Science slam bij de USVA

Thinkers writing poetry

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Thinkers writing poetry

Science slam at USVA

01-1 intro

So, you are doing exciting, groundbreaking research. Into spintronics, for example, or depression. And this research touches upon some things that a scientific article cannot do justice.

During the second edition of Science Slam, an event organised by the USVA cultural centre and Studium Generale, ten PhD students and ten poets worked together to capture this. In two hours, they wrote a poem together, which they then performed to a full USVA theatre. Nadine Kuipers, who studies mediaeval agricultural texts, and defending champion Richard Nobbe won the contest.

The UK selected three PhD students, three poets, and three of their poems to show this collaboration.

By Lucia Grijpink and Freek Schueler / Photos by Reyer Boxem / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen
02-1

Mallikarjuna Gurram (28) + Olaf Meems (32)

Physicist & poet

02-2

Rhythmic electron spins

There they are. Two twenty-eight-year-old men who couldn’t be more different from each other. Mallikarjuna (Mallik) Gurram, a short man originally from India, is a physicist, and knows everything there is to know about quantum mechanics. He is joined by Olaf Meems, language lover, whose large bearing and bent back make him look somewhat like the Big Friendly Giant.

They found a little spot in the back of the USVA building to spend an afternoon immersed in each other’s worlds. They are surrounded by old posters and make-up mirrors, and fluorescent lighting flickers overhead. They speak English.

‘I think it’s a good idea if you tell me about your research first’, says Olaf. It’s on. For an hour, Mallik enthusiastically talks about his research, touching upon data bytes, silicone transistors, and electron spins. He talks about the special characteristics of graphene, the material he works with. He talks about how minuscule the objects he studies are.

Olaf listens patiently, occasionally writing some things down. Using little doodles, he tries to understand the difficult material. He usually works using only his own emotions, behind a computer. Now, he has to give physics a voice. He describes the process of composing a poem: phrases and sentences form in his head, words that sound good together or ‘make rhythmic sense’.

Spin transport electronics, or spintronics for short, is a relatively new area concerned with electrons’ special characteristics: their spin. Thanks to the developments in this area, the chips in our mobile phones will not only last longer, but they will also become faster and smaller. Mallik’s specific research is too complicated to explain in a poem. ‘I want the audience to understand what the field of spintronics means’, Mallik says.

Mallik: ‘I thought explaining my research would be the hardest part, but writing a poem is really difficult, too.’

The deadline is approaching fast, and they haven’t even thought about their presentation, nor have they practised their recital. During dinner, they put the final touches on the final poem. They are getting nervous, but it has been an educational, fun day. Regardless of whether they’ll win.

podium 02

A spin on a flatlad (Spintronics)

The poem by Mallikarjuna and Olaf

gedicht03

A spin on a flatlad (Spintronics)

Back in the stone age
—–Computers were BIIIIG
The data small,
the phones lodged on the wall

—–It took some time to
—–SHRINK the phones
down to the size you’re using now

A billion-dollar industry
—–built on the back
—–of silicon
advanced until
a billion bits
—–filled a chip
—–until no more
—–could fit

The two-fold problem
science faced was ones of
size and speed
—–The faster moving electrons
—–producing too much heat

To solve them both we need new tech
and move past silic-on
—–A spin instead of charge
—–to cool the growing heat
1-atom-layer “pencil stripe”
on which electrons ‘spin’;
—–—–are able to move faster,
—–—–and live a little longer

Within just fifty years
we moved from bulk
—–to bits with brains

Imagine how the world will spin
—–this new tech just beyond the door
Imagine all the gains
—–given fifty more…

3-1

Lian Beijers & Laura Dijkstra

Depression researcher + poet

3-2

Poetry as conversation

Sitting behind a glass sliding door, the two women get to know each other. Lian talks about her research into the biological causes of depression. ‘In cellular biology, students are told that depression is caused by a lack of a substance called serotonin. This problem can be solved by giving the patients antidepressants that fix this: SSRI. But this is just one of the many potential explanations for depression, and SSRIs don’t always work.

After Lian is finished, it’s Laura’s turn. ‘What would you like to know about me?’

‘I actually know quite a lot’, Lian grins. ‘I Facebook-stalked you.’

Lian received treatment for her depression for seven years. She is finished now, but is still confronted with it on a daily basis: simple things such as eating, drinking enough fluids, and keeping up with her friends are things she needs to consciously regulate. ‘The research isn’t all that confrontational to me, because it’s a constant in my life anyway.’

Laura nods, understanding. The pairing is not an accident. Laura herself is manic-depressive, and suffers from depressive episodes. ‘One time I was on seven different medications. I couldn’t even get out of bed. At times like that, it’s difficult to stand up for yourself.’

