New Year’s greetings from the dean 2021

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Dear staff and students

I hope that all of you have got off to a good start in the new year, and that you've spent your holiday relaxing with your loved ones and recharging your batteries for the year to come.

Firstly, I’d like to thank all of you for your hard work in the past year. I am impressed and proud of your commitment and determination to get things to work throughout the faculty, despite the restrictions, rule changes and challenges in getting the work-life balance right at this difficult time.

2020 was a very unusual year, but it was also an instructive year, and I think it’s important that we reflect on what we have learnt and what we can use in the future. This applies in particular to virtual solutions, which suddenly have become a common way of working when Denmark locked down in the spring, and now that we have been locked down again. Teaching, meetings as well as coffee breaks are transferred to our screens at home for most of us.

Many of you experience the move to online teaching and exams as a challenge, and I know some of you have problems and frustrations. Not only with the technology, but also with learning, well-being and motivation. But the digital world also offers flexibility and new opportunities, and some are pleased with these. There is no doubt that physical teaching on campus, face-to-face, can offer an element virtual teaching will never replace. However, digital opportunities can supplement where it makes sense, and we must continue to build on this – in close dialogue between students and teaching staff.

2020 has also been a perplexing year for research. Much of what was previously a matter of course for most researchers was not possible to the same extent; their vital collaboration with international colleagues at conferences, travel, meetings across the world and so on. Fortunately, many of our activities in laboratories, workshops and in the field have been successfully carried out, albeit with delays and difficulties.

2020 was NAT’s first year as a new faculty, although we shared our budget with TECH. Now, in 2021, we are standing completely on our own two feet. We’ve set up a new management team, with two new vice-deans for education and research. Moreover, we have a new academic council and a new independent committee at the faculty. We must maintain our good collaboration with TECH and, in the future, the committees at NAT and TECH will meet once or twice a year to discuss common issues.

Here on the threshold of 2021, we’ve drafted the faculty's strategy and action plans to set the direction for NAT up to 2030 and to interact with the local action plans at the departments and in line with AU's overall strategy.

The faculty's strategy is basically about two things. Who are we? And what do we want to do together at the faculty? Fortunately, NAT has a long and proud history, so we’re building on a solid foundation. If I can put it into words, what has historically characterised NAT is that we are front runners – or pioneers – within research, education and communication. I could quote many examples, but just think of iNANO, IT City in Katrinebjerg and the 4+4 PhD scheme. And we excel at collaborating across disciplinary boundaries and at translating good ideas into practice.  

As I see it, our strategy has to be ambitious, and it must focus on how we can nurture this pioneering spirit and mindset in the best way possible towards the 2030. Within both research and education, we must be more international – whether it be recruiting students and researchers or in career development. We must also engage in even better interaction with the outside world, both close to home and far away. In some areas, there are good opportunities to develop collaboration with companies and to develop entrepreneurship in students and staff. We also need to continue to build on our long tradition of disseminating research to the general public.

Finally, a good work environment is absolutely crucial if we are to realise our strategy. A good work environment is also paramount to be able to develop new talents and to create good ideas. We have to forge environments that are inclusive and stimulating. Sexism has justifiably been high on the agenda in 2020, and we will continue our work in this area in 2021. As a first step, the faculty management team attended a seminar on the topic in December, and work is now continuing; both in the faculty management team and locally at the departments.

2021 will offer many exciting challenges, and I’m looking forward to tackling these with the rest of the Dean's Office. With a full management in the Dean's Office, the team is now ready to make sure that NAT gets a good start: not only to a new year, but also to a new decade. The management is there to forge the necessary framework, but the foundation that gives NAT its base for the future is the dedicated research and education delivered or supported by individual employees. NAT is all of us - together!

I wish you all a happy New Year. I'm looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible in the year to come; in the field, in the laboratory, the auditorium, the canteen - or online.

Kristian Pedersen