Martijn Peters (32) studied biomedical sciences but became a true science communication guru. He has won multiple awards for his lectures, vlogs and TikToks and is now science coordinator at DPG Media. ‘Presenting very dry material in an entertaining way is fun.’

You should take a gamble every now and then, says Martijn Peters. He started a PhD in the polymer group at the University of Hasselt, but soon realised that academia was not for him. He was, however, good at talking about what he’d researched. In 2014, he won the Science Slam U-Hasselt, a competition where participants had to pour their research into a comedy skit. ‘That’s when I got into the habit,’ Peters says. ‘After that, I started doing more and more science communication.’

Peters liked communication and had a knack for it. During his PhD studies at Hasselt University, he attended as many workshops as possible in order to specialise further. Armed with this knowledge and an overdose of enthusiasm, he threw himself into one project after another. He made vlogs about his life as a PhD student, designed the website for his research group and organised a TedX conference at the university.

Odd man

In the final year of his PhD, Peters decided that his extracurricular activities could become a job. ’That’s when I went the extra mile. He was an odd man out in his research group. ’Few scientists do anything with communication, they don’t find it interesting. I put a lot of my spare time into it, but it was still a bit of a gamble. I didn’t know if it was going to be a long-term thing.

After completing his PhD, Peters worked as a science communicator at the university. This involved organising conferences and working on projects. But he didn’t sit still after work. He specialised in social media and built up a successful account on Instagram, which was an emerging medium at the time. ‘I was talking about science communication in English, so I got a lot of international followers.’

’I’d become so involved in communicating science that people were more likely to come to me.’

Arsenal of awards

Soon the local newspapers, radio and television knew how to find Peters. ‘The whole process is an accumulation of following my passion and being committed to it, but also serendipity and being the right person in the right place. I had done so much with science communication that people were more likely to come to me.’ His arsenal of awards is impressive. He has won The Floor is Yours’ Science Battle, the KVAB’s annual science communication prize twice, and a so-called Jamie Award for his science videos on TikTok.

Peters’ gamble paid off. In 2019, he left the university to take up the position of science coordinator at DPG Media. The days are busy, but Peters enjoys it. ‘At the university I would report on my own research or that of my colleagues, now I do science stories on all sorts of topics. I get bored quickly when I have to do the same thing over and over again, but now I can focus on something different each time.’

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Martijn Peters

Credit: Bart Cloet

Who is Martijn?

What and where did you study?

‘Bachelor in biomedical sciences, master in bioelectronics and nanotechnology at UHasselt. Then a PhD in science, a special branch for people who do interdisciplinary research.’

What motivates you in your work?

‘Seeing people get excited about science. Young people saying on social media that they are going to study science because of the way I present it. To keep those flames going, so that one day they will grow into a real fire in science.’

What are your short-term ambitions?

It is easy to stay in a familiar position, in cruise control. I want to keep pushing myself to push boundaries. To do new things, even if it’s not comfortable for me. This attitude has always given me more than it has cost me.’

What are your long-term ambitions?

‘When I started my PhD I thought I was going to be a professor, but two years later I was doing something completely different. Everything happens for a reason. I want to continue to trust myself, do what I love and dare to work hard for it. And keep an eye on the important things in life, like being a good husband and father.’