Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Professor Ilja Arts shares a meal with independent sorority ExpresZo
“This is the most culinary thing I’ve made in three years”, announces Roos Klomberg, the host of this evening’s dinner. She casts a satisfied eye over the courgette and avocado soup, tagliatelle and salmon. “And right on time: seven pm, everything’s ready.” Eva van de Walle is already on the lookout in case they don’t hear the doorbell. But the ladies will have to wait; Professor Ilja Arts can’t find the house. “The street numbers here are very strange”, she sighs when she arrives ten minutes later. “You’d think number 29 is opposite 28, but it’s in another part of the street.”
The students are keen to hear what Arts does. It’s a mouthful: “I’m professor of molecular epidemiology of chronic diseases and scientific director of the new institute Maastricht Centre for Systems Biology (MaCSBio).” “Did you get all that?” Van de Walle asks the reporter, laughing. Arts goes on in lay terms: “We’re building a virtual human. It involves a lot of maths and biology. The idea is that just by pressing a button we’ll be able to see what impact a particular event has on the body.” “Can you then try out experimental medicines?” asks Amy Bouman. “That’s still in the distant future, but eventually, yes.” “Wow”, the students respond, impressed.
Arts has questions of her own. “I studied in Wageningen, so I know nothing about student life in Maastricht. What’s ExpresZo all about?” “We’re one of the few student associations that doesn’t have its own bar to drink at. The others all sign a contract that obliges them to spend a certain number of hours in that bar”, Klomberg explains. “We prefer to decide on any given evening where we feel like going.” Every ExpresZo evening starts with an activity, from kickboxing to meditation. “But we’re also happy to hang out at someone’s place, that way you can at least have a conversation and really get to know one another”, Evi Groenhuijzen adds.
Van de Walle clears the soup bowls; it’s time for the main course of pasta with salmon in a herb sauce. She squeezes between a chair and the cupboard. “Only just fits. I’d better not drink any more.” “Then what are you going to do tonight?” Klomberg asks. “Study”, Van de Walle replies innocently. The thirteen members of ExpresZo like to party; the new board was immediately christened the ‘champagne board’ after the official handover last week. “Most students go out on Wednesday and Thursday; for us every night is a night out”, Van de Walle laughs. Not long after, she invites Arts to ‘spin the wheel’ at the student bar De Uni. “If you land on red you have to pay for your drinks as usual, but if it’s green you pay only one euro”, she explains. Arts thanks her politely.
Over dessert – homemade brownie with vanilla ice cream – the students ask how one becomes a professor. Arts describes the trajectory from PhD candidate to postdoc, assistant professor and so on. “It’s not a normal job: you keep it for the rest of your life and you have a title.” Bouman, who studies at the Hotel School and has just returned from an internship in a London hotel, recalls how she accidentally registered one of the guests as ‘Mr’. “But he was a professor; he really wanted that to be known.” Arts laughs. “I don’t care about that at all. And at first it sounded really strange to me. I just do what I love doing most.”
Klomberg pours coffee from her Nespresso machine. She got it from a friend who was going to South America and had to leave his things behind, along with the jumper that has since become her favourite, a yoga ball and a guitar. “I’m thinking about selling it”, she says when Arts asks if she plays. “I wanted to see if I’d like it, but I never use it.” At this, Bouman says she might be interested. Van de Walle looks at her with surprise: “So you play guitar?” Groenhuijzen laughs. “And here we just were bragging about how well we know each other.”
“Are you planning on voting?” Van de Walle asks suddenly. She filled in the Stemwijzer earlier – an online guide that identifies the party most in line with your views – and reports, crestfallen: “50Plus came out on top.” Klomberg bursts out laughing. “You’re an old soul”, she teases. She and Groenhuijzen will definitely vote. Bouman hasn’t made up her mind yet. “I know nothing about politics. So should I just randomly do whatever the Stemwijzer says?” “It’s better than not voting”, Arts says. Klomberg agrees, recounting with passion a lecture by the lawyer Peter Plasman on his Non-Voters party. “All 150 seats were shared among the parties, even though a quarter of people don’t vote. So your vote could go to anyone, including Wilders.” “I didn’t know that”, Bouman says, somewhat indignantly. “They should teach you that in social studies!”
Ilja Arts * 46 * professor of epidemiology of chronic diseases * lives in Maastricht
Roos Klomberg * 20 * third year European Law * ExpresZo member
Eva van de Walle * 19 * second year Psychology * ExpresZo president
Evi Groenhuijzen * 18 * soon to start Biomedical Science * ExpresZo member
Amy Bouman * 20 * third year Hotel Management School Maastricht * ExpresZo treasurer
Score (maximum of five stars), given by Professor Arts:
Hospitality: 5 stars “Better than five stars actually.”
Food: 5 stars
Cleanliness: 4,5 star “The room was perfect, the loo less so.”