Blog | A scientist in your living room

An article in De Gelderlander about: “Meet the neighbors.” Under that guise, scientists from Wageningen University & Research gave a mini-lecture about their field in eighteen living rooms. Sunday afternoon the first edition took place, to celebrate the centenary of the university.

Lèneke Pfeiffer is coordinator of the Science Shop and co-initiator. Pfeiffer: ,,The distance between the university and residents of Wageningen has literally grown in recent years. Education is, in contrast to the past, increasingly concentrated on the campus. The Wageningen students can be proud of the university, but as an institute we are not always visible. With ‘Meet the neighbors’ we want to build a bridge between ourselves as a university and the residents of Wageningen in an approachable and accessible way.”

Eighteen living rooms

The audience of the living room college ‘Women in wartime’ mainly consists of people over 30. Is this initiative not primarily a higher educated party? Pfeiffer: ,,Everyone is welcome, but it is difficult to reach all target groups. We have consciously opted for a concept with the lowest possible thresholds. Home Wageningen has played a major role in communicating to residents of all levels and plumage. They have asked their own visitors to open their home for the mini lectures. Eighteen living rooms have been selected from here. The hosts and women have then handed out flyers in their own neighborhood, and invited as many neighbors as possible. Have we reached all target groups that we want to reach? I dare not say yes to that. But we have made a nice start. “Gemma van der Haar chooses for a powerpoint presentation with only photos at the minicollege ‘Women in wartime’. She shows a black and white image of a women’s football team. ,,During the Second World War, football was not played anymore, because the men had other things to do than exercise. As a result, women’s football flourished. A lot of people were looking at it. But after the war this development lost interest immediately. The space that arises for wartime women is often restricted immediately afterwards.” 


What is striking is that the scientists themselves are dressed casual. Pfeiffer: ,,The idea is that they will manage to talk about their knowledge area in an attractive way. The teachers each have their own way for this. One scientist uses a large modern TV, while the flip chart is sufficient for the other. Because we naturally work on site, we have to make do with the resources that are available there. “At the mini club ‘Healthy eating, what is that?’, guests have to take off their shoes. ‘No worries, we have underfloor heating’ is a note on the front door. The living room is full, chocolate and mandarins are on the table. Ellen Kampman takes visitors into the world of nutrition.” 1 in 5 people die of unhealthy food. In the ‘Human Nutrition and Health’ department, we conduct research into what is good for a person and what is not. But we are not the only ones who say something about that. A lot of books about nutrition appear, with the most varied diets. Take Rens Kroes. She believes that eating clay is healthy. And so there are countless people from all backgrounds who have an opinion about what to eat.”

Red meat

Eating a lot of red meat is out of the question, while unsalted nuts are recommended. After the lecture, there will be a lively discussion about sugar and sweeteners. Is sugar poison now, or is it not? “No”, says Kampman. ,,It is a fable that you can become addicted to it. But the calorie value is very high. So you have to be careful. “Finally, Kampman tests how healthy the participants eat themselves. She mentions a number of healthy food guidelines, such as two to three servings of dairy a day and fish once a week on the menu. None of the visitors passes the test. Too much alcohol or too little fruit, nobody gets the norm. “Who is responsible for what is in the supermarket, the government or the industry?” Asks a visitor. The answer lies somewhere in the middle. Pfeiffer: ,,This edition of the living room lectures is related to the 100th anniversary of the university. Whether a second edition will take place depends on the success of this day. So who knows. Ultimately, however, it remains important to bring the world of science and the inhabitants of Wageningen together.”

This article (in Dutch) can be found on