Harald van Mil
In Harald van Mil’s classes, the students aren’t the only ones gaining new understanding. ‘What motivates me to teach is the prospect of learning and discovering alongside my students,’ says Van Mil. ‘By discerning how to represent the course material in different ways and by finding good answers to “stupid” questions, I gain new insights in and deeper understanding of some fundamental principle.’ Another teaching motivation for Van Mil is the contact with students in general, ‘with all their talents, motivations, inspirations and their fresh look at scientific and social themes’.
‘A lecturer should stimulate the students and encourage them to fully understand the subject matter, rather than merely reproduce the material taught.’
Van Mil makes sure that the students are also motivated. ‘In an academic setting, the lecturer should stimulate the students and encourage them to fully understand the subject matter, rather than merely reproduce the material taught.’ His students confirm this: ‘Although the subject is often extremely difficult, his overwhelming enthusiasm sparks the fascination of the students.’ That Van Mil is engaged as a teacher also becomes apparent from another student’s remark: ‘Students who are at their wit’s end can visit him year-round for statistical advice.’
Finally, innovation is not new to Van Mil. He is involved in setting up an interdisciplinary platform, called INSPIRE, that allows teams of master’s students to work on research-based thesis projects. Team members include Leiden institutes, other institutes in the Netherlands, and organisations from abroad. ‘If I were awarded the prize money, I plan to extend the infrastructure that would facilitate the cooperation between the groups involved, thereby increasing internationalisation.’