I am a catalyst. That appears to be my inescapable role in life. The more I ran away from it, the more I was faced with it, often at great personal cost.
So now I often deliberately push. And sometimes I nudge. You could say that I am like water, sometimes gentle and unobtrusive, sometimes loud and forceful.
Consider the following.
The greatest benefits do not come from people who agree with everything that you say and do. Surrounding yourself with clones hampers your growth and potential.
The way our brains work, though, someone who challenges someone else’s firm beliefs will often be experienced as unpleasant and possibly even threatening, however. Certainly initially. Ask Oxford neuroscientist Kathleen Taylor.
My main background is in the earth and life sciences. I’m a geologist and marine biogeochemist, to be precise. For those of the locals who still believe that I am making up my professional background, here are a few links to publications that have my name in it:
This photo shows me shortly before I moved to England. I am standing on a river vessel near Arnhem in the Netherlands, holding a glass of wine during a social get-together with a group of people from Arcadis.
I am not into consumerism. I am not into status symbols and appearances. I am a feminist, by which I mean that I don’t see women as flawed human beings.
What I also often am is a bridge-builder, a mediator, for example, between groups of people who have trouble understanding each other, such as scientists and non-scientists.
And I love learning. Without continuous learning, life would become pretty boring, wouldn’t it?
Before you discard me as a bookish desk jockey type, well, not only are geologists and marine scientists rarely bookish types because they carry out geological fieldwork in remote locations, spend long months at sea and go to places like Antarctica and Greenland, I actually used to work in tourism and hospitality in Amsterdam before I became a scientist.
Picture a scene like Victoria station at rush hour and me working in the middle of it, interacting with people from all over the world, ranging from Wallace Arnold tour bus travellers, famous jazz musicians and writers and singers (folks like Chet Baker, Dola de Jong, Juliette Gréco, the Dave Brubeck quartet), Russian chess champions (I managed to get a poster signed by Max Euwe), international basketball teams, Italian tour bus travellers, often grumpy people whose flights were delayed and who were all given rooms by the airline, film-related folks (I can confirm that Sean Connery was a really tall guy), airline crews, lots of random people from countries like Japan, Israel, Argentina, the US, the UK and what have you who were just as important as the famous people and the various people working for all sorts of large firms that had their offices nearby (such as the computer firms Burroughs, IBM and Tektronix but also British American Tobacco). Or picture the tourist office at Amsterdam Central Station. And did you know that I was part of the organisation specifically set up for the broadcasting of the UEFA EURO 2000 championships? We initially were based at the stadium but relocated to the RAI before the start of the matches.
Okay, now you know that I cannot possibly be as “stuffy” and “impractical” as perhaps you had unconsciously assumed. Still not convinced? I was the eldest of three, my mother developed breast cancer when she was around 30 (misdiagnosed), passed away at age 42 after it had metastasised beyond rescue, and my dad had a severe borderline personality disorder (a diagnosis that did not exist yet in those days). I learned to be very practical from a young age. My two siblings also run their own businesses; they both help people create warm welcoming homes, each in their own way.
I quit my job in my mid-twenties to enrol as a full-time student in earth sciences and turned myself into a geologist and marine biogeochemist. I am now based in England, within London’s commuter catchment.
I have also lived in the US and I clicked wonderfully well with the American spirit as well as with Florida’s climate. I had anticipated the opposite, so that was a very pleasant surprise.
Living in Florida got me into hands-on bird rehab. To grow roots in the local community, I called around for suitable volunteering opportunities and Lee Fox’s facility was the first that called me back. Lee Fox was (and still is) well respected and cooperated with for example NOAA. She was later also involved in the Prestige oil spill cleanup in Europe. Even my avian vet in Andover had heard of her, to my surprise. (I adopted two non-releasable quaker parrots in 1994.)
How I got to this point after first working in tourism and hospitality in Amsterdam? (Tourist Office, followed by what was then a Crest Hotel – owned by the Bass group – and later became a Holiday Inn.)