They come up with the idea to write from the point of view of a depressed person at the end of their rope. To try and show the multitude of medications people sometimes get, they decide to include a long list in the poem. Paroxetine, sertraline, fluoxetine, duloxetine, venlafaxine, and fluvoxamine. ‘I need to practise those’, says Laura.

They finish the poem. It is a conversation, written in symmetry. ‘Most of the words are yours, but the structure is mine’, Lian says proudly. ‘I am the order in your chaos.’

Laura is satisfied. ‘It’s a very intelligent poem. I don’t consider myself all that intelligent. I never got any high grades in biology class.’

podium03

Zijwieltjes

The poems of Lian and Laura

gedicht04

Zijwieltjes

Ik heb alles geprobeerd
Elke pil die ze me gaven

Paroxetine
Sertraline
Fluoxetine
Duloxetine
Venlafaxine
Fluvoxamine

Voor elke gedachte een andere pil

Elk tablet in vol ornaat
Bedoeld om mij compleet te maken
Er is iets mis met mij

Mijn lichaam en ik corresponderen niet
Ik ben een verdwaalde noodzaak

Ik verdien dit niet
Ik kán dit niet

Laura Dijkstra

Er is iets mis met jou
Het zit tussen je oren

Serotonine
Dopamine
Hemoglobine
Cytokine
Corticosteroïde
Hypofyse

Het zou van alles kunnen zijn

Een molecuul, niet aangemaakt
Een verbinding onderbroken
Er is iets mis met jou

Ooit gaan we de oorzaak vinden
Niemand kan voor eeuwig blijven vallen

Soms heb je zijwieltjes nodig
Om vooruit te komen

Lian Beijers

4-1

Ole Gmelin + Sacha Landkroon

Psychologist & poet

4-2

The psychologist’s office

‘In my research, I put people together and have them talk about love, sex, and relationships’, Ole says. These conversations often start with the question ‘are you in a relationship?’ ‘Maybe we should start our conversation that way, too’, says Sacha. ‘Are you in a relationship?’

In less than five minutes, the two are discussing Tinder. It’s going to be a special day for both of them.

Ole studies how people develop a sense of identity through interaction with others. He puts different kinds of people together and films them to see what they say in different situations. In a later stage of his research, he wants to study the sense of identity of HIV patients. What happens to them after they’re diagnosed? By understanding this, he hopes to provide the medical world with a way to support this particular group of patients.

But he’s not there yet. First, he and Sacha need to write a poem. Ole is lucky to have Sacha for a partner, because he won second price during the last edition of Science Slam. ‘Although my partner had written their own poem at home and practised in front of the mirror’, says Sacha.

In addition to being a PhD student, Ole also works at improv comedy group Stranger Things Have Happened. He prefers to give the poem a humorous edge. They decide on a scene in a psychologist’s office. Sacha is playing a man coming out as a poet, rehearsing how to deliver this ‘difficult’ message with the psychologist in a role-playing game.

During their work together, it’s ever so clear who the PhD student is and who the poet. Sacha leans back in his chair, coming up with storylines and metaphors, while Ole types, checks the time, and occasionally points to the poem’s last sentence. ‘That’s the conclusion. We have to work towards that.’

‘I’m just like you, but different.’ It’s the theme of Ole and Sacha’s scene, and the title of Ole’s PhD. The way Ole and Sacha are both interested in this special subject, and yet are completely different.

4-3

I’m just like you – but different

The poem of Ole & Sacha

4-4

I’m just like you – but different ( 1 of 2 )

Annotation:

U:::h    = stretch on the preceding vowel
…        = silence within sentences
(…)     = silence between sentences
]          = Interruption

Note: (old man voice) should be read with the voice of a grumpy old man, (mum voice) with that of a disappointed mother, (dudebro voice) with that of an uncomfortably masculine man, and (therapist voice) with that of an unengaged and judgmental therapist.

Transcript:

O: (therapist voice) So?
S: So!
O: (therapist voice) What brings you here today?
S: (chuckle)… Uh… How do I begin?
O: (therapist voice)   Do you have any recent crises to share?
S: U::h I guess. U::hm Well… I am… I … I am a poet.
O: (therapist voice) How people in your environment react to that?
S: u:h… well. I – I haven’t told them yet.
O: (therapist voice)   Why not?
S: Well… Uh… I – I’m – What if they laugh – what if they don’t take it seriously?!
O: (therapist voice) Let’s roleplay this. Who do you want to tell first?
S: Let’s start with someone I trust… uhm… my grandfather. He will be supporting me.
O: (old man voice) So?
S: So!

