‘I want to foster collaboration between researchers across faculties’

Helping early career researchers connect and collaborate is one of the goals of Delft Young Academy, says Board member Angelo Accardo.

Angelo Accardo: “One of my personal dreams is to have Delft technology fellowships in the future for talented people with visual, hearing or motor disabilities to be really inclusive.” (Photo: Heather Montague)

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“I came to TU Delft in June 2019 to start my own group. It hasn’t been long, but it already feels like home. I found a very friendly and collaborative environment in the Department of Precision and Microsystems Engineering (PME) of the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime & Materials Engineering (3mE), where I work in the Micro and Nano Engineering section. What I do here is use light to shape matter. In other words, by exploiting laser-assisted additive manufacturing, I create 3D biomimetic polymeric structures where I then culture cells to mimic the features that we find in the tissues of our body. These engineered cell microenvironments are then employed for different kinds of applications from fundamental cell mechanobiology to in vitro disease modelling, in vitro treatment modelling and in the longer term, tissue engineering. It is my passion, and my work is a hobby for me so I feel very lucky.

The 3mE Faculty is really focussed on cohesion among early career tenure trackers. I took an active role when we started to build our local 3mE tenure track community, participating and co-organising tenure track getaway events as well as creating a booklet showing the profiles of all tenure trackers so that they can easily find each other and discover ways to collaborate. I am also a member of the organisation committee of another initiative, the Delft Bioengineering Institute. It’s a virtual institute and our aim is to bring together researchers from different faculties working on bio-oriented applications.

Then Delft Young Academy (DYA) popped up and it intrigued me immediately because I thought this would allow me to foster a collaborative spirit on a larger scale, across TU Delft faculties. I wanted in particular to bring some of the ideas I had in terms of collaboration between early career researchers across disciplines. That is one of the reasons I joined the Board of DYA. The presentation of the Board took place in March 2022. Since then, we elaborated our workplan and bylaws while our first operating activities began in September. The Board is composed of not only Faculty members but we also have postdocs. DYA is very inclusive compared to Young Academies at other Dutch universities, which are quite selective. It is open to any scientist who obtained his/her PhD less than 10 years ago.

‘We can say if something makes sense or not in our eyes’

We have several initiatives, one of which is creating platforms and opportunities for early career researchers to meet and collaborate. We also have topical lunches which are dedicated to a particular theme, which could be for example the tenure track experience, the pressure of academia or the journey between an academic career track and industry. Further, we promote postdoc career events where the idea is to showcase examples of people who left academia and went to industry or maybe the other way around, to share the dos and don’ts or unwritten rules that might be helpful to people early in their career.

Besides collaboration, one of the things we hope to develop is academic leadership and have a voice on important matters such as tenure track policies, which are currently evolving at TU Delft. We are in a position to interact directly with human resources, where we can give our inputs and collect the inputs from the community. We can say if something makes sense or not in our eyes. We try to make sure that everything is taken into consideration.

All of our Board members come from different faculties, which is good because each faculty has a different view on the matters under discussion. Then we have several sub groups dedicated to developing specific activities and themes of our workplan. Together with three other colleagues, I currently focus most of my activity within the DYA on collaboration aspects and social media communication. Also, close to my heart is diversity & inclusiveness. At TU Delft, we have the Delft Technology Fellowships for exceptionally talented female researchers. One of my personal dreams is to have something along the same lines in the future for people with visual, hearing or motor disabilities to be really inclusive. It will take time but this is one of the topics we are working on. We are also working on a large-scale event that will hopefully take place one to two years from now. The aim is to have all of the faculties get to know each other better in a one or two-day event. We hope to be able to share more specific details about this and other activities in 2023.”

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Heather Montague / Freelance writer

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