‘A safe environment doesn’t mean avoiding discussion’

Being an engineer is about more than just studying, says Leon Heuts, the new head of Studium Generale.

Leon Heuts: “Technology changes the way we look at each other and at the world. At TU Delft, you’re definitely in the right place for examining that.” (Photo: Heather Montague)

“Before coming to TU Delft, I was working at NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam as editor-in-chief of NEMO Kennislink as it’s called in Dutch. It’s a platform for science journalism which is independent but connected to NEMO. Before that I was editor-in-chief of Filosofie Magazine, a Dutch magazine that is for a broad audience about philosophy, about the existential things of life, politics, ethics, etc. I studied and trained as both a journalist and a philosopher.

I started as the new head of Studium Generale (SG) at TU Delft at the beginning of September, so I’m still learning about the people and the organisation. There are a lot of reasons why I was interested in this role, one of which is that I’m very intrigued by technology and how technology works. There is a philosophy of technology field, which is about the interaction between humans and technology, but it also explores the relationship between technology, humans and nature. I always found that very interesting, because technology at this point is interwoven with everyday life in a very intimate way. Technology changes the way we look at each other and at the world. I can say that at TU Delft, you’re definitely in the right place for examining that.

‘We’re living in a very tense or dangerous time, a time full of transition’

I think SG is very interesting because it is connected to the university but is also kind of like a reflection of the university. What I have already discovered in the last month is that the campus is really a microcosm of all kinds of cultures and backgrounds and, with it, all kinds of ethical and political questions. We’re living in a very tense or dangerous time, a time full of transition in all kinds of fields. That means politically and ethically but also involving new technologies, and so we have to recalibrate who we are. The university is at the centre of this recalibration with so many people collaborating here together and because of the technology which is researched and developed here.

I hope to find a place for SG to be a mirror for this campus where people can reflect in a safe environment. But safe doesn’t mean avoiding discussion; it’s actually the other way around. There is room for discussion, room to speak up, room to speak with each other, to make it a little uncomfortable, and that’s ok.

One of our regular events is the Philosophical Café (in Dutch) which is organised every month or so in the Theater de Veste in the centre of Delft. The theme for the next event is about nature and our relationship with nature. I think that’s a very important topic for engineers, finding out what that relationship is. Because we are also in a transition with this, we realise that we’re not here to own nature or to do something with it, rather we are part of nature, interconnected. It’s a very relevant theme right now.

I invite everyone to come to SG events because being an engineer is more than just studying. It’s about development as a person and as a civilian.”

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Heather Montague / Freelance writer

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