(…)

S: (gets up – recites poem)    De zee lag blinkend,wijd en zijd,
De zon was aan het nei-]
O: (old man voice) What’s that supposed to be?!
S: U::h (.) I guess. U::hm Well… I am… I … I am a poet.
O: (old man voice) HAH! And who told you that you ARE a poet?
S: It’s like – taking all your courage – and go on stage – and… from that moment on you are a poet.
O: (old man voice) They should have a registry of all the poets. And if you are on that list… then you are… and if not…then you are not. And then that’s that.
S: But you heard I’m talented.
O: (old man voice) I was talented once. I’m just like you –but different. It’s probably just a phase!
S: Is it?
O: (therapist voice) Isn’t anything that lasts a chunk of time a phase? Who next? Someone harder maybe?
S: I know this man – he is a tartoo artist – he owns a massive Harley Davidson and he smokes cigars and is always involved in shady stuff.
O: (dudebro voice) So?
S: So!

(…)

 

4-5

I’m just like you – but different ( 2 of 2 )

S: (gets up – recites poem)   De zee lag blinkend,wijd en zijd,
De zon was aan het neigen;
Wij tweeèn zaten eenza-]
O: (dudebro voice) Hm – that’s actually a really nice thing.
S: I… I didn’t actually suspect you to like it.
O: (dudebro voice) Well I like what I like.
S: U::h (.) I guess. U::hm Well… I am… I … I am a poet.
O: (dudebro voice) Sometimes, I’m a poet too. I’m just like you –but different.
O: (therapist voice) Who would have thought. Who next?
S: Oh… the most.. the most important person in my life.
O: (therapist voice) Ah… your girlfriend.
S: No. My mother.
O: (mum voice) So?
S: So!

(…)

S: (get up – recites poem)     De zee lag blinkend,wijd en zijd,
De zon was aan het neigen;
Wij tweeèn zaten eenzaam bij’t
Stil vissershuis te zwijgen.
S: Mum, U::h (.) I guess. U::hm Well… I am… I … I am a poet.
O: (mum voice) Oh god. What did we do wrong?
S: Nothing. I was born this way.
O: (mum voice) Well… when I was a little girl. I did poetry once.I’m just like you –but DIFFERENT.

(…)

O: (therapist voice) So?
S: So!

(…)

S: I am a poet!
O: (therapist voice) All the world’s a stage,
and all the men and women merely players:
they have their exits and their entrances;
and one man in his time plays many parts.
S: You are just like me – but different.

mobile versie

So, you are doing exciting, groundbreaking research. Into spintronics, for example, or depression. And this research touches upon some things that a scientific article cannot do justice.

During the second edition of Science Slam, an event organised by the USVA cultural centre and Studium Generale, ten PhD students and ten poets worked together to capture this. In two hours, they wrote a poem together, which they then performed to a full USVA theatre. Nadine Kuipers, who studies mediaeval agricultural texts, and defending champion Richard Nobbe won the contest.

The UK selected three PhD students, three poets, and three of their poems to show this collaboration.

By Lucia Grijpink and Freek Schueler / Photos by Reyer Boxem / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Mallikarjuna Gurram (28) + Olaf Meens (28)

Physicist & poet

Rhythmic electron spins

There they are. Two twenty-eight-year-old men who couldn’t be more different from each other. Mallikarjuna (Mallik) Gurram, a short man originally from India, is a physicist, and knows everything there is to know about quantum mechanics. He is joined by Olaf Meens, language lover, whose large bearing and bent back make him look somewhat like the Big Friendly Giant.

They found a little spot in the back of the USVA building to spend an afternoon immersed in each other’s worlds. They are surrounded by old posters and make-up mirrors, and fluorescent lighting flickers overhead. They speak English.

‘I think it’s a good idea if you tell me about your research first’, says Olaf. It’s on. For an hour, Mallik enthusiastically talks about his research, touching upon data bytes, silicone transistors, and electron spins. He talks about the special characteristics of graphene, the material he works with. He talks about how minuscule the objects he studies are.

Olaf listens patiently, occasionally writing some things down. Using little doodles, he tries to understand the difficult material. He usually works using only his own emotions, behind a computer. Now, he has to give physics a voice. He describes the process of composing a poem: phrases and sentences form in his head, words that sound good together or ‘make rhythmic sense’.

Spin transport electronics, or spintronics for short, is a relatively new area concerned with electrons’ special characteristics: their spin. Thanks to the developments in this area, the chips in our mobile phones will not only last longer, but they will also become faster and smaller. Mallik’s specific research is too complicated to explain in a poem. ‘I want the audience to understand what the field of spintronics means’, Mallik says.

