Benjamin Verbeek is Uppsala Student of the Year 2022
13 January 2023
He describes himself as someone nerdily interested in physics and driven by the idea of spreading knowledge to others. Uppsala Student of the Year is 22-year-old Benjamin Verbeek, who will graduate this summer with a Master of Science degree in engineering physics and can now start aiming for the stars.
These are busy days for Benjamin Verbeek. In mid-January he will be moving to Switzerland to complete his degree project. Before this, he is making time to meet with the Anders Wall Foundation, be photographed and have lunch with the Vice-Chancellor; many people want to celebrate with Uppsala Student of the Year 2022.
“It’s a terrific honour and I feel humbled to receive this distinction. It is a recognition that everything I’ve done has been appreciated, and that is something I’ll take with me as I continue pursuing my work,” says Verbeek.
Drawn to understanding complexities
During his studies in engineering physics, Verbeek has not only absorbed knowledge himself, but has also tried to spread it among others. For three years, he was a co-organiser of a maths and programming camp for children and young people. Last summer he also founded a physics and astronomy camp for secondary school students, where he was responsible for its organisation and teaching together with the other students in the group of organisers.
“I didn’t get the chance to go to this kind of camp when I was at school. I also find it really fun to share everything I’ve learned and get the chance to meet enthusiastic secondary school students.”
Engineering physics is known as one of the most difficult subjects to take. What was it that drew you to that programme when you were at school?
“It was probably precisely because it was hard – I’ve always liked challenges. I’m a curious person by nature and want to understand how the world works, so it’s therefore a good idea to understand nature.”
Verbeek feels the programme and his time studying lived up to expectations. Above all else, it has been fun.
“I’m one of those people who spends evenings watching nerdy YouTube clips about different physics phenomena. For me, physics is about solving a puzzle together with friends. Because it’s so fun, it doesn’t get too boring.”
Space school inspired dream of becoming astronaut
During the programme, his interest in space has only strengthened. Not least thanks to his supervisor Karin Schönning, who tipped him off about applying to the European Space Agency’s summer school. Verbeek was selected, becoming the only Swede who got the opportunity to travel to Belgium. Once there, he spent his days building small satellites and listening to astronauts.
“I got to write code to control a satellite in orbit, for example. It was one of the best summers of my life.”
His weeks at the European Space Agency made a real impression. He hopes to be able to return there later on in his career. One small dream he has is to work as an astronaut.
“It’s almost impossible to become one, and unfortunately many have a military background. Some of them are researchers, however. It’s also beneficial if you engage in climbing and diving, and since I like climbing I can at least tick that one off,” Verbeek adds.
Although his dreams of being an astronaut are very real, he is also drawn to many other things. After his degree project this summer, he would love to continue giving lectures. His aim is to inspire and get more young people interested in studying science and technology. Thanks to his grant, he will now be able to do so without having to worry about finances.
“Lots of the work at camps is voluntary. The grant gives me the freedom to lecture and go to camps without having to micro-optimise and take the absolute cheapest train that runs overnight just to save 100 kronor.”
Uppsala Student of the Year 2022
"The Anders Wall scholarship for Uppsala Student of the Year 2022 has been awarded to Benjamin Verbeek, who is studying the Master's Programme in Engineering Physics. During his studies he has obtained outstanding academic results and has represented Sweden in events such as the International Physics Olympiad. As a student representative, he has worked hard to ensure the quality of both his and other students’ courses, and as a co-organiser of study camps for primary and secondary school pupils he has piqued young people’s interest in science and inspired them to continue studying. Through his performance and his strong commitment, he is a fantastic role model for other students and a well-deserved recipient of the scholarship."
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