Convergence in practice: teachers learn from students

Multidisciplinary collaboration in convergence, how does that actually work? For Clinical Technology and Nanobiology students, it is daily practice. Dr Timon Idema is organizing a conference together with colleagues at Erasmus MC and Erasmus University Rotterdam to share the students’ experiences with lecturers and researchers.

At TU Delft there are engineers, at Erasmus MC doctors and at Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) lawyers and economists. “That’s the classic picture,” says Dr. Timon Idema, associate professor and program director of the master’s in Nanobiology at TU Delft. “Convergence aims to bring those separate worlds closer together.” But how do you do that in practice? Together with Dr. Nitika Taneja (Erasmus MC) and Dr. Tim de Mey (EUR), Idema developed the idea for a special conference. In 2021 they received an Open Mind Grant for it.

The idea is “flipping the teachers,” as Idema calls it. “Young people teach teachers what works and what can be improved. The Nanobiology and Clinical Technology training programs are pioneers in convergence. The students there can tell us where exactly the added value is of combining different disciplines. What things really come together? Where does the whole become more than the sum of its parts? We can learn from the students where there is more room for convergence, and where there are problems we can solve.”

“We want to bring people together literally, physically that is,” says Idema. “We do that in such a way that they actually start talking to each other. Students present projects like at a ‘normal’ conference. There are panels with students and speed dates between students and teachers from different programs.” The conference also provides a follow-up, inviting staff to visit the group of someone they met at short notice. “It would be nice for people to hear from each other about what drives them and what’s going on,” he says. This is certainly not about improving the existing training programs, Idema emphasizes. “That’s perfectly possible within the courses themselves, which are running well. What matters to us is the longer-term strategy. Where can we add things within education that are not yet there?”

The conference will take place on June 13 at a location to be announced. More information about the conference can be found on the website of Idema’s group at TU Delft.

Timon Idema
TU Delft