| Dear Colleagues - today is my last day in the employ of NWO.
It has been a great privilege to serve NWO and both ASTRON/JIVE for the last 20 years.
The progress both institutes have made is impressive - ASTRON (and indeed the Netherlands as a whole) is playing a leading role in the realisation of the SKA in terms of its technical design, its scientific specification and especially as the recognised coordinator and initiator of the European SKA Regional Science Data Centre (the recent success of the AENEAS proposal, under Michael Wise's coordination is the icing on the cake!). We are also involved in an exciting future-oriented collaboration with the Chinese and other Dutch colleagues to build a low-frequency radio astronomy package that will fly on the upcoming Chinese far-side lunar mission - Chang'e-4. This, together with our continuing development of advanced aperture array technologies, places ASTRON at the fore-front of next generation radio telescope developments, including SKA-2. Meanwhile, the WSRT is on the brink of a fantastic new wide-field capability via the APERTIF upgrade, and LOFAR is widely recognised as the premier low-frequency radio telescope in the world. Our own astronomy group flourishes in a way we could only have dreamt of 10 years ago - the many successes we have enjoyed in competing for individual research awards both at home and in Europe has been quite staggering. In addition, we have enjoyed the enormous growth of a vibrant radio community at the universities, in Leiden, Groningen, Amsterdam and Nijmegen where are links and engagement are strong.
JIVE is also well-established as an ERIC with the potential to grow significantly via ear-marked EC funding, with an eye towards the exciting opportunities associated with a new and impressive (South) African (SKA) VLBI capability.
The DOME project (a collaboration between IBM and ASTRON) has been pivotal in the Netherlands optimal positioning in the SKA ICT global planning, and a follow-up to this initiative is in the works.
The NOVA IR/Optical Group has also flourished during this period - it's with some pride that Dwingeloo is now a major centre for two of the greatest and most hotly anticipated observatories of the 21st Century - the E-ELT and the SKA.
CAMRAS is enjoying a beautifully refurbished Dwingeloo Telescope, and organises an impressive programme of activities that involves radio amateurs, amateur radio astronomers, education (STEM), public outreach, art and culture in the broadest possible sense. Much to my own delight, there is also a fledgling SETI capability being developed.
All-in-all, I think I leave Dwingeloo with ASTRON, its telescopes and the other organisations it hosts in better shape than ever before. It's a state of affairs that we can all take great pride in. Naturally, it is very hard to leave an institute like ASTRON without a certain tinge of regret but I also look forward to the new challenges and opportunities Manchester, Jodrell Bank and the UK in general present. I have greatly enjoyed my time in Dwingeloo and the Netherlands - I met many wonderful people here and made some very good friends. The Netherlands and the Dutch people have a very special place in my heart.
I hope to be a frequent visitor to the Netherlands and Dwingeloo in the future. The ASTRON JIVE Daily Image pages will also help me keep in touch with what is going on here - let me take this final opportunity to encourage all of you to submit your results and various events to these pages!
[The image above shows the "standard" farewell picture all ASTRON and JIVE employees receive on their departure from Dwingeloo - the signatures of all staff represent a snapshot of the organisation at a particular epoch in time. An analysis of all the signatures could probably fill a thesis or two but what I notice is (i) incompleteness(!), (ii) an interesting use of colour by Bob Campbell, (iii) the large fraction of signatures that are actually legible, (iv) a singular personal note from Marjan T, (v) one signature presented upside down by Harro and (vi) a cheeky reference to Ajax by Anno!
I expect I am still missing a lot - take a look and do your own analysis!]