Paulien Herder


Paulien Herder


I am Professor of Engineering Systems Design in Energy & Industry at TPM. I am primarily engaged with the design of large-scale complex systems in which both the technology and the institutional embedding play a role. Furthermore I am head of the department ESS, chairman of the Delft Energy Initiative en member of the TopTeam Energy.

Tell us about your personal life
“I am married and the mother of three children (born 2005, 2007 and 2009). Although I was born in Delft, I grew up in the beautiful surroundings of Twente and Salland. I came back to Delft when I was eighteen and for several years now we have had the pleasure of living in Delfgauw. This is a neighbourhood with a lot of children and plenty of playmates in the street, like when I was little.”

What is your favourite hobby?
“I like volleyball, reading, puzzles and gaming. I play volleyball weekly in a recreational team in the recreational League. I always like to play, although honesty compels me to say that at the moment, with a young family, I seldom have the chance to spend much time on my ‘own’ hobbies.”

What was the highlight of your career?
“It is perhaps an obvious one, but my appointment as a professor certainly belongs on the list of ‘highlights’. There are other moments I will always remember, such as when we were awarded certain big subsidies or commissions. When I look back I see that many of the beautiful moments arise in teams that stimulate and strengthen each other.“

What is your greatest challenge at the moment?
“I foresee a significant international role for TPM in the field of problem solving and design on the interface of complex systems engineering and the social sciences. To my way of thinking, TPM’s power lies in actually integrating these perspectives without losing sight of the practical applicability. Currently  I am working hard on carrying out internationally the concept of comprehensive engineering in the systems engineering community. The challenge is to correct especially those social and normative disciplines in this community.”

What do you enjoy most about your work?
“Working in an academic environment means that you are almost always working on new things, that you can elaborate on great new ideas and that you have the freedom to work together with people from all over the world on things that you find inspiring or exciting. I enjoy the little things in an environment like this: a successful article, inspiring lectures and discussions, wonderful graduation projects and interaction with students during lectures and projects.”

Why Delft?
“This is the type of research that interests me. I feel that Delft is the best place to be for the design of complex systems and infrastructures if you take both the technical and social complexity seriously, as my TPM colleagues do. And they speak the same language and are very passionate. I also have to admit that I have simply become very attached to the faculty and the city of Delft in the last 15 years.”

Your best characteristic?
“I hear from the people around me that I am efficient and result driven. I enjoy multitasking or keeping several balls in the air at the same time. I am only able to do so because of a flexible home front and I consider myself fortunate in that I have a family that accepts my irregular working hours and the pressures involved.”

Your worst characteristic?
Every good characteristic has a flipside... I can be very impatient.”

What subject do you think should be high on the political agenda?
Two things really: education and energy. If the Netherlands wants to continue in the ‘premier league’ of science, we will have to keep paying serious money and attention to education. That applies across the board, from primary to academic education. Now that my oldest son goes to primary school, I keep seeing the impact of our education policy on the early school years and the education of young people. I am not only worried about the much-criticised and often-changing jungle of regulations but also about the lack of diversity amongst teachers.
I mention energy because the Netherlands has to have the nerve to make choices with regard to its sustainable energy policy. The country is not known for its tenacity regarding policy, and, apart from other things, this uncertainty in the market means that investment in sustainable energy is even riskier than it would be otherwise. In my capacity as board member of the Delft Energy Initiative, I am trying to utilise the power TU Delft has in the field of energy research, which covers the entire spectrum from fundamental to policy research, to help remove the uncertainties and increase the sustainability of our society.

Your source of inspiration?
There is no single person or source that inspires me. I draw inspiration from cooperation and surprising new views, beautiful stories and enthusiastic researchers. If I had to name a particularly striking source of inspiration, I would say my sabbaticals at Carnegie Mellon University and at MIT. A change of environment, new researchers and a different academic culture are all very inspiring!

Your life philosophy?
Perhaps I have slightly Calvinistic tendencies, but I will not pretend that that is also my life philosophy. I am probably too pragmatic for that.

Name author: webredactie
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