Meet the Gluon Researchers

In conversation with the revolutionary additions to the knowledge eco-system

As the first ever Gluon Researcher Johnathan Subendran fully embraced the pioneering position. He is involved in the Redesigning Deltas Project which works towards designing inclusive and sustainable urbanized deltas and the Dordrecht Project. 

Why did you apply for the gluon position?

As a trained architect and urbanist, I have been tasked to deal with complexity all throughout my academic and professional career. Designers use space as a way to integrate certain demands and questions, Gluons fulfill a similar role. Instead of being tasked with the design of an urban area that fulfills the needs of different inhabitants, I now explore methods and develop propositions that bring together different disciplinary perspectives. My background made me feel quite adequate to take on this experimental role. In a position like this there is a sense of ambiguity and mystery since it is so novel. Being an intellectually curious person, it felt like an exciting new way for me to explore my skills and apply my toolset differently. 


Could you explain your work as a Gluon Researcher?

The first thing we do is to generate and inventorize new ideas and perspectives. Secondly, we help digest those new ideas and perspectives. By hypothesizing new combinations, and new imaginaries through joining different perspectives and reflecting this back to a group filled with experts from different disciplines for validation. You can not only speed up the collective learning process but also create more synthesized products and integrated insights. I would say it’s a four-step process: generate, digest, and reflect. 

You could describe a Gluon as being an academic nomad

As a trailblazer, how would you say the Gluon role differs from more traditional academic research roles?

In a traditional role you are an expert in a specific field, as a gluon you are an expert in boundary spanning. However, the wider academic field does not yet recognize it as an expertise in itself. Being able to engage with different problems, domains and expertise and being capable of understanding them enough for integration is a specific skillset. For example, yesterday I was involved in discussions surrounding urban electricity systems. I must somewhat understand how the electricity system works to be able to comprehend what he was saying, even though I have no background in this field of work. It’s dynamic work, but it can be intellectually and emotionally challenging to not only get a seat at the table but also for your role to be recognized. 


What advice would you give to aspiring gluons who seek to make a similar impact?

What advice would I give to aspiring gluons? Making peace with not having to know everything about the process. Be open to experiment. It’s an adventure – you could describe it as being an academic nomad. You’ll need to set up camp in all these different terrains, and you are only there for a certain amount of time. It is essential that you get acquainted with your environment and surroundings, enough to understand the lay of the land. Over time you naturally develop a bit of a toolkit, you’ll become better at identifying the natural underlying systems and quicker in figuring out the methods that work. Being a trailblazer has its challenges, but it’s never not exciting.