IDE Sustainability Coordinator Yumiko Henneberry.
Yumiko Henneberry: “We came from a really strict lockdown situation in California.” (Photo: Yumiko Henneberry)

Saying goodbye to friends and family while moving during a pandemic was challenging, says new IDE Sustainability Coordinator Yumiko Henneberry.

“We moved here on 28 July of this year because my husband got a job at TU Delft as an assistant professor at the 3mE Faculty. It was hard leaving my parents in California and this move was a big thing for me now being across the world from them. I think that was the hardest decision but we’re at that point in life where we felt a change would make life interesting and expand our current mindset.

Moving during the pandemic was kind of rough because we couldn’t have any large scale going away parties. So we did a few small socially-distanced goodbyes with friends, which was really hard. I actually decided to self-quarantine and spend two and a half weeks with my parents, to live with them just to spend some time together before leaving. The social aspects were kind of hard, but logistically it was not a problem. The flight was even easier because we had an entire row to ourselves so that worked out in our favour.

We came from a really strict lockdown situation in California where almost all of the stores were closed and people were really taking the situation seriously. There was a lot of social pressure to wear a mask. Then we came here and you could still gather and meet with friends. It was kind of a shock, but also nice especially being new here. It was still limited, but it did give us some opportunities to meet in person with people. When I started my job, you could still come into work a couple of times a week and that was really helpful as a new person.

Before coming here, I worked for the Delta Stewardship Council for the state of California. It’s an agency that works on connecting academics to decision makers so policy around water and environmental science can be better informed by science. My PhD is in looking at mercury cycling in wetland environments, as mercury is a water quality issue in California. I did a lot of coordination so I was looking for similar jobs here.

‘I decided to give it a try’

I happened to come across this position for a sustainability coordinator and decided to give it a try. It’s completely different to work in industrial design because my background is in hydrology. The work sounded really interesting and it’s around sustainability, which is related to the environment and climate change. That is really my passion so I decided maybe it was time to explore a different topic, but one with similar underlying interests.  

It’s a new position developed by the IDE Faculty. They basically created three positions around the three major research themes at IDE: health, mobility and sustainability. Our job is to try and get the researchers who work in these areas to connect with each other, but also make those topics more visible. In general, I think with sustainability there’s a university-wide effort at TU Delft to make that a more prominent research area.

I’ve been working with the communications people at IDE to try and communicate more about sustainability-related work that’s being done. Another area is working on creating more opportunities to develop long-term partnerships with companies and societal partners, both from a research perspective but also from a funding perspective. To get money coming in to support research and expand the various labs and research groups. So the three areas I focus on are communication, coordination and valorisation support. I’ve been meeting with Faculty members to get to know their needs and reaching out to external groups to find out what they do. I’m still in the process of finding people at other faculties at TU Delft that do this type of work, to find out how they approach their work. So far it’s really interesting and I feel lucky to have this job.”

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