Dean Hassoldt: ‘TPM is much more technical than people think’

The TPM Faculty is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Dean Aukje Hassoldt believes her Faculty should be more self-confident. “We are a bit too shy.”

“Worldwide we have a frontrunner’s position” (Photo: Sam Rentmeester)

TPM works on ‘big social problems’. What contributions has it made?

“We do indeed work on topics such as the energy transition, climate adaptation, digitalisation, security, liveability and healthcare. One example is Michel van Eeten, who works on cyber security. He combines technical and managerial aspects by using honeypots, a kind of internet bait, to provoke cyber attacks. He sees that attackers are not evenly distributed among providers. He contacts the providers where most of the attacks come from, the regulators from the Telecom Agency, and the Ministry of Justice and Security. They need this kind of knowledge to keep control in that world. This clearly shows a good combination of understanding what is happening technically while also understanding how to deal with it administratively.”

The development of technology and its associated problems is moving incredibly fast. How does TPM keep up?

“We are at the heart of these developments and are part of it. We collaborate with departments, across departments in the Faculty, with other faculties, and with external parties in areas such as systems, governance and ethics. It’s nice when you can find a match, each from their own domain. If you want to work well on climate action, the energy transition or healthcare, you need knowledge of those fields. We get that knowledge externally. That’s why we work together.”

What kind of people work and study here at TPM?

“The typical TPM employee has a diverse background. This is often a mix of science education and social science or humanities. These combinations are very useful. For example, Neelke Doorn, our Director of Education, has a background in civil engineering as well as philosophy and law. Many people have also combined their IT background with social sciences. One of our talents, Katerina Stankova, a mathematician and game theorist, put it very nicely the other day: ‘TPM employs people for whom the technical aspect and the social aspect are equally important’.”

TPM’s student numbers are growing steadily, and graduates are doing well in the market. What could be improved?

“I have been here for three years now and have strived to make it clear what we do and who we are. It is a misconception that the TPM Faculty would just be stuck onto TU Delft as an social sciences, humanities and economics Faculty. We are much more technical than that. What makes us special is that we understand socio-technical systems because of our combined backgrounds. We can design concrete solutions that impact society and do justice to its complexity. Our staff consists of more than 300 full-time jobs and over 200 PhD students. Globally, these numbers are unique. Many technical universities have a similar group, but it usually does not exceed 15 to 20 people. We need to become more conscious of this frontrunner position. We should be more self-confident because we are still a bit too shy.”

The number of TBM students is growing steadily

Data from Data Insights team TU Delft. (Image: Marjolein van der Veldt)

Diverse parade of deans

Aukje Hassoldt is the tenth dean in the 30 year history of the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management (TPM). It was not always easy to find a suitable candidate. The longest-serving dean was also one of the founders: information scientist Henk Sol. His name appears twice in the list of TPM deans for a total of nine years. Hugo Priemus, founder of the OTB research institute, was Dean for five years. Theo Toonen did six years. Many others lasted only one to two years.

Why is it so difficult to appoint a full-time dean at TPM, Delta asked in 2016. Haiko van der Voort, chair of TPM’s Works Council, explained. “It is a special faculty. We are looking for someone who has affinity with the social sciences and with engineering. This dual profile simply means that there are fewer potential candidates.”

  • 1992 – 1998 Henk Sol
  • 1998 – 2000 Peter Idenburg
  • 2000 – 2003 Henk Sol
  • 2003 – 2008 Hugo Priemus
  • 2008 – 2014 Theo Toonen
  • 2014 – 2016 Jeroen van den Hoven
  • 2016 – 2017 Theun Baller (in addition to 3mE)
  • 2017 – 2018 Hans Wamelink
  • 2018 – 2019 Eric Fischer
  • 2019 – now Aukje Hassoldt

Also read: TPM (30) put an end to ‘narrow-minded’ engineers

Science editor Jos Wassink

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