In Memoriam Barend Thijsse (1950-2020)

News - 23 April 2020 - Webredactie 3ME

In the early morning of 22 April 2020, our dear former colleague professor Barend Thijsse passed away after a short illness as a result of lung cancer. Barend was 69 years old.

Barend Thijsse was an inspiring researcher and lecturer at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering for decades (36 years in active service and period as emeritus professor). He played a key role in making the department what it is today through his acuity, his strong commitment, his innovations and his scientific knowledge. He used his physics background to really understand materials and transferred that knowledge and his research skills to his students. Indeed, not only did he generate a great deal of knowledge about materials science, but he also ensured that his knowledge was carried over to future generations. Barend’s great empathy, his sharp analytical insight and his infectious enthusiasm made him a teacher of remarkable talent.

Barend was unconventional and innovative. He was an independent thinker, who could also persuasively present contrary ideas. At the same time, he also had a strong sense of responsibility and always tried to connect with the people around him. Much like in his research, in the context of education and the organisation, he always asked: “Why are we actually doing it this way?” To which he replied: “I have a better idea!” An important aspect of working with Barend was trying to understand and critically examine all of his ideas and put them into practice. He had numerous ‘small-scale’ research ideas, but also ‘big’ ideas that now occupy an important place in the MSE department. The two biggest ones: Computational Materials Science and Materials for Art and Archaeology. About 30, respectively 17, years ago, Barend felt that there were new opportunities in the field, which would strengthen research and education and enhance their appeal. And he was right. He was also constantly thinking creatively about education. About 20 years ago, he revolutionised the classroom. Like his research, his education was innovative and based on a strong foundation of physics/materials science.

More than two years ago, Barend was diagnosed with lung cancer with metastases. Thanks to sophisticated medication, he had a very good quality of life for two years. He married Hanneke on Terschelling. But when the medication started to lose its efficacy a few weeks ago, he deteriorated rapidly and died on Wednesday morning.

We remember Barend as a special scientist and a great colleague. We wish Hanneke, his family and his friends all the strength in the world.

Joris Dik, Jilt Sietsma
22 April 2020