Beyond the scientist: Sander Alken

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Sander Alken, PhD candidate and educationalist at the department of surgery.

Where and when were you born?

I was born in Geleen, a medium sized town in the deep south of the Netherlands. It’s about 100 kilometers from Nijmegen.

Where do you live and with whom?

Now I live in Nijmegen. I’m sharing an apartment with two good friends. It is big enough and we get along with each other very well.

Who was your role model when you were a kid?

When I was a really young kid I definitely wanted to be like Seabert, the puppy seal which always came to the rescue when people, and especially animals, were in danger. When I got older I switched to Indiana Jones. I really love history, nature and adventure, and for me Indiana Jones brought it all together.

Why aren’t you doing the same thing now as your role model (or do you?)

When I got older reality kicked in. I think I just became more realistic. I also discovered other interests and passions. After graduating from high school I went on to become a primary school teacher. Now I’m working as an educationalist at the department of surgery, doing a PhD on effective coaching in the operating room.

What is the thing in your (work or other) history that you are most proud of?

I’m most proud of surviving three days in the woods in New Zealand. Although I brought my food with me, I was entirely on my own, took care of everything and slept at amazingly beautiful and remote places. I returned totally relaxed!

What is it that you would like to achieve in work in the next 5 to 10 years?

After my PhD I want to focus on teaching again. I was a teacher and still I teach every now and then. I simply love the idea that you can contribute to someone’s development and future. 

For what can we wake you up?

The only good reason I can think of is for catching an airplane to a far and exotic country. Just in case you might have the intention to come and wake me up, here some good suggestions: a multiple day hike in Patagonia with a tent, scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia or gorilla watching in Uganda.

What is your hobby and how good are you at it?

I had and still have a lot of hobbies. I enjoy a lot of things and like variety in my life. Right now I’m really into squash, indoor football, riding through the woods on my mountain bike and bouldering. Last summer I learned to wakeboard and I’m determined to improve my skills as soon as the weather improves. The downside is that I never got really good at one of them.

What is your biggest irritation?

I really can’t stand injustice. The only problem is that sometimes something can really feel like injustice to me while in fact it isn’t.  

Who would you like to invite for dinner, if you had the chance?

Definitely Tom Waes, a Belgian tv show host. He is always looking for challenges. He really did cool things, like climbing a 1000 meters high monolith in Yosemite National Park while he only had practiced rock climbing for a month. He also build his own airplane and submarine without any decent preparation. I love such an attitude. If you don’t know him, just google him. You won’t regret.

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