siaa_logo_blue Conny Aerts conny

Instituut voor Sterrenkunde, University of Leuven& Radboud University Nijmegen

Job Title: Professor (Leuven)/
Chair of Asteroseismology (Radboud)


'She is an Astronomer': What stage of your career have you reached?

Conny Aerts: I am Full Professor in Leuven and Chair of Asteroseismology at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands (20%).

SIAA: How many years ago did you complete your PhD?

CA: 15 years

SIAA: What's the most senior position that you have held?

CA: Full professorship.

SIAA: Do you feel it was more difficult for you to get a job or a promotion in comparison with male astronomers?

CA: There is no difference in difficulty to get a permanent position at my university for male and female scientists. It takes on average 9 years, after PhD defence, to get a permanent position.

SIAA: Are women under-represented in your institution?

CA: Women and men are equally represented at my institute; this is due to an active attention to "diversity" in recruitment while building up my own team (which is half of the entire institute).

SIAA: What is your family status?

CA: My partner, Geert Molenberghs, is full professor in Biostatistics. I have two children, born in 1994 and 1998. My parents, born in 1934, are both still alive andlive at 85 km from my home.

SIAA: Have you had career breaks?

CA: Twice a career break of 5 months maternity and breast feeding leave.

SIAA: How many hours per day do you normally dedicate to work?

CA: During week days, I work on average 14 hours. During weekend days, I work on average 3 hours.

SIAA: What would most help advance your career?

CA: A serious reduction in administrative duties, plus a reduction in teaching duties and reduction in committee work and to have a competent highly-qualified administrative staff member. (I have now hired a competent administrative assistant and it is a really big help.)

SIAA: What recommendations would you make to young women starting their career in astronomy?

CA: Don't think too rapidly that you cannot achieve a scientific career:

  • Do it your way, even though this is different from all others.
  • Don't let your parents (or parents-in-law) have a bad effect on your career choices.
  • Don't adapt to the men's style, let them adapt to your style and needs.
  • Make sure you train your partner in doing an equal share of house hold tasks.
  • Don't just follow your partner abroad, nor adapt to his/her circumstances; think about your own career.
  • Make sure you have a good personal mentor and follow the advise of role models.