On this page several Tesla-alumni will talk about their experiences regarding the Tesla minor.
Milan Teunissen van Manen
She participated in the Tesla minor of 2014 and gave a speech at the end of the program about the Tesla minor and how it has shaped us. You can listen to the fragment here:
He was a participant in 2013, and is currently finalizing his 2nd year of the MSc Neuroscience. In a few weeks he will start his PhD in this field.
How did you experience the Tesla Minor?
Tesla was a very intensive program which focused on project work and the development of our personal and professional skills. Amongst other things I have hugely improved my presentation skills, but I have also gained competences related to how to negotiate, interview and approach people in a professional manner. The minor is actually focused on how to learn and how you can utilize and apply knowledge and information. In other words, you learn how to use content as a means to the objectives that you have set yourself. We spend a lot of time on informal peer-to-peer discussions, which helped in exploring how to deal with various difficult situations. We also had the opportunity to organize part of our own trainings. At a certain moment a large part of the students felt the need to learn how to host and structure meetings more efficiently. We decided to hire a trainer and arranged a training on this topic. Furthermore I met a lot of people working on the interface of knowledge institutions and business. It taught me a great deal about the world outside of University.
What was the most challenging part?
I found it difficult to constantly shift between the concrete and the abstract. Our project was focused on designing a student-run laboratory. It is quite easy to develop the concept of such a lab, but in practice you run into issues all the time which causes you to rethink your plans. You have to continuously react on what happens and thereby are forced to make tough decisions all the time. I found this very challenging since I was not used to work on projects that are not demarcated clearly beforehand. In Tesla it is your own responsibility to define and focus the project.
What did you like best?
That you have a lot of autonomy and numerous opportunities to do different things. But this is at the same time one of the most difficult aspects of the program. You have the freedom to make your own choices with regard to your activities, lectures and learnings. But with each choice you make, you have to really be able to justify why you do it and how it fits in the total scheme. I organized several lectures by professionals who told about the ways in which they bridged science and practice. I also helped arrange a training and a company visit. During these activities, I realized that companies will not help you just for fun, they need something of real value in return. This was relevant to our project, because our lab would be dependent on external funding. As a group we also took the initiative to develop our own website, printed business cards, and organized our final symposium.
What is the value of Tesla in daily working practice?
One of the things I learned a great deal about, is how to present myself and what I got to tell the audience. We had five theater workshops during which we worked on how to use your own characteristics and voice to convince our audience. Next to that we gave many presentations which gave us so much experience that presenting became a non-stressful activity.
I also learned about many aspects of the ‘non-scientific’ world, for example about how big projects are initiated and developed. When you are a student you can have the tendency to think that the Academic world is huge and that science is that what keeps all people busy. In practice it is just a small part of society. Where society needs science, science certainly needs society.
To whom would you recommend the Tesla Minor?
If you want to join Tesla you need to be very motivated and have a clear interest in your own discipline. If you do not like your discipline, Tesla is no escape for that. During the program you work on the interface between science, society and business and have a brief yet intense insight in how it works. A tip for future Tesla students: throw yourself at the knowledge related to your project. Make sure that you and your team are able to provide your client with an overview of knowledge that they do not have or for which they do not have the means to acquire. This is where you as a science student can really add value.