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Harold Linnartz new Programme Director of Leiden Observatory

A logical next step and a new challenge: Harold Linnartz is ready for his new position as Programme Director (PD) of the Leiden Observatory. He will follow up current PD Paul van der Werf on 1 October. 'The programme has grown tremendously. That will be a logistics tour de force.'

Research and education

Linnartz is head of the Sackler Laboratory for Astrophysics and leads a research group that focuses on simulating chemical processes in space. As a researcher, he teaches students and supervises the bachelor research projects at the Leiden Observatory. 'Research-oriented teaching forms the base of our education,' says Linnartz. 'From day one of their bachelor's, students are involved in the research front and our research groups. I can use my own research experience to ensure that we train our students to become independent researchers.'

In addition to research experience, Linnartz also has experience as study advisor and chairman of the education committee. ‘In both positions, you see a lot; you learn about the concerns of the students and get a good overview of what is going on in the field of education.’ And that is important, because the PD must guarantee good education. ‘That's easier said than done. There are many and very different aspects to the organization of good education. Luckily, under the guidance of my predecessor, Paul van der Werf, a well-functioning Education Office Astronomy was created. This office takes a lot of these aspects under its wing; from PR and outreach to daily coordination and student counseling.'

Harold Linnartz

Challenging step

Linnartz sees his new position as a logical next step in his career. 'A step that puts me in a position to contribute to education and therefore to research at the Leiden Observatory. I also see it as a challenge: Life starts where your comfort zone ends.’ The biggest challenge arises from the strong growth that the program has experienced in recent years: from 40 first-year students in 2005 to 150 this academic year. 'That will be a logistical tour de force', predicts Linnartz. He also wants to focus on the communication between the study programme and the students and he looks forward to the arrival of SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research in South Holland. 'This will offer unique opportunities for astronomical education.'

But we are not there yet; ‘October 1, a.s, I take over the baton from Paul van der Werf. Our thanks to him for all his dedication; the astronomy programme has benefited greatly from his OD-ship.'

Busy but satisfied

Van der Werf looks back on a busy period with satisfaction. 'Being PD is putting a lot of pressure on your time. But what inspires me is the large number of people within the entire university that have the same goal: to provide the best possible education. I always want to spend time on that.’ He is most proud of the conversion of the study Astronomy into a versatile programme, with more choices in both the bachelor's and the master's programmes. 'The programme is no longer solely focused on an academic follow-up program. It is now an all-round education, with great career opportunities in society.’ Van der Werf is also pleased that the support of the programme has been professionalized: ‘ By the formation of an Education Office Astronomy, with on every seat the ideal person , all super motivated!'

Paul van der Werf

A final advice for his new successor? 'The most important thing is that a student must be permanently happy to have chosen the study. How you accomplish that is something every person must make his own choices in. I have always listened carefully to the people around me (especially the Education Office), but I always made my own choices. I think that's a good way to do it.’

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