Interview with Raymond van den Brink

Raymond van den Brink works as an instrument engineer at the Research & Development department of ASTRON. He has the Dutch nationality. X-Shooter

What and where did you study?
In 2003 I graduated as a design engineer at the faculty Industrial Design Engineering at the University of Technology in Delft.

What does your work involve?X shooter
As a design engineer I'm involved in, mostly, the mechanical design of various instruments. My job is to design, together with a team, the instrument in such a way that it brings forward the best solution possible when thinking about integration of performance, design, production, assembly, transport, interaction, maintenance and cost. Keeping in mind the best solution should result in more than the sum of the separate parts. 

The X- shooter,
an optical instrument where Raymond worked on.

What is the best part of your job?
Within ASTRON there is a large variety of project, challenges and people. You can be part of different teams facing all kind of challenges. If desired you can be involved in all phases of the design process.

What do you not like about your job?
Since R&D at ASTRON is very high tech, most designs are at the edge of what is possible. The innovation level is high and the success of the design is sometimes uncertain. The downside at this point is the inevitable once in a while occurring failure.

What does it feel like when you are getting measurements from a telescope?
Obviously it's very nice to see the first results of the instrument you contributed to. As being part of a team, it really motivates to continue when you see that together you can achieve great things.

What do you expect from LOFAR and what is your contribution to this?
As a pathfinder, LOFAR is expected to give a lot of input and motivation for the design of the SKA. As a design engineer I was involved in the design of the first High Band Antennas, even before they were put into the black boxes we have in the field now.

Raymond has contributed to the instrument LOFAR.
The image shows the LOFAR testfield.

What makes the work at ASTRON different than the work at other companies?
The international collaboration with other institutes, where the different groups, in a way, are both competitors and partners, is very inspiring. This is a unique situation in regards to commercial companies. Another difference with most companies is that as an engineer you can be involved in various phases of the lifecycle of the product. This begins with formulating the requirements, designing, prototyping, testing and using the product for the first time.

Can you tell more about your private life?
For an interesting job at ASTRON I moved from the west of the Netherlands to Drenthe. Having moved around a lot, I now life in Hoogeveen, which is close to ASTRON. In my spare time I'm not occupied with astronomy at all. I play sports very often in practice and competitive way. As a volunteer I'm part of the daily board of the club and also responsible for the organization of various tournaments. Also I spend time visiting friends and relatives in the west of the Netherlands, usually by motorcycle.

What do you see when you gaze at the sky on a bright night? A lot of peace and quiet, with a large area of unknown phenomena, giving opportunities and challenges for instruments to be designed.

What was your favourite course in high-school? In high-school I always had a broad interest, but mostly liked mathematics and physics. It gave knowledge which helps you to reveal or solve problems in all sorts of cases.

Why did you choose to study engineering?
There really was no doubt about me going into engineering, since I always wanted to create new things. Finally I made the choice to get into design engineering instead of mechanical engineering. This is more creative direction in an expressionistic sense including more design, ergonomics and human-product interaction.

Why do you think that boys and girls should choose a technical education?
A technical education gives a lot of opportunities in various fields, locations and products. Myself I'm an example of such a lucky situation. I'm a design engineer working as an instrument engineer designing scientific instruments for astronomical research whilst I always pictured myself designing new shavers or coffeemakers.

What else do you want to tell to the public who visits the ASTRON website? When you visit the ASTRON website you really should take a look at the Mechanical Group page under R&D Laboratory / Competence and Support Groups to get an idea of the mechanical engineering at ASTRON.

Design: Kuenst.    Development: Dripl.    © 2014 ASTRON