Coordinator Lily Gustini of the science talent program: 'I'm always amazed by what students come up with'

If you are a student starting your 2nd year in September 2024 and you are interested in the field of analytical chemistry, then the Analytical Science Talent Program might be just the thing for you. Coordinator Liliana Gustini and education director Peter Schoenmakers look forward to welcoming another group of motivated students.

“Usually when people think of chemists, they think of scientists who create a substance who experiment by putting different things together. Then, there is also the field of analytical chemistry. Those are the chemists that measure. If you see articles about levels of PFAS in the ground, or about athletes being tested for doping, that means that analytical chemists are at work.”

Nationwide program

With clear passion in his eyes, Peter Schoenmakers speaks of the field that he has been working in for decades. After gaining elaborate experience both in academia and in the industry, the Professor in Analytical Chemistry cofounded the national public-private organization for analytical chemistry COAST. As education director he helped set up the Analytical Science Talent Program (ASTP), at that time a joint initiative with SABC. “Meanwhile, we’ve grown to a nationwide program. Students from all around The Netherlands can join.”

Students who are accepted in ASTP join a prestigious 3-year extracurricular program. In it they gain in-depth knowledge of all kinds of analytical science topics, in monthly courses given by renowned experts. Perhaps more importantly, they become part of an elaborate network full of interesting companies, research facilities, (applied) universities and other organizations related to analytical chemistry.

If you’re a student at the School of Applied Biosciences & Chemistry and wondering whether you may benefit from joining the ASTP, just get in touch with Liliana Gustini and you’ll surely be convinced. Besides developing new study tracks at the HAN, Gustini has been coordinator of the ASTP for two years now. “I feel very lucky that I can play a role in HAN’s ambition to provide lifelong learning, by bridging gaps between the industry and education”, she says. “It’s an honour to work with Peter, and to continue my predecessors’ work at COAST.”

Motivation needed

Liliana: “The ASTP is an extracurricular program for students in The Netherlands who want to deepen their knowledge and skills in the field of analytical chemistry. Everyone who has finished their first year, is welcome to apply. Though you do need to have proper motivation, because it’s quite an investment. Every month, you’ll follow a full-day course on a Saturday, in Nijmegen, Utrecht, Amsterdam or elsewhere. Additionally, each year there’s also a summer school in Nijmegen.”

Peter: “You don’t necessarily need to be a student who only gets 9’s, but you do require certain skills and motivation. Also it’s good to know that analytical chemistry doesn’t need to be your main interest. Within ASTP the life science and chemistry communities come together, which leads to fruitful collaboration. More and more students realize that focusing on life sciences or organic chemistry together with analytical chemistry can be a really valuable combination.”

Training in soft skills

Lily: “This program doesn’t just offer a deepening of students’ knowledge in analytical chemistry, but also a lot of training in soft skills. You’re working in interdisciplinary teams, are challenged to be creative, to present yourself. I love it when I see groups of ten people with different backgrounds, who find a way to work together. It can feel kind of messy at first, but I’m always wonderfully surprised by the outcome.”

Peter: “Most importantly, we are a network. We get students in touch with companies and experts of the most relevant fields. Whether it’s about water management, food safety, plastics, you name it. We find the experts that know an awful lot about a specific topic and get them to spend a full day with our students.

Lily: “Besides the course days, we have two large network events in May and November where students and companies can meet each other. It’s a great way for our students to find a good internship. Normally you have to search for companies yourself, but here there is an array of interesting places presented to you. And the companies are of course happy to get in touch with our talented students.”

If you are interested to read about the program, click here. If you want to apply, you can fill in the application form

Scientists and company experts are welcome to join the ASTP community as well. Interested parties can check out our professional memberships here.

Photo David van Haren