Mallik: ‘I thought explaining my research would be the hardest part, but writing a poem is really difficult, too.’

The deadline is approaching fast, and they haven’t even thought about their presentation, nor have they practised their recital. During dinner, they put the final touches on the final poem. They are getting nervous, but it has been an educational, fun day. Regardless of whether they’ll win.

A spin on a flatlad (Spintronics)

Het gedicht van Mallikarjuna en Olaf
gedicht03
A spin on a flatlad (Spintronics)
Back in the stone age
—–Computers were BIIIIG
The data small,
the phones lodged on the wall

—–It took some time to
—–SHRINK the phones
down to the size you’re using now

A billion-dollar industry
—–built on the back
—–of silicon
advanced until
a billion bits
—–filled a chip
—–until no more
—–could fit

The two-fold problem
science faced was ones of
size and speed
—–The faster moving electrons
—–producing too much heat

To solve them both we need new tech
and move past silic-on
—–A spin instead of charge
—–to cool the growing heat
1-atom-layer “pencil stripe”
on which electrons ‘spin’;
———-are able to move faster,
———-and live a little longer

Within just fifty years
we moved from bulk
—–to bits with brains

Imagine how the world will spin
—–this new tech just beyond the door
Imagine all the gains
—–given fifty more…

Lian Beijers & Laura Dijkstra

Depression researcher + poet

Poetry as conversation

Sitting behind a glass sliding door, the two women get to know each other. Lian talks about her research into the biological causes of depression. ‘In cellular biology, students are told that depression is caused by a lack of a substance called serotonin. This problem can be solved by giving the patients antidepressants that fix this: SSRI. But this is just one of the many potential explanations for depression, and SSRIs don’t always work.

After Lian is finished, it’s Laura’s turn. ‘What would you like to know about me?’

‘I actually know quite a lot’, Lian grins. ‘I Facebook-stalked you.’

Lian received treatment for her depression for seven years. She is finished now, but is still confronted with it on a daily basis: simple things such as eating, drinking enough fluids, and keeping up with her friends are things she needs to consciously regulate. ‘The research isn’t all that confrontational to me, because it’s a constant in my life anyway.’

Laura nods, understanding. The pairing is not an accident. Laura herself is manic-depressive, and suffers from depressive episodes. ‘One time I was on seven different medications. I couldn’t even get out of bed. At times like that, it’s difficult to stand up for yourself.’

They come up with the idea to write from the point of view of a depressed person at the end of their rope. To try and show the multitude of medications people sometimes get, they decide to include a long list in the poem. Paroxetine, sertraline, fluoxetine, duloxetine, venlafaxine, and fluvoxamine. ‘I need to practise those’, says Laura.

They finish the poem. It is a conversation, written in symmetry. ‘Most of the words are yours, but the structure is mine’, Lian says proudly. ‘I am the order in your chaos.’

Laura is satisfied. ‘It’s a very intelligent poem. I don’t consider myself all that intelligent. I never got any high grades in biology class.’

Zijwieltjes

Ik heb alles geprobeerd
Elke pil die ze me gaven

Paroxetine
Sertraline
Fluoxetine
Duloxetine
Venlafaxine
Fluvoxamine

Voor elke gedachte een andere pil

Elk tablet in vol ornaat
Bedoeld om mij compleet te maken
Er is iets mis met mij

Mijn lichaam en ik corresponderen niet
Ik ben een verdwaalde noodzaak

Ik verdien dit niet
Ik kán dit niet

Laura Dijkstra

Er is iets mis met jou
Het zit tussen je oren

Serotonine
Dopamine
Hemoglobine
Cytokine
Corticosteroïde
Hypofyse

Het zou van alles kunnen zijn

Een molecuul, niet aangemaakt
Een verbinding onderbroken
Er is iets mis met jou
Ooit gaan we de oorzaak vinden
Niemand kan voor eeuwig blijven vallen

Soms heb je zijwieltjes nodig
Om vooruit te komen

Lian Beijers

Ole Gmelin + Sacha Landkroon

Psychologist & poet

The psychologist’s office

‘In my research, I put people together and have them talk about love, sex, and relationships’, Ole says. These conversations often start with the question ‘are you in a relationship?’ ‘Maybe we should start our conversation that way, too’, says Sacha. ‘Are you in a relationship?’

In less than five minutes, the two are discussing Tinder. It’s going to be a special day for both of them.

Ole studies how people develop a sense of identity through interaction with others. He puts different kinds of people together and films them to see what they say in different situations. In a later stage of his research, he wants to study the sense of identity of HIV patients. What happens to them after they’re diagnosed? By understanding this, he hopes to provide the medical world with a way to support this particular group of patients.

