The Feather – Evelien Smits

A feather in your cap: the feather is a prize passed on from one UAntwerp colleague to another in recognition of their efforts or achievements. This time, Vicky Verlinden (Institute of Development Policy) passes the feather on to Evelien Smits (Center for Oncological Research).

What an honour to pass on the feather. After careful consideration – since there are many praiseworthy colleagues – it flies to Campus Drie Eiken and ends up with you, Evelien.

In 2003, as a brand-new PhD student in law, I walked in somewhat nervously to an open rehearsal of Amahoro, UAntwerp’s solidarity choir. I was immediately impressed by your vocal qualities. In addition, you turned out to be doing a PhD in something that still seemed a long way off at that time: immunotherapy to treat cancer. Quite remarkable… fortunately you were also very down-to-earth, sensitive and cheerful. Like me, you sincerely believe in the power and added value of independent research. While I opted for an ATP position after my PhD, your research career skyrocketed: you quickly obtained a ZAP position and now lead a research group that is looking for new combination treatments with immunotherapy to fight cancer.

You have always been mindful of the role and well-being of the team around you. Successful research, like choir singing, is the result of thorough teamwork, and you are well aware of that. I know that you consciously invest time in training courses on leadership skills and soft skills (which, by the way, are often the hard skills!) – not always a priority on a busy ZAP agenda. Let’s dream of a university where it’s normal to cooperate and share feedback between campuses, disciplines, departments and services.

As if all this wasn’t enough, you have both feet firmly planted in the world and are also committed to providing services to society. The Young Academy, member of the jury for the PhD Cup, chair of the University Fund, fundraising, speaking to the press… You don’t just take on such commitments; you see them as an essential part of your mission. And I admire that.

Our musical paths may only cross sporadically, but I am delighted that we can continue to build ‘our’ university together, each in our own way.