Meet the professor - An Interview with Vincent Kreuzen June 25th, 2017
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
You know a lot of Dutch people get annoyed by foreigners when they refer to The Netherlands as Holland, but I am actually never bothered by it, because I am actually from Holland. I did my Bachelor and my Master in Computer Sciences in Utrecht. After that I applied for a PhD position in Maastricht, because there was none available in Utrecht. Luckily, I got accepted. I already started teaching as a student assistant in Utrecht and continued during my PhD here in Maastricht. I always really enjoyed it, so after my PhD I started working as a full-time lecturer. This is now my second year. Last September I also took on an half-time position at the Zuyd Hogeschool, University of Applied Science, in ICT, which is taking me back to my roots in Computer Science. Next September, I will leave Maastricht University and take on a job in Den Bosch.
Did you ever consider working in the private sector?
Yes I considered it, especially because I studied Computer Sciences and everybody knows that you can make a shit-ton of money with that, but after my Masters I was not sure what to do yet. I started university when I was 16 years old, so I was also relatively young when I graduated, so I thought: let’s first do a PhD first and then figure out what I want to do.
How does it come that you started university at the age of 16?
I started university at the age of 16, because I started high school when I was 10 years old. I skipped 2 years in elementary school, as I was already fluent in English at the age of 6. When I started teaching as a student assistance, I never told my students my actual age, because some of them were older than me.
What do you enjoy about teaching?
There are two things you can enjoy about your job. It’s either feedback and appreciation or money. I don’t care too much about money as long it’s sufficient. Appreciation in research is only happening after you publish something, but the journey till you publish something is a long one. Whereas with teaching you notice that people learn something new during every single tutorial which is a great form of appreciation. You are actually doing something that matters. This sounds super cliché, but you are able to educate a generation to do awesome things.
You told us that you were in the board of your study association in Utrecht? Which position did you take on?
Yes, I was the Commissioner Internal Affairs and Vice - Commissioner External Affairs. Therefore, I was supervising every single committee in the study association and as Vice – External I also went to companies to arrange the funding. Before my time as a boardie, I was active in many committees. I think study associations are an important aspect of your student life. That is why every time SCOPE | Vectum asks me for help, I am really happy to contribute.
Which skills that you learned during your board year, do you still benefit from?
First of all you need to realize that especially as a Computer Scientist every single company wants to work with you as soon as you have accomplished a board year. You learn so many important skills during your board year, for example problem solving skills. Before my board year I always let others solve my problem, but during your board year you need to learn how to face these problems yourself.
What do you enjoy about supervising a thesis?
The nice thing is to see a student grow. Usually when the students start they do not completely know what they have to do and then they start narrowing down their area, slowly finding their way, and at some point they hit the “AHHAAA I finally understand my thesis, yeyyy” – moment and I love that moment and then I am happy, because they are happy.
What are your hobbies?
I have two major hobbies. First, I like writing stories in science fiction and fantasy. Usually I only write in Dutch, but there is one story that I am currently writing in English. My fiancé is an artist and she is really into Batman. So I told her that I would write a Batman story for her and she started to make a comic out of it. For that we might have an offer to publish it, but it is not even close to being done. Second, I also develop board games. I made quite some already, but I really want to publish one of them. I am a mediocre drawer, but I have some designs in my head that I want to use for the game, but drawing them myself takes ages. So if you know a really good artist, let me know and refer them to me.
What about your fiancé, can she not help you with the drawings?
She is actually really busy at the moment. She also writes. That’s actually how we met.
That was actually one of our question: whether you met your fiancé while doing your hobby.
Yes, we met through one of those online forums where you can write yourself but can also evaluate other people’s writing.
What did you want to become when you were younger?
At a very early stage I wanted to become a Cowboy or an astronaut like every young guy. But later on I quickly figured out that I wanted to do something academically, simply because I was relatively smart in every subject besides languages.
The professors here in the KE – department seem to match a profile. No one enjoys languages and everyone met their significant other while doing their hobby.
Well, I know something the other professor definitely do not have. I have three ducks at the moment. My fiancé works at the animal shelter once or twice a week. Shortly before King’s Day they took on 8 undernourished, little ducklings and my fiancé asked me to take care of them on King’s Day. Unfortunately, 5 of them did not make it, but 3 survived and you know, no one really wants to have ducks, so we took them home and trained them. They can now eat from my hand.
My first pet in Maastricht was a big spider that lived outside my window, so I called the spider Toby (from Spiderman). One day, I heard a noise and when I turned around, I saw a bird flying away with my Toby in its mouth. That is how I lost my first friend in Maastricht.
Finally, do you have any advice for our fellow students?
Please realize that no matter how you look at it, you have so much more free time as a student than when you start working. Use that extra time. Do a board year. Travel. Enjoy.
Next time you can do that you will be 70 years old.
Thank you for taking the time!