Hans Plets joins the management team of the Einstein Telescope Project Office – EMR. While his colleagues Stan Bentvelsen and Arjen van Rijn are responsible for scientific matters and operational/financial aspects, international cooperation is one of the areas that Hans Plets will focus on.
Who is Hans Plets?
‘Belgian, Flemish. I studied physics, astronomy, philosophy, and management at KU Leuven. After my studies, I had the opportunity to conduct scientific research in the fields of astrophysics, meteorology, climate, and geophysics. Subsequently, I worked as an international manager in the aviation industry, including as the managing director of an international training academy. Currently, I am working from FWO Flanders for the Einstein Telescope.’
‘Everyone is convinced that we need to work in one common house with one common roof over our heads. Literally, looking beyond borders.’Hans Plets
Are you the new face of the Einstein Telescope?
‘Let’s not exaggerate. I am fortunate to have a hybrid but strong team of 8 specialists in various fields. Spatial aspects, administration, permits, geology, legal aspects, valorization and economic opportunities, policy advice, environment, and stakeholder management. These colleagues are not only working from a Flemish perspective but increasingly operate with an international focus. The team is integrating well within the international project bureau in Maastricht.’
Is that also Hans Plets’ ambition?
‘Not just mine, but everyone is convinced that we need to work in one common house with one common roof over our heads. Literally, looking beyond borders. That’s the formula to create a good, no, the best bidbook. Because the only real ambition is to bring the Einstein Telescope to our region.’
Where do you see another important task?
‘Equality among partners is also part of this common collaboration we are working on. The cooperation agreement between FWO Flanders and Nikhef is an example of that. Hopefully, we can also intensify cooperation with Wallonia, the federal Belgian level, and North Rhine-Westphalia. With this equality naturally comes the aspect of contributing financially. It’s no longer enough to just say how great this project is; now we urgently need people and resources to shape our candidacy. And these cannot come solely from the Netherlands. With my new role in the project bureau, this is a topic on the agenda. Ensuring that ambitions and commitments are also upheld.’
You’ve been involved in the project bureau for a while. What do you see?
‘How much do you want to hear? There is a lot of knowledge, passion, and dedication in this project. Everyone aims for top performance. All players want to excel in their own field, but that’s not enough. They also need to collaborate to create an integral product. Additionally, the clock of deadlines is slowly ticking. For example, the permit officer needs to know what the scientist wants, and the scientist needs to understand the scope of the permit officer’s responsibilities. It should work out well.’
‘I believe the importance of the Einstein Telescope for our region can hardly be overstated. Foreign examples like CERN in Geneva illustrate the importance of forward-looking scientific infrastructure. The interaction between science and technology accelerates the development of an innovative ecosystem, with numerous spill-over effects that will extend across the three countries. Moreover, gravitational wave detection is the future because it gives us access to the 95% of the universe that remains hidden from our optical telescopes.
A world-renowned research facility can inspire young people to choose STEM or exact science-related studies. And, by extension, it can instill confidence in our ability to tackle future challenges among broader segments of the population.’