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Building connections

As the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, we too are shaping, as our rector Peter-Paul Verbeek beautifully put it in his Dies speech (January 2023), an 'in-between space'. In this space, we build connections between disciplines, faculties, society, teachers and students to acquire new insights together and then give them an appropriate place within the education of the UvA. Below is a concrete review of our activities in 2022, including news on how we implemented our Strategic Plan, the new programme in 'Science Technology & Innovation', and a new publication!

Lucy Wenting, general director of the IIS
Luca Bertolini, scientific director of the IIS

Dare to dream big

"Our project was about changing the elderly care system, so that the elderly get the care they deserve. I learned to 'dream big' about the possibilities of changing small things in the world we live in to make it a better place!" - Franziska (participant of 'The Next Great/Small Transformation' in 2022)
Read more about the course

Breaking new ground in 'Science, Technology & Innovation' degree programme

The IIS was closely involved in developing the new, Dutch-spoken, interdisciplinary Bachelor's programme with a technical nature at the UvA (starting in September 2023). For instance, the IIS provided a project leader and deployed a learning trajectory tool to define the learning objectives per theme with the curriculum committee, even before the start of the programme. The IIS also advised on the accreditation process and was involved in developing Design Thinking methods for technical education.

In this programme, students can invent and manufacture solutions to current societal and technological challenges in the so-called UvA Makerspace. This technical workspace, designed specifically for this degree programme, already opened its doors in September 2022 for the affiliated minor 'Science, Technology & Innovation: Biomimicry'. Students have been able to successfully utilize the UvA Makerspace, which offers plenty of room for experimentation, and have completed their first projects by now. The programme is currently still in the accreditation procedure of the NVAO.

"The most pressing societal challenges, such as those related to climate, food, conflict, polarisation and analysis of complex systems, deserve a central place in education. Time and again, the IIS proves to be the right place to keep the university's societal agenda up-to-date. By continuously developing education that connects to current, cross-curricular issues we face as a society, the IIS offers students and teachers the opportunity to develop high-quality, relevant education."

Huub Dijstelbloem Director of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), Professor of Philosophy of Science, Technology and Politics, University of Amsterdam.


News from the degree programmes
  • Bèta-gamma: interactive sound artwork on gender bias

    In early 2022, the interactive sound artwork 'The Noise Gap' was exhibited at the Science Park Campus. An initiative by lecturer Mieke de Roo and four students from the Bèta-gamma programme: Cile van Marken, Annabel Zwarts, Hilal Demirel, and Simone Flipse. With this interactive artwork, the group aims to raise awareness about gender bias among all students and employees of the university and to initiate dialogue.

  • Future Planet Studies: 'Back to the Foodure'

    Future Planet Studies students were challenged in the 'Reflexive Design Project' course to come up with a sustainable solution to one of the pressing food issues we face: from better soil management to a fairer distribution of yields in the food chain, from the development of food forests to a plea for a vegan lifestyle. Each project team designed an intervention aimed at improving in the existing situation.

  • Forensic Science: guest lecture by Knoops' lawyers

    Frontiers of Forensic Science (FFS) is a unique lecture series in the Netherlands, initiated by the Co van Ledden Hulsebosch Centre (CLHC) and the Master's programme in Forensic Science. Several times a year, all students of the programme and other interested parties come together to examine a particular theme. In June, the theme was "Death in Paradise: How to solve a forensic mystery?" with a number of special guest speakers: Carry Knoops (Knoops' Advocaten, Knoops' Innocence Project), Gerard de Haas (Former Attorney-General of the Public Prosecution Office of the Netherlands), Jan Rooijakker (former Dutch Police Commissioner for the Caribbean) and Geert-Jan Knoops (Knoops' Advocaten, Knoops' Innocence Project, University of Amsterdam).

  • Brain and Cognitive Sciences: Dragon's Den

    The 2022 edition of 'Special Topic in Cognitive Science' (STiCS), a first-year course of the Research Master Brain and Cognitive Sciences (MBCS), was successfully concluded with the so-called Dragon's Den. In a five-minute pitch, students presented their interdisciplinary interventions for 'wicked problems' related to neuroscience.

Collaboration with the Teaching & Learning Centre

"The thematic education innovation grants from the IIS and TLC give education pioneers room to add more creativity, focus and quality to their educational practice. It was exciting to be involved in setting up the Fair, Resilient and Inclusive Societies (FRIS) grant and to expand the community further now. The FRIS learning community forms a diverse, interdisciplinary, and enthusiastic group of colleagues, and it is a privilege and inspiration to guide them in it."

