The rise of an international ‘beta-girl’

In Alumni
Wednesday, 24 October 2012 08:01
To say that Solmaz Karami is driven would be an understatement. Born and raised in Tehran, this Maastricht University (UM) Knowledge Engineering alum has gone further than she thought possible. “When I first came to the Netherlands I couldn’t speak Dutch. I didn’t even know what I wanted, but I just thought, ‘go for it’ and look where I am now!” she exclaims. Now working as a business intelligence specialist for Vodafone in Maastricht, this 28-year-old is exactly where she wants to be.

As a teenager, Marcia Luyten, economist and cultural historian, dreamt of leaving her birthplace Wijnandsrade for Amsterdam, that magical place where everything happens. After her studies at Maastricht University, she finally packed her bags and took off – perhaps for good. And yet she is back. Luyten is currently here doing research for her book The happiness of Limburg. And if that's not enough, she recently began presenting the influential political interview programme Buitenhof on Dutch national television.

“Maastricht has great extras”

In Alumni
Friday, 22 June 2012 12:39

After two bachelor’s degrees and two master’s degrees at Maastricht University (UM), Bert Fastré spent a year working as a student recruitment offi cer for the Maastricht Education and Research Centre (MERC) in Bangalore. This spring he returned to South Limburg in the hopes of launching his career in the legal or business sectors.

“No, I’m not one of those eternal students. Six years was long enough.” The 25-year-old from Tongeren, Belgium, certainly has a sense of humour. Or is that just typical Belgian modesty? In any event, this UM alumnus flew through the European Studies, Law, European Law School and Corporate Law programmes in record time – a remarkable achievement. After his studies he was given the chance to work at MERC in Bangalore, India. “It was a great opportunity, especially since I wanted to spend a year abroad anyway and might not have had the chance later on. And I don’t regret a second of it, but I do want to take the next step towards a real job. Which is easier said than done. There aren’t all that many good jobs on offer in the legal sector.”

Louis Delahaije went from being an athlete who did some research to a researcher of athletes. He studied Human Movement Science – a ‘messy’ discipline where he could experiment to his heart’s content – coached the national triathlon team, and is now a trainer-coach for the Rabobank cycling team. “I never thought I’d work at such a high level.”

“Deep down I’m a scientist”

In Alumni
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 09:16

No. There is no river of Smarties flowing through the Nestlé building in Switzerland, as the son of Jeroen Schmitt once thought. But there are plenty of other good reasons why, seven years ago, this alum decided to move his family from Maastricht to work for the huge multinational. “Looking back, PBL really laid the foundations for my position here.”

'The IMF is Valhalla for policy economists'

In Alumni
Thursday, 09 February 2012 09:13

Just over two years ago, Ester Barendregt moved to the United States with her husband and two children. Destination: Washington, where she had been seconded by the Dutch Ministry of Finance to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In these times of financial crisis, it is the place to be for policy economists. “This job has given me real insight into what it takes to run an economy.”

From Maastricht to Milan

In Alumni
Tuesday, 10 January 2012 09:00

It may seem like a big step from Maastricht University’s (UM) School of Business and Economics to the Instituto Marangoni in Milan, Italy’s famous fashion and design school. But for the now 29-year-old Alexia van Engelen, it was the only logical path to take. And as the latest Amsterdam International Fashion Week has shown, she made the right choice. With models parading down an underwater catwalk, Van Engelen’s designer label Sage and Ivy proved to be one of the event’s most striking runway shows. Not bad for a brand that was launched just 18 months ago. 

“It was a way to present my source of inspiration to the audience”, Van Engelen says of the idea behind the show. “All the pieces in the collection are based on water – that is, on the effects water can have when it reflects a print, for instance, or turns colour pigments into gradients. 

Alum Niko Kriegeskorte (PhD, 2004) leads a research group on visual object recognition at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge. Recently, this same unit welcomed alum Marieke Mur (PhD, 2011), who was awarded the prestigious Rubicon grant to continue her research outside the Netherlands.  

When you see a cat, you see a cat, not a dog. And when you see the face of an acquaintance, you recognise who it is among the thousands of faces you know – despite considerable variation in view, lighting, facial expression, hairstyle and context. Object recognition feels effortless and natural. But how do our brains accomplish it? Kriegeskorte and Mur investigate the brain processes that underlie the recognition of visual objects: cars, houses, chairs, animals and faces. “We know quite a bit about these processes in the brain,” explains Mur, “but there’s a lot more to find out. For example, what happens when you focus your attention on a certain object feature, like its colour.

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