Bio Engineer Arnout Standaert is a busy bee. Three children, playing the guitar, going to concerts whenever he can, kite surfing ... he knows exactly how to combine this with his job of data scientist at VITO. And he has recently managed to find a similar variety of things to do in his job. Since 2018, he works part-time at the MRG unit and part-time at the new Data Science Hub. An ideal situation, in his opinion. Thanks to the combination of jobs, he comes into contact with the many topics within VITO. Arnout: “I am constantly challenged to learn. Things get quite busy at times, but it is also very satisfying!”

Based on his interest in ICT, Arnout started working at Siemens after his Application Engineer PhD. Eleven years ago, he left Siemens and switched back to VITO. Arnout: “The job at Siemens was fascinating, really, but I was more into the topics at VITO. For me, VITO is the ideal combination between ICT and science.”

Data-driven research

Arnout: “At VITO I joined the MRG (Environmental Risk and Health) unit, nowadays called HEALTH. A logical step. My PhD was about predictive microbiology and food safety. At HEALTH I draw up computer models on human exposure to chemicals, I participate in projects on preventive health and I bridge the gap between research and ICT. Early 2018, the Data Science Hub was set up at VITO. Data Science is the combination of modern statistics with advanced ICT technologies and extensive domain knowledge. The idea is to fully invest in a more data-driven approach to research.”

Double the size

Arnout: “The relatively new Data Science Hub is not a business unit in itself. Data Science transcends the various units; we bring together common expertise and resources from the different units. A number of people within the Data Science Hub are still standing with 1 foot in their ‘original’ unit, in my case HEALTH. The combination of all this knowledge from the most diverse units allows us to deepen and develop fairly generic tools. My world has suddenly doubled in size.” (laughs)

Flexible employer

Arnout lives in Antwerp. He tries to be in Mol at 8:00 am every morning so he can pick up the kids in the evening. Arnout: “VITO is a flexible employer. Flexitime, parental leave, not a luxury with three children in the house. We also have a satellite office near my home in Berchem, where I regularly go to work. I don’t need much more than a laptop, you see. You will also regularly find me at EnergyVille in Genk, to keep in touch with my colleagues and their interesting research there. A busy agenda, complicated planning, that’s true. But this is the perfect job for me.” 

Team spirit

Arnout: “The atmosphere at VITO is also great. Hierarchy is not that important, contacts at the company are informal and jovial. And everyone gets the opportunity to work on their personal development. It may seem obvious, but it really is not. Active efforts are made to improve the atmosphere and collegiality. The FIT@VITO programme offers lots of activities that contribute to the physical and mental health of VITO employees. A fun day of dodge ball, for example. Not only good exercise, but it also enhances the team spirit. VITO knows what to do to let a busy bee continue to grow.” (laughs)