Mieke Lopes Cardozo Senior Lecturer in Education and Inclusive Development, University of Amsterdam

Anniversary of 'Placemaking'

For five years, students have been contributing to a sustainable relationship between the University of Amsterdam and the city with the educational initiative 'Placemaking'. Over three hundred students have already participated in the course, spread across three UvA locations (Science Park, Roeterseiland Campus, and Universiteitskwartier). Participants learn about and contribute to the place where they study.

Highlights of the IIS elective courses and honours modules
  • Podcast series 'World Building for Storytellers & Changemakers'

    In the Netherlands, we have no tradition of fantasy stories, although we can learn a lot from escaping to and thinking about fantasy worlds. Indeed, fantasy could well be the key to a better society and the flexible policymakers who have to make it. That is why the IIS launched the honours module 'World Building for Storytellers & Changemakers', with lectures through the accompanying public podcast series 'Fantasy Worlds', in Dutch: 'Fantasiewerelden'.

  • 'National Park Amsterdam'

    In the IIS honours module 'National Park Amsterdam: the ecology of the city', students delved into the theory and practice of urban nature. As a final project, the students wrote a - green - future vision for the city of Amsterdam in 2037. They presented their booklet to Ton Denters, ecological strategist at the Municipality of Amsterdam, at a very apt location: Anna's Tuin & Ruigte, located on the Science Park campus. A good example of how nature can be interwoven in an urban environment.

  • Scavenger hunt, audio tour or musical rap at 'Urban Transformation, Gentrification & Inequality'

    A course with the aim of better understanding the urban, social transformation of the past (decades) in Amsterdam. Why and how did this happen? How can social changes in a neighbourhood also lead to more inequality in various forms?

  • Equality in education

    Equal opportunities in education is a topic that was clearly portrayed by the documentary series 'Klassen', created by the broadcasting company HUMAN and shown on Dutch television in late 2020 and early 2021. The praised series followed several eighth-graders just before their final advice for a high school in Amsterdam. The documentary series revealed interpersonal differences and approaches. Sociologist Thijs Bol has been researching inequality for years and, in this second semester, he teaches the new IIS elective course ‘Klassen’ - which translates to ‘Classes’ in English - about equal opportunities in education, which looks at this subject from different perspectives and deals with the causes. The central question is: what can be done to reduce inequality of opportunity? Thijs Bol talks about the set-up of the course and what he wants to teach the students.

  • Translating science to a wider audience

    Academic writing is part of almost every university degree programme and most students soon master its art. But can a wider audience understand these scientific articles? Do students know how to inform others about their field of study in a fun and understandable way, without using terminology or complex language? In the IIS honours module 'Uit de ivoren toren!' - which translates to 'Out of the ivory tower!' in English - , students of the UvA, AUC and VU learn to recognise the news value of scientific research and 'translate' the research for a wider audience. In this way, they can contribute to both the scientific and the social debate.

  • Students in search of happiness

    How do we see ourselves? How can we grow as human beings? How do we use science and technology to answer these ancient questions? Over time, our answers to these questions change and our perspectives shift. Max van der Linden, a cognitive neuroscientist and science sociologist, developed the interdisciplinary elective course 'The Eternal Pursuit of Happiness' for the IIS in 2019, which highlights the dynamics between the human perspective, science, technology and society.

  • 'Digital Warfare'

    In November 2020, Thijs Rebel and Matthijs de Gooijer won the UvA Create a Course Challenge with their idea for an interdisciplinary course on digital warfare, now and in the future. In February 2022, 'Digital Warfare: The Future of Cyberthreats in the Twenty-first Century' was launched with Prof. Paul Ducheine, with whom the students have further developed the course together with the educational developers of the IIS, as the core lecturer. A course in which students learn to give context to everything that is occurring in the digital world, such as the hacking of encrypted networks by the police, Brexit, the manipulation of the American elections, the sabotage of the uranium enrichment plant in Iran and the current war in Ukraine.

  • Podcast series 'The Next Big Thing'

    Take a remote seat in the lecture hall of the IIS elective 'The Next Big Thing'. An interdisciplinary series in which prominent scientists give a glimpse of the future of science. Because we want to share this knowledge, a podcast episode has been made of each lecture. All episodes can be found on Spotify.

'Food Forestry' winner of 2022

Master students Wytze Walstra and Sacha Brons won the UvA Create a Course Challenge with their idea for the course 'Food Forestry: Experiencing the Future of Nature and Agriculture'. This coming year, they will work with the IIS to further develop the course, which focuses on food forests.