But he’s not there yet. First, he and Sacha need to write a poem. Ole is lucky to have Sacha for a partner, because he won second price during the last edition of Science Slam. ‘Although my partner had written their own poem at home and practised in front of the mirror’, says Sacha.

In addition to being a PhD student, Ole also works at improv comedy group Stranger Things Have Happened. He prefers to give the poem a humorous edge. They decide on a scene in a psychologist’s office. Sacha is playing a man coming out as a poet, rehearsing how to deliver this ‘difficult’ message with the psychologist in a role-playing game.

During their work together, it’s ever so clear who the PhD student is and who the poet. Sacha leans back in his chair, coming up with storylines and metaphors, while Ole types, checks the time, and occasionally points to the poem’s last sentence. ‘That’s the conclusion. We have to work towards that.’

‘I’m just like you, but different.’ It’s the theme of Ole and Sacha’s scene, and the title of Ole’s PhD. The way Ole and Sacha are both interested in this special subject, and yet are completely different.

I’m just like you – but different

Annotation:

U:::h    = stretch on the preceding vowel
…        = silence within sentences
(…)     = silence between sentences
]          = Interruption

Note: (old man voice) should be read with the voice of a grumpy old man, (mum voice) with that of a disappointed mother, (dudebro voice) with that of an uncomfortably masculine man, and (therapist voice) with that of an unengaged and judgmental therapist.

Transcript:

O: (therapist voice) So?
S: So!
O: (therapist voice) What brings you here today?
S: (chuckle)… Uh… How do I begin?
O: (therapist voice)   Do you have any recent crises to share?
S: U::h I guess. U::hm Well… I am… I … I am a poet.
O: (therapist voice) How people in your environment react to that?
S: u:h… well. I – I haven’t told them yet.
O: (therapist voice)   Why not?
S: Well… Uh… I – I’m – What if they laugh – what if they don’t take it seriously?!
O: (therapist voice) Let’s roleplay this. Who do you want to tell first?
S: Let’s start with someone I trust… uhm… my grandfather. He will be supporting me.
O: (old man voice) So?
S: So!

(…)

S: (gets up – recites poem)    De zee lag blinkend,wijd en zijd,
De zon was aan het nei-]
O: (old man voice) What’s that supposed to be?!
S: U::h (.) I guess. U::hm Well… I am… I … I am a poet.
O: (old man voice) HAH! And who told you that you ARE a poet?
S: It’s like – taking all your courage – and go on stage – and… from that moment on you are a poet.
O: (old man voice) They should have a registry of all the poets. And if you are on that list… then you are… and if not…then you are not. And then that’s that.
S: But you heard I’m talented.
O: (old man voice) I was talented once. I’m just like you –but different. It’s probably just a phase!
S: Is it?
O: (therapist voice) Isn’t anything that lasts a chunk of time a phase? Who next? Someone harder maybe?
S: I know this man – he is a tartoo artist – he owns a massive Harley Davidson and he smokes cigars and is always involved in shady stuff.
O: (dudebro voice) So?
S: So!

(…)

S: (gets up – recites poem)   De zee lag blinkend,wijd en zijd,
De zon was aan het neigen;
Wij tweeèn zaten eenza-]
O: (dudebro voice) Hm – that’s actually a really nice thing.
S: I… I didn’t actually suspect you to like it.
O: (dudebro voice) Well I like what I like.
S: U::h (.) I guess. U::hm Well… I am… I … I am a poet.
O: (dudebro voice) Sometimes, I’m a poet too. I’m just like you –but different.
O: (therapist voice) Who would have thought. Who next?
S: Oh… the most.. the most important person in my life.
O: (therapist voice) Ah… your girlfriend.
S: No. My mother.
O: (mum voice) So?
S: So!

(…)

S: (get up – recites poem)     De zee lag blinkend,wijd en zijd,
De zon was aan het neigen;
Wij tweeèn zaten eenzaam bij’t
Stil vissershuis te zwijgen.
S: Mum, U::h (.) I guess. U::hm Well… I am… I … I am a poet.
O: (mum voice) Oh god. What did we do wrong?
S: Nothing. I was born this way.
O: (mum voice) Well… when I was a little girl. I did poetry once.I’m just like you –but DIFFERENT.

(…)

O: (therapist voice) So?
S: So!

(…)

S: I am a poet!
O: (therapist voice) All the world’s a stage,
and all the men and women merely players:
they have their exits and their entrances;
and one man in his time plays many parts.
S: You are just like me – but different.

Nederlands

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