Universiteit Leiden

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Testimonial Research Traineeship

The Research Traineeship Programme: a valuable experience

The Research Traineeship Programme gives students the opportunity to get more experience in conducting research under the supervision of two professors at university. During the last seven months we worked on the research project named ‘Modern Perceptions of Ancient Religions’. Dr. Kim Beerden and Dr. Markus Altena Davidsen were our supervisors. For this research we looked into four spiritual Dutch magazines published in the period of 2012 to 2016: the Bres, Mantra/Prana, Paravisie and the Happinez. In these magazines we encountered many references to ancient religions. We wanted to find out how often these references occurred, in what way these religions were presented to the public, and why the writers would make these references in their specific context in the first place. In this way we hoped to gain more insight in the spiritual religious landscape of the Netherlands. 

Poster Research Traineeship

At the beginning of our research it very quickly became clear that finding the right research method and collecting all the relevant data was a time-consuming, but also very important and worthwhile business. For instance, we first had to find out what we considered to be ancient religions, since this term is too broad and vague to work with. During our research we noticed that it worked to our advantage that we both had a different academic background. Hilke was well informed about antiquity and all its facets. She was also able to make sure that we kept our deadlines and that we were accurate. Coming from a religious studies background, Marijn was more familiar with some theories regarding religion behind our research. Furthermore, Marijn was more concerned with the digital aspects necessary to conduct our research: she designed the two posters which we used for our poster presentations. The traineeship was very valuable because it provided us with the opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary research project for a longer period of time.

Kim Beerden: “The Research Traineeship is a very worthwhile way of instigating interdisciplinary research. Together with a colleague from a different institute and two students you form a team which allows you to pursue an original research project and show the trainees what research is all about. They have conducted research as part of their degree, but it is something else to be involved in a long term project with uncertain outcomes. Markus and I were extremely happy with Hilke and Marijn as our two trainees. Although they did not know one another when the project started, they have developed a unique synergy which added much to the project. My one advice for colleagues is: when you select your trainees, think very hard about what kind of team will work best for your specific research project.”

Poster presentation

In the end we gave two poster presentations: one on a national conference of religious scholars, and the other during the final conference of the Research Traineeship Programme. Moreover, we wrote an article for the classics magazine Frons: blad voor Leidse classici titled ‘Van hieros gamos tot Happinez.’ We then wrote the final report of our research, which Dr. Beerden now uses for her article which will (hopefully) soon appear in the magazine Narthex for teachers of religion at secondary schools. We are very grateful to Dr. Kim Beerden and Dr. Markus Altena Davidsen for the opportunity they gave us to be a part of this project. We are also thankful for their helpful supervision.

As a team, we would also like to express our thanks to the Research Traineeship Programme!

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