Favourite Thing: The best part of my job is that I get to play with children all day!
I went to school in the Netherlands, in a small place called Alkmaar (can you pronounce it??)
I studied Psychology at the University of Groningen (also in the Netherlands).
As a student I worked at restaurants, but I also was a part time actress in improvisation theatre (a special form of acting where you don’t know what you are going to play beforehand).
Stirling University, Scotland. (Stirling ia a small city in between Glasgow and Edinburgh).
I am a PhD student, which means that in three years time I will become a Doctor!
Me and my work
I look at how good kids are at pretending and if more creative kids are better at pretending than less creative kids.
Before you start wondering why I have such a funny last name, that is because I am originally from the Netherlands (the country of tulips and wooden shoes). I moved to Scotland two years ago, and started as a scientist a couple of months ago.
I am a Psychologist, which means I look at people and how they behave. When I was still studying at university I loved everything about people, but the older I got the more I liked working with children. They are very honest in what they tell you, and working with them always makes me very happy.
The research I am doing is a three-year project, in which I will look at young children pretending. As you might have seen in younger siblings, children start pretending to have tea parties or dress up as a superhero when they are still quite young (scientists now think that children start pretending for the first time when they are around two years old). I am curious if children who are more creative will also be better at pretending.
I will be working on this project for the next three years, but since I’ve only just started I am still trying to figure out how I could measure which children are more creative than the other. Because no one has looked at creativity in children this young, I had to become creative myself and built my own test that could help me.
My Typical Day
On a typical day I go to nurseries and play games with the children to see how creative they are, and in the afternoon I watch the videos I’ve made and count all the different things they have shown me.
One of the greatest thing I have done so far in my job is that I have built my own test to measure creativity. This test looks like a colourful box with a lot of very exciting things attached to it, like strings and blocks. When I go to work in the morning I take this box with me to the nursery and give it to a child to play with. They also get some weird toys to play with (some of them are actually pet toys, but don’t tell anyone 😉 ).
When nursery is over and the kids go home, I take all my toys with me again and go to the office, where I can look back on video what the kids have done. I count how many different things they have done with both the box and the toys. A child who has done more different things would be more creative than a child who has done less. For example, some kids just use the toys to bang on the box, but others pretend that toys are actual people and play around with the box like it’s a dollhouse!
What I'd do with the money
I would like to use the money to encourage creativity and drama classes (especially improvisation) in schools.
In the past I have done a special type of acting, called improvisational theatre. It is a great way of acting, because you don’t know what you are going to play beforehand (it’s a bit like the tv show “who’s line is this anyway?”). This encourages people not to be afraid of new things and respond to whatever happens. If I win the price, I would love to give some workshops at schools in this type of acting, together with talking to radio stations and news papers about how important pretending and being creative is.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Creative, practical, happy!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I don’t really have a favourite band, but I did love KT Tunstall in concert last February!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Last year I went Scuba Diving in Sri Lanka! I thought that was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, swimming around with all the fishes like you’re in another world. :)
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I would spend more time singing and acting. Also, I would love to teach drama at school. And I would love to go on holiday more often (if I would have the time and money)
What did you want to be after you left school?
I always wanted to be an actress.
Were you ever in trouble in at school?
Not really. Of course I was making jokes and small pranks, but I was actually quite scared of our janitor who would set you down in his office when you had done something bad. :-S
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
I am quite good in math (specifically statistics which is a special type of math we use a lot in science), and I’ve helped a lot of people explain math to them and what the results they found actually mean in practice.
Tell us a joke.
Why don’t aliens eat clowns? Because they taste funny.