University lecturer Sjoukje Osinga is going to be writing about education, information technology and anything else that catches her interest in Wageningen university life.
Osinga is an assistant professor in the Information Technology group at the Leeuwenborch. ‘So we’re in with the social sciences. A bit of an odd position for IT, but in Wageningen you belong to either the plant, animal, food, environmental or social sciences. Actually, IT is part and parcel of all of them, of course.’
After studying Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science in Groningen and Leuven, Osinga came to Wageningen in 1991. ‘I hadn’t even graduated yet but I could already start work here as an assistant professor. Those were very different times. There was no tenure track yet and hardly anyone in the group had a PhD, partly because IT was still a relatively new field at that time.’ But Osinga did gain a PhD in 2015 with a thesis on agent-based modelling, which is the modelling of decision-making behaviour and the knowledge people use for it. She used examples from the pork supply chain in China, which she studied while living there for six months in 2006, with her husband and three small children.
In recent years, Osinga has been involved in research in the field of big data. ‘Mainly on what is needed to bring problems and solutions closer together. All sorts of things are happening in technology; you can do more and more with big data and data science. But there is still a big gap between what is possible in theory and how useful the actual applications are for those who stand to benefit from them and want to work with them.’
A teacher at heart
‘When I started in Wageningen, I totally threw myself into teaching,’ says Osinga. ‘Working with students is great fun. I have started doing more research and publishing in the last few years, and I get a kick out of that. But I am a teacher at heart.
Osinga grew up in Friesland. ‘I have a Frisian name and a Frisian husband. We have lived in Wageningen for 30 years, but at home we speak Frisian. Our children grew up here, but they are fluent in Frisian too.’
In her spare time, Osinga sings in the Wageningen chamber choir Musica Vocale. She also writes regularly. ‘But never for the media. I do write a lot of short pieces, for personal purposes or for the choir.’
She already has quite an array of ideas for her Resource columns. ‘I can think of plenty of things to write about, especially in relation to education. And for example about the relationship between the university and the city: now that the aula has moved to Omnia, WUR is increasingly disappearing from the Wageningen townscape. The campus is beautiful, but isn’t it too much of a closed-off cocoon?’