Life updates

So I have fallen off the blogging bandwagon more often than I can count, but maybe sparse updates are better than zero updates? I don’t even no where to begin, so why not have a little bullet point list of big life changes:

  • I became a mom in 2022. Words can’t express what an impact on my life this change has had. In Norway we get one year of parental leave, so I basically took a break from work for a year that in many ways wasn’t so much a break, but rather a life-altering role change. I try not to post his cute little face online for various reasons, but here is a glimpse of us in Bergen. He is much bigger now of course!
  • I received tenure January 2023. So I successfully completed the tenure track and officially became a tenured full professor in medical visualization. This happened while I was very busy being a mom, so this change sort of went under the radar for me. Apparently, I was the first at our University to do this though, so there was a nice interview and lots of congratulations from my dear colleagues. Now that I am back at work, it does feel different in that a lot of the pressure to build my tenure portfolio is gone, so that I can engage in things that are meaningful and add value during a larger part of my time than before.
  • Work-life balance. Becoming a mother has also impacted this area of my life. I get two hours a day off for breastfeeding (paid! <3 Norway, the best country ever and also my employer). In addition, we need to bring the bundle of joy to kindergarten and pick him up at a reasonable hour. Then when I am home, there is no change to work due to caregiving responsibilities and sleep trouble. This forces work-life balance like nothing else, there is just not a chance to work outside of my reduced working hours. This means downscaling, in particular, my expectations of what I can do. It also means feeling like I am failing as a researcher, as a mom, and/or as a partner a lot of the times in a variety of configurations.
  • Productivity tools. I have been a loyal Evernote user for about 12 years. I used it for everything, recipes, lab journal, travel planning, deciding what eyeshadow is worth buying (yes really), etc. But given the recent subscription price hike and what they did to the free tier features (“Take great notes, Create up to 50 notes and 1 notebook”, … There is nothing great about this whatsoever, Evernote!), we had a rough break up. The break up was significantly eased by a smooth transition to Obsidian. Exporting and importing 12 years of life notes was surprisingly easy and I love everything about Obsidian. I also separated personal and work-related notes into their own vaults. Perhaps someday a blog post of its own? For recipes, my friend StefanV recommended Paprika and this is really the best thing to ever happen in my kitchen.

I think it is lunch o’ clock soon, so going to wrap this up without any good concluding statement whatsoever.

The Name of the Year in Academia – Norwegian Edition

Just before the Christmas holiday break, my dear friend Veronika CH pointed me to the news about the winner of the ‘Name of the Year in Academia’ award handed out by the university newspaper Khrono. While many have already written at length in response to this ‘debate’, I want to contribute by writing something in English so that more people whom the debate is actually about might be able to follow along and contribute. I am doing this on my personal blog because this post will reflect my personal opinion and I don’t necessarily want to give Khrono even more clicks and views on this.

So what happened?

The national newspaper of universities in Norway, Khrono, is no stranger to posting controversial opinion pieces. It is generally also where I get my news on what’s happening in Norwegian academia, for example, on the ridiculous two sensor rule. Earlier this year though, they posted something which was straight up inflammatory. I am going to do my best to translate what Cecilie Hellestveit wrote:

The debate starter piece published 24-09-2021 in Khrono

“Cecilie Hellestveit thinks one aspect with this theme is that more and more positions in academia go to foreign researchers. It has been that way for a while and Hellestveit thinks it is problematic.”

The foreign researchers do not know the Norwegian society and are not here to invest in it. They are here because they did not get a job at the most prestigious universities yet. Some fields are so dominated by foreign researchers that there are barely any Norwegians left among the employees. What is the point of research which not first and foremost has the Norwegian society as a starting point?”

– Cecilie Hellestveit

There is a lot to unpack here and this statement obviously attracted many responses, mainly speaking against such views. However, when was time for an all-Norwegian jury to pick the award winner for ‘Name of the Year in Academia’, it went to, drumroll, Cecilie Hellestveit. This again led to many responses, both on Twitter and as subsequent opinion pieces in Khrono. For example, Ingunn W. Jolma and Christian Jørgensen presented excellent opinion pieces in Khrono. Khrono summed up some of the Twitter responses here, both negative and positive. The editor added a piece of her own defending the situation.

My thoughts

I have always felt welcome and at home in Norway. My colleagues, no matter where they are originally from, have supported me and also my endeavors to learn Norwegian. I in fact feel so at home in Norway that I am not considering moving back to the Netherlands after over five years here. I pay taxes in Norway happily supporting the amazing health care system among other things. As I still feel Dutch at heart and the Netherlands does not allow for double passports, I do not want to give up my Dutch passport. This means that I do not get to vote in the national elections.

