Associate professor Daphne Stam stepped down over ‘macho culture’ at Aerospace Engineering

Associate professor Daphne Stam has left TU Delft. She says she was not taken seriously in the “paternalistic atmosphere” at her Faculty of Aeropace Engineering.

The Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. (Photo: Lucas van Leeuwen)

Daphne Stam, renowned planetary scientist, resigned at the end of January and left at the end of April, after three months’ notice, she told Delta. De Volkskrant  newspaper (in Dutch) reported that news on Tuesday. The straw for Stam was a new chair in her field for which she was advised not to apply, after which she was also passed over for the application committee.

But the problems have been around for much longer. “It is the end of a very big story in which my expertise in a particular subject was never recognised. Decisions affecting me were taken without consulting me.”

De Volkskrant writes about ‘a pattern’ at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering (AE). The newspaper says to have had access to a 2021 report by law firm Van Overbeek de Meyer that had not previously come out. According to de Volkskrant, the report spoke of the lack of ‘a healthy way of addressing and taking decisive action’, which ‘more than once’ would have led to ‘feelings of social insecurity’. According to the newspaper, the investigation report was prompted by an internal employee monitor that reported gossiping, bullying and harassment.

Stam did research on the composition of the atmosphere of planets at the Faculty of AE . She is considered a authority for planetary research and exoplanets (outside our solar system). Just a year ago, she explained on Dutch Radio-1 the importance of the new James Webb space telescope for the discovery of planets outside our solar system and their atmospheres.

Two years after joining TU Delft in 2013, she published for the first time on planets and life outside our solar system – a subject she was able to make her own thanks to an NWO Veni grant in 2002 and a Vidi grant four years later. Since then, she has written dozens of publications on that topic.

According to the spokesperson, the Faculty is “sincerely very sorry how things turned out in the department”. She says she cannot say anything about “personal reasons of staff members to quit”. “She has experienced it here in a certain way. That’s up to her.”

With the cooperation of Jos Wassink

Science editor Kim Bakker

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