Faces of NeurotechEU: Exploring the Exciting Aspects, Challenges, and Strengths of NeurotechEU with Jutta Escher-Kolski from Lille University

In the faces of NeurotechEU series, several people in the NeurotechEU alliance are interviewed to learn about their experiences and insights. 

Jutta Escher-Kolski, international officer at the central level for the development of educational projects at Lille University, is dedicated to cultivating and enhancing international partnerships. With a profound passion for fostering collaborative endeavors, she strives to cultivate a vibrant environment that nurtures collaboration and generates profound outcomes. She shares her insights into the Exciting Aspects, Challenges, and Strengths of the NeurotechEU Project and the transformative power of international collaborations.

NeurotechEU creates an enticing environment that enriches students, teachers, professors, and staff on multiple levels, academically and personally.

Jutta Escher-Kolski

Lille University is one of the newest partners at the NeurotechEU Alliance. Why did you choose this particular Alliance?

Lille University has a dedicated research unit focused on neuroscience and cognition, and we teach neuroscience in various study programs, including medicine, technical studies, psychology, and sports science. We have a vibrant community of researchers in these areas. Our university’s ambition was to be part of a European University Alliance, and as a new research-oriented university, we had to find the right partner. It is worth mentioning that our university president is a neuroscientist who strongly supported approaching the NeurotechEU Alliance.

Building new partnerships is always a challenge, but it was a goal we aimed to achieve. We are really excited to actively participate in this innovative project across borders and disciplines shaping the future.

What do you think is the most exciting aspect of the NeurotechEU project?

The most exciting aspect is being part of this flagship initiative. We are proud to have been accepted as a new partner. It is incredibly thrilling for us. The project offers numerous possibilities, such as participating in large-scale programs, conducting research and teaching for our students, and facilitating the establishment of joint laboratories for our scientists. Although it is truly exhilarating, at times, I feel many skills and knowledge areas still need improvement, and additional training would enhance our management abilities.

What can be the most exciting part for students?

With the opportunity to interact with exceptional teachers, professors, and students from other universities and their expanded network gained through, they can have valuable connections for their future careers and for shaping the future. The idea of the Hackathon is very appealing to them. It’s a contemporary format that our students find pretty engaging. It’s an asset that European universities can offer in terms of short learning formats.

And what can be the most specific challenges?

A specific challenge we face is the disparity in financing and organization. While we fund NeurotechEU student participation fully, the standard Erasmus program only provides a lump sum. This creates a two-tier system that is concerning and would elicit student reactions. We must address this as a consortium by equalizing the platform through location or alternative methods.

How can NeurotechEU stimulate out-of-the-box thinking and foster creativity?

NeurotechEU creates an enticing environment that enriches students, teachers, professors, and staff on multiple levels, academically and personally. It offers a compelling opportunity to foster a vibrant community that encourages creativity, cultivates innovation, and drives forward-thinking solutions to shape the future.

I believe in-person meetings are crucial for stimulating creativity. Therefore, advocating for travel and organizing physical meetings where we can interact, discuss, and have creative moments while presenting research results is essential. The Digital Plus platform is valuable, but physical mobility should not be neglected in the goal of creating an interconnected European University.

What do you believe are the biggest strengths of Lille University in the NeurotechEU project?

Firstly, it boasts scientific excellence and exceptional scientists. Our expertise extends to neuro metaphysics, philosophy ethics, and law, which our partner universities may not cover. Additionally, we have a substantial student population, making us one of the largest universities in student numbers. This allows us to involve a considerable number of individuals in the project. Lastly, Lille University’s location is advantageous in the heart of Europe, near Brussels. We strive to be an inclusive university as well.

What advice would you give someone working at another university in a similar position to NeurotechEU?

Be curious, be open-minded, and do not hesitate to ask questions! This project is fantastic but can be time-consuming. So be prepared to invest significant time to build interpersonal connections and try to get to know one another genuinely. Although we have numerous exciting opportunities for international cooperation thanks to digitalization, we should not underestimate the value of human encounters!

By: Krisztina Csiba, University of Debrecen

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