This is Bas Van Heur, professor and specialist in urban studies. Do you also want a job where you can make a difference?










On how job freedom goes hand-in-hand with taking responsibility.

Pieter-Jan, you’re teaching at the same time as writing a dissertation: how do you combine that?

“I distribute my activities throughout the year. I arranged it so that I taught 20 hours a week in the first semester, which then allows me to focus completely on my research in the second semester.”

Isn't it lonely working on a dissertation?

“I share an office with five or six colleagues, so I'm never alone. We have different backgrounds and are often critical of each other's work, but we have a lot of fun too. On some days, too much of it, even: then there's more joking around than work going on, and we have to catch up on another day. Fortunately, that's perfectly possible.”

How do you plan your work days at the VUB?

“We actually have a lot of freedom in how we organise our day. I happen to be a morning person so I usually start early. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I go to the campus gym in the morning as well. It's a chance to clear your head and then walk to work through the green campus: it's a great feeling. Other colleagues are more productive in the evening or have to take a family into account. They organise their day differently. That's the advantage of working with flexible hours: you don't have to squeeze into the constraints of a schedule imposed by someone else.”

Are there disadvantages to that freedom?

“It does take a bit of self-discipline. You’re personally responsible for the work that you deliver, but you still have to ensure that your promoter remains satisfied and that your work is completed on time. It’s the only way to make progress. Since there are always lots of fun events going on here, it can be difficult to keep the focus on my research.”

Do you already have an idea of what you want to do after your PhD?

“I’ll finish my doctorate in 2020. Where I want to go next, I don't know yet. I realise that not all doctoral students have the chance to advance within the university world. That's why I'm also considering other possibilities. My experience as a researcher and teaching assistant at the VUB is certainly a major asset there.”

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