When I realised that working at a hotel was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I had myself tested extensively over the course of a few days to see if I had any weaknesses in order to help me choose a career. (I selected an agency, called them, told them what I wanted and asked them how much it would cost to have them assess me.) They also determined my IQ (133) and my interests. I can basically do just about anything, and would do very well in the legal realm, which I had been told before. I was also tagged “not the social worker type”, with which I agreed. (This likely has improved somewhat since then, but I am still not exactly the social worker type.)
That agency suggested environmental science at Wageningen University for me. Instead, I picked a similarly highly multidisciplinary related field that reconnected me with an old hobby (collecting rocks, so that’s mostly geology, crystallography, petrology and mineralogy). I applied, enrolled in the earth sciences program in Amsterdam, quit my job in tourism & hospitality and ended up spending a large portion of my life aiming to turn myself into a full professor with my own cutting edge research group. Marine biogeochemistry. Planet and environment stuff, in other words. Earth and life sciences. I find that kind of thing highly enjoyable.
I became self-employed in 1997.
Below are a few selected bits and pieces (with a few LINKS IN RED CAPS) about me. They turn grey when you’ve visited the site.
Amazon and Barnes & Noble
- Member April 2003 – end 2008
- 2020/2021: Various NAM/APHA webinars that count as CE, including topics like health disparities, all related to Covid-19.
- 2020/2021: Various webinars (STAT, Petrie-Flom Center, Digital Digest, My Life My Say, Food Foundation etc) about topics such as also the food situation in the UK, disabilities and health disparities, also often related to Covid-19 at the moment
Geochemical Society (US-based)
- Newsletter editor Dec 1998 – Feb 2010
Law (English): HarvardX Law School (EDX), pro se/LIP (UK) etc
- From Trust to Promise to Contract 2015 – HLS2x (Charles Fried) (introduction to contract law, 89%)
- Bioethics: The Law, Medicine, and Ethics of Reproductive Technologies and Genetics – HLS4X (I. Glenn Cohen)
This course started out with only about 200 students – one of which was me – and now there are over 85,000 which I consider a very good sign.
- I’ve dabbled in a few other EDX courses, but the only other one that I also really dove into was “Humanitarian Response to Conflict and Disaster – HarvardX – PH558x”.
NIMF Foundation (Network for women in science and technology)
- Board member and member of many committees; co-organiser of two symposiums; panel member for a later symposium – 1988 -2004
- Board member Environmental Chemistry (and Toxicology) Section Mar 2001 – Sep 2004
- Advanced Learners Course 2010-2011 (Take Part)
- Member Portsmouth Environmental Forum Mar 2009 – Aug 2010 (dismantled)
- Member Toastmasters of The Hague Apr 2003 – Jul 2004
- Bioethics – the ethics of everyday life (also available on Thinkific)
- Entry qualification: Atheneum-B with great distinction (1978)
- MSc with distinction (earth science, 1993)
- Additional diploma for research in chemical oceanography (1993)
- Two certificates for evening courses at the Netherlands School for Journalism (1993)
- Followed by four years of PhD research (marine biogeochemistry) for universities in the US (USF) and the UK (Plymouth/Southampton)
- Self-employed since October 1997 combined with continuing education (courses and workshops)
Various other organisations besides KNCV (#12421) such as Dutch KNGMG, American Society for Microbiology (#55207518), GAIA, women on the web (Nl) and American Geophysical Union
- Former member for 10 to 20 years; I eventually let go of my science-related memberships after I moved to the UK
I also was a member of the Solent NHS Trust for a while, but I never attended any meetings and never really got to find out what it was all about.
I spent a huge chunk of my life as an adult in the city of Amsterdam. Before that I lived in the city of Leiden for a while, where I studied “German language and literature” at Leiden University for one semester. I was an ace at languages, but my heart was with the sciences.
They say that one image speaks louder than a thousand words so let’s toss in some photos.
This image exemplifies far too much of life in England, where I’ve been since the end of 2004. Bullying, hacking etc of random strangers is completely accepted, misogyny is rampant, the law is often seen as something that only fools abide by, child sex abuse is quite common too and many people here consider cruelty cool, the government often setting the tone. Where does that come from? And is it really all as black and white as it seems? I wanted to know and explored it in one of the books that I wrote.
