'I first graduated from the University of Antwerp in biology and physiology in 1989. My final project on perinatal radioactive contamination sparked my interest in disease and health, and led me to transfer to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

In 1995, I completed my PhD in Medical Science and, two years later, I became head of the oncology research laboratory. I remodelled it into what is now the Centre for Oncological Research. Every day, we work with more than 20 PhD students to look for better ways to cure cancer. While the centre’s future is guaranteed, thanks to my fantastic fellow researchers, I can’t just leave it all behind. So even as a vice-rector, I will remain active in our research centre. I will be reducing my activities, though.'

My job as vice-rector

Cancer research is not my only source of fascination. I’m also interested in policy and services. In the past, I received the Services and Science Communication awards for my prevention project on smoking and young people, and for my books, including Naar een wereld zonder kanker? (Towards a world without cancer?), in which I try to present our cancer expertise in an accessible way. This is one area I would like to concentrate on as a vice-rector: clear, society-focused communication of the fantastic knowledge being generated at our university. Our university has strengthened its position in recent years, and this trend should continue. In addition to communication, ‘diversity’ is a pillar of our policy: wherever possible, our university should reflect our society properly. We also want to further our efforts in the domain of internationalisation.

Anticipated challenges

There are challenges in all areas, but I am excited to take them on. One challenge will be to encourage colleagues to go public with their stories and to increase ‘top of mind’ awareness, so that the media picks up our stories and portrays them accurately. With regard to diversity, we should also take care to preserve the balance rather than shifting to one side or the other. We must also devote efforts to ‘inflow’ (enrolment), as well as to ‘through-flow’ (study progress) and ‘outflow’ (graduation) – for all our students. I am lucky I can count on support from fantastic colleagues at our university in all of these challenges, as well as from the rector and my fellow vice-rectors. We meet regularly and really work as a team.

A sneak preview...

‘Putting UAntwerp on the world map’ is a challenging motto, one which can be applied to many areas. One aspect I would like to address immediately involves strengthening the University Fund. It’s not just about money: you also need communication – my favourite topic. From now on, people who make donations will be better informed about what is being done with their support. Let’s show that the university is far from an ivory tower – it’s an intriguing knowledge centre, there to serve society.

Team Herman Van Goethem