Still, I consider myself and my international colleagues contributing to research, advancing our science which may also impact Norwegian society, though it does not exclusively aim at that. It is not even true that I am only here because I was not able to get a job at a prestigious university. I think excellent research is done when joining forces with people with many different areas of expertise. Often, this involves collaborating with people outside of our backyard, though this not does preclude collaborating with people inside our backyard.

The statements by Cecilie Hellestveit are offensive to me. This can happen, she is expressing her opinion, just as I am now. I do not think this particular opinion is award-worthy and this is the part that is most hurtful to me. It makes me question how many in Norway hold these views and are applauding the awardee for finally speaking up about these parasitic foreigners taking our jobs, none of them with Norway’s best interests in mind, only here as proper prestigious universities would not take them.

ORW the boss explains that our branch is shutting down and we are all being  laid off. - GIF on Imgur

I feel personally attacked and sad for my foreign colleagues living here, sacrificing a lot to be here in the process. On a side note, I applied for the Academy of Young Scientists in Norway and got rejected. As the leader of this organization was on the jury for this award, I now start to second guess the reasons for this and wonder whether I perhaps wasn’t Norwegian enough to partake in this?

The main reason stated for Hellestveit being awarded is that it started an important debate on internationalization in Norwegian academia. However, when expressing your generalizing opinion about a group of people as a means of starting a debate, I think it is only fair to do so in a way where people who are the subject of said debate can participate actively. This can be achieved by doing this in a common language so that everyone can understand and respond if they wish. I hope this blog contributes a little in this regard.

I question Khrono’s motivation in all this. Are they so desperate for clicks that posting inflammatory personal opinions should be awarded to get even more engagement? I realize that this blog too adds more undeserved attention, but I really could not stop thinking about this, even in my Christmas holiday, and I thought writing might help.

To end on a positive note, I am grateful to all those who spoke up against this award process and the views it represents. You make me feel hopeful, respected, and welcome.

The First International Spring School for Biomedical Visualization

I am writing this after an action-packed week co-organizing and lecturing at the first ever international virtual Spring school for biomedical visualization. With this, I wanted to share some thoughts and resources gathered over the week.


Initial thoughts around launching an educational platform for the visualization of biological and medical data were shared at a Shonan seminar on ‘Formalizing Biological and Medical Visualization’. This trip is also known as the last of my travels in the before-times. Then the pandemic hit and everyone had to move their teaching to digital format. We realized that as people moved to digital teaching, we would have an opportunity to bring these lectures together on a shared platform. We considered as such a platform, but did not fit the goal of uniting the biological and medical data visualization communities. To seed our new platform with excellent base content, we landed on planning a Spring School aimed at students and PhD candidates, Bio+Med+Vis Spring. We would host this as a virtual event, due to pandemic restrictions. This allowed us to have a unique opportunity for international lecturers and participants.


Due to the combined networks of the organizers and the online setting, we could to offer a program filled with top international visualization researchers from various backgrounds. As we opened for registration, we were expecting maybe 50 participants to sign up. This would have been fine as the main goal was gathering resources for our platform. Above all initial expectations, we ended up with about 350 registered participants. While this is wonderful and maybe even over what in-person EuroVis draws, this also generates organizational complexity. A regular Zoom room with 350 for example will degrade recording quality as chances are high that someone unmutes or does something strange. Another major goal of a Spring school was to connect people worldwide at all career stages. However, from experience we all know these connections aren’t easily made in a virtual set-up, especially not at this scale.


Here’s what we ended up with in terms of setup:

  • Before the week started, we opened up a Miro board for people to introduce themselves with a photo if they wanted. Originally we planned to have people introduce themselves during the opening, but this really doesn’t scale. It turned into a nice visual with pictures and sticky notes.
  • The lectures ran in a Zoom Webinar format. This allows for less interactivity with participants, but more control over the sessions. All talks were live to minimize preparation time for speakers and maximize engagement. We asked for a 500 participant capacity, but I think higher numbers are also possible. As we were planning on offering recordings of the lectures on our platform afterwards, this was really the ideal setup, in my opinion. Roughly 100 participants attended the lectures live, though this number dropped a fair bit as the week went on. In part this is also due to timezone complexity. I heard one participant got up at 4 am daily to join our sessions!
  • Participants could ask questions and interact with each other via a Discord server, obviously inspired by EuroVis and IEEE VIS last year. We had one channel per session, but also general channels such as #hiring, which were well used. The voice channels were less often used in breaks. I think the main reason is that the breaks were too short to really do anything except catch your breath and maybe get a drink or snack.
  • We had a social event running in Congregate. Congregate features virtual tables of different sizes that people can click on to join for group voice or video chats. Though only around 50 joined, I think it worked well and I met a lot of new cool people as well as old friends this way! Perhaps we should have planned this earlier in the week or opened it every day instead of the Discord voice channels.

