I did. I considered Biology or Architecture or even Music.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Mainly sports and music.  I row. I was a rower when I was a student, but then I stopped for a very long time. But my daughter started rowing when she was 12, so I decided to pick up on it again. That was 20 years ago. I also row on competitive level. I am a cyclist, too. Once I travelled to the south of Italy by bike. Additionally, I am also playing the accordion and the piano. I like all kinds of music. Myself I am mostly playing Folk Music. But I also like listening to pop music, for example Stevie Wonder I enjoy a lot. 

Did you ever do music together with people from the KE-department?

Actually yes, we used to be a band. 10 years ago. We were 6 in total from which you might know: Christian Kerckhoffs, he was playing the piano, Rudolf Müller, he was playing the trumpet and Andreas Perea, he was playing the Bügel. 

Where are you from originally?

I live in Eindhoven for already 40 years and before that I lived in Veldhoven. My parents come from the northern part of the Netherlands.

Do you remember what you were like as a student?

I was the lazy kind, but luckily I was smart enough to still manage it. Though, I must admit I was not really good at languages. 

By now, we actually see a lot of similarities with Mathijs Jansen (Interview PerVectum 2016/2017 issue 1). He also told us that he was not very good at languages during school and he also started to dance again with his wife, after his daughter joined a dancing school. 

He told you that he met his wife in his first dancing school, right? Funny thing, I actually met my wife in the rowing club. 

Do have a favourite place for food here in Maastricht?

I sometimes grab lunch with my colleagues at the Tapijn Kazerne. Last weekend I also went with my wife to a really nice lunch restaurant in Capucijnenstraat called Marres. 

Do you have any advice for our fellow students?

It is good for every student to find an activity next to his or her studies. I know that the schedule especially with the Bachelor/Master system is quite tight, but I think that social activities next to your studies are at least as important, for example join a student or study association. 

Thank you very much for taking the time!