PE&RC in the Spotlight

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Every month we put a PE&RC member in the spotlight. This month we are getting to know Naomi Zweerus. 

I am Naomi and one of the PhD Programme coordinators at PE&RC. Some of you might know me from their intake meeting or the PE&RC weekends, but I am also working behind the scenes to help the PE&RC office to run smoothly or organize events related to the Netherlands Ecological Research Network (NERN). I work part-time for PE&RC because I pursue a PhD at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED, University of Amsterdam). My PhD project let me combine my passion for lab experiments and the fascination for insects: I study sexual communication and mate choice in moths to ultimately draw conclusion about the evolution of sexual signals 

What do you currently do to de-stress?
I go for (long) walks. I live close to Flevopark, which is my favourite park in Amsterdam and always nice for a stroll.

What are you binging on Netflix?/ What is a good book you've read recently?
The 5 seasons of “Peaky Bliders” definitely did not last long… My most recent discovery is Sneaky Pete (on Amazon Prime). I would love to read more and the book “How to change your mind” has been on my bedside table for months. It is a fascinating story about the history of psychedelic drugs

If you could be any plant what would you be, and why?
I love plants in general and always try to have them around me. Fortunately, I share my office at NIOO with people who also love them so we our office is a mini greenhouse. I’d say that during my stay here, orchids rule my life. I own 10 Phalaenopsis and other plants as well! Why…well these orchids make their living out of few nutrients and in the end, they have alluring flowers. So as orchids, I wish that the outcome of my actions in life came from the combination of simple things…

If you could be any plant what would you be, and why?
Probably a sunflower because it always faces the sunny side.

What have you been cooking lately?
Pumpkin soup is my all-time favourite for the cold winter months! I like to spice it up with fresh ginger and curry madras powder.

What should all 1st year PhD candidates know?
To all second/third year PhDs: realize that feeling lost or doubting your abilities can be part of the PhD process. When I was at this stage, I came across the following blog post about “the Valley of Shit” (https://thesiswhisperer.com/2012/05/08/the-valley-of-shit/) and re-read it several times since. Even though YOU have to walk the walk, do not isolate yourself! Share your feelings and concerns with colleagues, friends, and supervisors. I bet you will see how understanding people are. And one way to overcome this uncomfortable feeling is to work on believing in yourself!

What is something you wish people talked about more?
I think we should talk more openly about mental illnesses to get rid of their stigma. It is often a fear of the unknown that fosters prejudice. Talking more about mental illnesses could help to take away this fear and to realize that suffering from mental health problems is equally justified than having a physical problem. It is nothing to be ashamed about.