When MERLN was founded in 2014, the team decided to build a working environment that was different from that of most scientific labs. They noted that you will often see scientists spread out over long corridors with dozens of rooms that limit interaction between colleagues and that creates a somewhat claustrophobic atmosphere.
At MERLN, we implemented an open office principle. Our office consists of one large space measuring approximately 1000 m2. The interior design is modern and lively, and offers seating space for approximately 100 people. It also contains multiple meeting rooms, phone booths, two kitchens, and two bathrooms. There are no fixed desks, meaning that everyone can sit anywhere they like and you’ll have different neighbors every day. This stimulates interaction with your colleagues, which promotes scientific discussions and boosts team spirit!
Working hours at MERLN are generally flexible and you can plan your work activities accordingly. Working from home is possible too and if you’re ever about to miss a meeting because of a cancelled train, just use Zoom or your phone!
Besides a modern interior design, the MERLN office also contains artwork to capture the imagination. One noteworthy art project was established as a collaboration between Derya Zenginoglu, a multidisciplinary artist, and Prof. Pamela Habibovic. The two were brought together by the Qua Art Qua Science Foundation of the University of Twente. The main objective of this foundation is the annual organization of a number of projects in order to explore the interface between art and science. The mutual inspiration and the way in which the two disciplines may complement each other play a large part in this.
The choice for Zenginoglu and Habibovic was made based on their work: Zenginoglu is fascinated by life, and this fascination is the starting point of her work, and Habibovic’s research group develops biomaterials to regenerate diseased or damaged tissue. The first meeting between the two confirmed that both the artist and the scientist are inspired by nature’s ability to create something new and fix what is dysfunctional. Furthermore, Zenginoglu and Habibovic surprised each other by their respective ways of thinking about regeneration, regenerative medicine, and the role people (should) have in this. A number of discussions followed, including with Prof. Klaas de Groot. De Groot, Habibovic’s mentor during her PhD studies, has a profound interest in the interface between art and science, as witnessed by an exchange of letters he had with Eugène Brands, one of the famous members of the CoBrA group in the Netherlands. This exchange was published in the book “Mystery – center of the universe”.
Besides the interesting discussions had by Zenginoglu, Habibovic and de Groot, visits were organized to Zenginoglu’s studio and to exhibitions of her work in art galleries in Enschede and in Amsterdam. Likewise, Zenginoglu also spent time in Habibovic’s lab; she talked to her researchers and followed their scientific experiments. All these interactions resulted in an idea for a work of art that Zenginoglu would create. And everyone agreed that this piece should be placed at the new MERLN Institute.
For this art piece, Zenginoglu was inspired by the interaction between the synthetic material and the living tissue she observed in Habibovic’s research. The resulting piece is an installation in which different materials and techniques are used, thereby representing the artist’s view on the interaction between artificial material and living tissue, the aim of restoring function, and on outside interferences on this process. This installation also serves as a meeting place for scientists and artists, where they can exchange ideas, inspiration, and viewpoints.
This collaboration also serves as a starting point for a larger project, possibly in collaboration with the Art and Heritage Committee of the UM, in which (young) scientists and artists will be brought together during lectures or seminars.