The career of Professor Kees Vuik at TU Delft started more than 40 years ago when he started a degree in Applied Mathematics in 1977. He has since become a professor, but above all he is the proud father of seven children, with four of whom he shares a TU Delft connection. The second oldest daughter, Thea Kik-Vuik, started her bachelor’s in Applied Mathematics in 2007 and ultimately earned her doctorate at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science. The oldest son, Adriaan Vuik, started attending lectures at the Faculty of Applied Sciences in 2009 and earned his doctorate there too. Daughter Nelleke Vuik graduated last year in Civil Engineering and Geosciences (started in 2012) and son Dies Vuik is currently in his second year in mechanical engineering (2018).
Father Vuik looks around the room with pride. Time has passed very quickly since his inaugural address. “The whole family was there. We then went out for dinner with the department. Thea and Nelleke remember it well. “You got a TomTom!” they call out in unison. Kees Vuik grins. “I thought I’d just go to work the next day, but I needed at least two days to get my feet back on the ground again.”
Special occasions then rained down. Thea remembers her brother Adriaan defending his thesis. “Dies and I were his dissertation helpers. It was a very special occasion and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it even more than my own defence.” Adriaan agrees. “I was so proud to stand there with my whole family.” Nelleke nods. “When I graduated, it was my father who asked the last question. It was quite a complicated question, but it was a wonderful closing of my TU Delft chapter.”
Nodding off during lectures
A professor for a father. That must cause unusual situations. Adriaan once fell asleep during his father’s lecture. “He did the paper round in the early morning and was tired,” grins father Kees. And Nelleke found her father’s subject, numerical mathematics, difficult. She heard that she got a low grade at home over dinner. “It was dinner time and my father said that I had not passed. That I had a 4. Silence fell and everyone continued to eat. But later, when I did the retake and then went on holiday, I got an SMS that I had passed.”
Father Vuik shrugs. He believes that the important thing is to work conscientiously. “If I was the invigilator during their exams, I made sure that their exam papers were immediately put into a sealed envelop by a colleague.”
The House of Oranje-Nassau
In his time, the scores were posted on the notice boards in the Faculty. They were long lists with the names of the students. This only changed when Prince Friso came to study at TU Delft. “His first scores were made known by name, but after that it quickly changed,” he remembers.
His children receive their scores differently. “We had Blackboard (now Brightspace) and Osiris”, says Adriaan. “You often heard two or three weeks later that the scores were published. Everyone ran to the computer room. In those days there was still no internet on your phone. You logged in quickly and checked your score.”
You have to study hard to get good scores. Both in father Vuik’s time and now in Dies’ time. On average, the family studied 40 hours a week, except in exam periods. “Then I really locked myself away. I studied about 50 hours a week,” says Nelleke. Thea studied an additional 10 hours. “I was doing 60 hour weeks, but I really enjoyed it. I had an old Nokia phone at the time. The smartphones we have today are a much bigger distraction.”
Father Vuik says that he always ‘studied steadily’. His rule was to keep up with the material and to always do sums. He had to as in his time it was customary to take lots of mid-terms. If you passed, you would also pass the finals.
One day exams
He remembers one subject in particular – Physical Transport Phenomena. It was a module worth six credits that were awarded in one week. He still has nightmares about it. “The exam took one whole day. Luckily I passed it in one go.”
An exam that lasts a whole day? His children can’t believe it. Adriaan says that “In my first year we mostly spent lots of time practising exams on the computer. There was a clock at the top of the screen that showed the time. I felt under pressure and I become too results-oriented. I was not working on the content anymore, but just concentrating on filling in that one right number.”
What was better was the hand-written questions that both Thea and Nelleke had to do. It’s still the preference of their father. “You see the whole calculation instead of just that one number.”
Blackboard and overhead projector
This is why father Vuik prefers to use a blackboard in his lessons. “But you’re still one of the few teachers that still uses an overhead projector!” laughs Thea. “All those transparencies, really horrible!” adds Nelleke. He laughs. “Oh well, I like to show some mathematical figures sometimes.”
“When I was studying, you still had real computer rooms with fixed computers,” says Adriaan. Thea adds “Exactly! The rooms were full of them at the Drebbelweg. These are now empty rooms with connections for laptops.” Adriaan says that he “thinks that teachers had just discovered PowerPoint then.” Father Vuik sums it up. “Yes, education has changed dramatically. Just take the bachelor/master system. This was only changed in 2004 or 2005. Before then, you simply did a five year engineering degree. You could study as long as you wanted, though I stuck to the five years. I always said to my children that it’s fine if they take more than five years, but then they have to pay for it themselves. Up to now, they have all completed their studies within that time, and Dies is well underway.” Adriaan says that “The changes over the years have been significant. When Thea and I studied, there was no binding study advice. This has become much stricter. In our time it was quite common that students took longer to do their degrees. You can’t do that anymore.”