Nope, I never wanted kids. And I never wanted to be an obedient doormat. Deal with it. 🙂 I saw at a young age that women who went their own way led far more interesting lives than most other women around me. It dawned on me pretty early that not taking the well-trodden paths can be challenging but also immensely more rewarding and exciting.
Also, before anyone in England starts yelling the usual stuff about class privilege and entitlement, I am going to have to stop you right there. Only England has that class thing. My parents had little more than a primary school education and I’ve had to figure things out on my own. In my highly egalitarian country, a large proportion of the population is well-educated. Relative to the English, Dutch people live in prosperity. The massive deep poverty and excessive inequality of the UK does not occur in my home country. Low pay is mostly an English thing.
Want an example of the latter? A Dutch friend and colleague of mine in Plymouth once calculated that, in England, she had to work 60 hours per week to make what she would make in the Netherlands in 25 hours per week. Ah, the crazy things we foreigners do for love.
Though I often fail miserably and am in no way perfect, it is my overall aim to improve harmony, health, mindfulness, well-being and inclusivity.
This includes promoting awareness that greater socioeconomic equality benefits all segments of society and that discrimination is not a matter of hate and not mostly limited to factors like skin tone, nationality and gender. Many other elements, such as income, age and hair colour, can trigger it too. But we all have much more in common than separates us…
Before I had learned how to start a car, I took a flying lesson in this type of aircraft. It took me hours to get to this particular airfield, but it was worth it. I would have loved to get my flying license, but I realised that the logistics were against me. I subscribed to aviation magazines and looked into getting into a professional flying program but in my home country, my less-than-20/20 vision prevented that. I eventually let go of the idea of becoming a pilot.
As I explained above, I later decided to start indulging in the earth sciences. The step is not as huge as it may seem to some. Flying too requires some science knowledge and geological fieldwork is a great deal of fun, in spite of the many frustrations it can also bring.
The earth sciences contain all the sciences, require you to travel and speak several languages, and involve computers, desk research, lab work as well as field work. It hardly gets any more multidisciplinary than that. Multidisciplinarity used to be frowned upon, but that changed big time later. My Albarracín fieldwork report contained a section on the redox chemistry of iron.
I ended up in marine (biogeo) chemistry – yep, the metals; mostly the rare earths – because I hung around after a lecture on chemical oceanography one afternoon. I had skipped that morning because I was not feeling well. Decided to attend the afternoon, and after that class, I was invited along on a tour of the clean labs. “We are looking for someone who can continue this work.”
All over the world, people were losing their homes at the time because of the subprime mortgage crisis in banking.
I, however, became the target of, well, let’s call it extensive bullying of all kinds. Often sadistic. It didn’t stop after I lost my home. It got worse. (My flat gets burgled frequently, and sometimes vandalised, to mention a few examples.)
The phenomenon is known as sadistic stalking in the classification of forensic psychologist Lorraine Sheridan. Not exactly a laughing matter, but this is why I became an inclusivity and diversity maven. I started reading up on personality disorders, among other things. I had to!
That said, I also live in a very insular island community with a peculiar culture. It is known for these characteristics within the UK; it was mentioned in a TV documentary but I was unaware of this when I decided to relocate to here. The atmosphere here can be hostile.
Earlier I was attacked in England once, within what you can probably also see as a community bullying context. Because why on earth would anyone attack me and strangers around me be okay with that? See this post.
Yes, there are undoubtedly many people here who consider me a lying thieving, low-skilled cheap labour migrant who is addicted to drugs and deals drugs, too. After all, that is what the UK’s top politicians keep telling them that EU citizens are. Oh well. That means it’s good that I’m a catalyst. Without continuous learning, life would become so boring, wouldn’t it? And I keep learning because I could never in a million years have anticipated what awaited me in England. Among other things that opened my eyes to the facts that I have had one good friend, for decades, who has a narcissistic personality disorder (with insight) and another friend, also for decades, who I have gotten very impatient with a few times in the past, but who turns out to be autistic. That knowledge , which suddenly explained so much.