Fun Facts

  • This whole Spring school ran entirely on volunteer work with zero budget. None of the organizers and lecturers were paid and everyone generously contributed their time to this. This also made it possible to offer free registration. While we were endorsed by Biovis, VCBM, and MMIV, we did not need to attract sponsors in this format. Of course when you think about time costs, many people worldwide spend many hours preparing all this. The University of Bergen offered their Zoom webinar license and support for the set-up. I would like to thank Håkon Øren at the IT department for helping us with this.
  • Using the same Zoom Webinar for the entire week made it easy to join. However, it was not so easy to go ‘offline’ in the short breaks between sessions without kicking all attendees out. To avoid this, we left the webinar running in breaks. This made informal pre-lecture banter between organizers and speakers public for all to hear. I heard that my fangirling over meeting VTK’s Will Shroeder was indeed quite wholesome on the Discord :D. One participant noted this could be one reason why people didn’t join the Discord voice chats in the break. This could very well be the case, as I consider my banter to be high quality content which is not to be missed ;)!
  • While I am normally all about the work-life balance and do not work evenings and weekends, I was certaintly not this week. In mornings I was doing my regular work and from 1pm opening the webinar for speakers to practice their set-up (if not in a conflicting meeting). From 2pm, we went live and as the only ones with UiB accounts and recording privileges, Jan and myself had to be at every lecture the whole week. When the program ended at 8pm, I would wait for Zoom post-processing to finish, terrified of losing the recordings. I was home after 10pm most days and insanely tired of all the screen staring, meme-ing it up on Discord, etc.
  • One of the lecturers could not make it due to unforeseen circumstances. I offered to do a replacement lecture, but as my days were packed, I only had about an hour to prepare one. I think it worked out okish in the end, but it really felt like badly executed improv comedy on my end.

Closing Remarks

To wrap this overly long post up, here are my final thoughts on this week. It was incredible to see people worldwide coming together spending their time either giving lectures or listening and participating in the discussions. A lot of the lecturers attended other lectures to learn more about specifics of other sub-fields. I learned a lot about biological data visualization, and I imagine the biovis people learned a lot about medical visualization. Newcomers to the field hopefully learned a ton about visualization in general as well.

While at conferences, I sometimes feel like only a handful are doing biomedical visualization, this event made me feel like we have a lively community and there is a lot of interest from people at all career phases and across disciplines. Though it was very time-intensive, I would do it again in a heartbeat, though not immediately probably :). We have heard so much positive feedback from attendees and lecturers which made the whole thing very rewarding. Thanks everyone!


Here are the resources I lured you here with in the intro text. Note that they are only shared at the very end on purpose to reward patient readers 😀

  • The number one resource I wish I had when I was a student are the recorded video lectures. Our resident video editor MVP, Sherin Sugathan, has worked tirelessly to make these high-quality materials available already during the week. We are still post-processing some, but all except one lecture will be available on our program page and YouTube channel. Hit like and subscribe!
  • Through the #twitter-handles Discord channel, we gathered Twitter handles (surprisingly) of lecturers and participants and compiled a Twitter list. If you follow this list, you follow 57 and counting biomedical visualization Twitterers (is that a word?). Check it out here and give us a follow.
  • A lot of the lecturers shared their slide-decks on Discord. We still have to check whether they are ok to post on our platform webpage as well, so feel free to keep an eye on

This did not entirely turn out to be the short blog I intended, but well, here we are! I’m off to enjoy a long Pentecost weekend, I hope you are able to do the same!

New video interview

Another day, another video interview 😉 This time about medical visualization and computer science in general for the University of Bergen, department of Informatics. Medical visualization is also an active research topic here in the recently established Mohn Medical Imaging and Visualization (MMIV) centre.

The video was produced by Joakim Birkelund, who did an absolutely amazing job with editing and camera-work.

Interview by the Department of Informatics at the University of Bergen

I’m going to go ahead and resist the urge to write about how I did not write for a while. Does this mean I just did? Anyway, I was recently interviewed by Pina Kingman and Eli Ertresvaag for the webpage of the Department of Informatics at the University of Bergen. I think I look super-tense, which is quite amazing considering this is my third video interview already 🙂 Also, it is quite noticeable in the written text that I don’t speak to 10-year-olds on the regular!

Noeska Smit

You can find the new interview here. Soon the written part will be available in Norwegian too! My very first video interview by Tweakers is still available here as well (in Dutch). The more recent second interview by the TU Delft Graduate School is still available too.


STW Jaarcongres 2013 poster
Presented a poster at the STW Jaarcongres 2013 last week