Where are you from? What do you do?
My name is Tristan, I’m 28 years old and I am from the UK in a very rural area called the Lake District; I took my education in Scotland.
I moved here in June 2016, to take on a job near at the end of my PhD which is in neurosciences, I did a project on looking into stem cell therapy for stroke.
Actually, it is quite interesting, I never thought I would be a neuroscientist. When I was doing my bachelors, I hated neurosciences (laughs), I thought it was awful, I thought it was the worst kind of thing ever. That was when I stumbled across this PhD, I thought it sounded interesting and I moved to Glasgow.
But the reason why I’m here, was mostly by luck. My now-boss was giving a talk in Glasgow because he knew one of my PhD supervisors, I just emailed him with my CV and I said, “Would you be interested?” and he said "yes, actually yes, we are looking to expand”. He then gave me a job, I booked a flight and I moved here, the whole process from the first conversation took about two years.
It was nice to have somebody that put a bit faith on me. PhDs can be very, very hard. I had a breakdown, which is very common among people doing PhD degrees. You can feel you are not making real progress and are often alone in your work.
What do you like about Aarhus?
I really like Aarhus, it is a big new chapter in my life. Being from such a small place, in the middle of nowhere - there is more sheep than people in my town (laughs) - I like these smaller towns. I like to get around easily and I think what is great about Aarhus is there is so much going on for such a small city. At the same time, I’m still finding new things. A few friends came visiting recently and I went for the first time to O-Space. I often go to ARoS and Godsbanen, actually one of my favourite places is the Plant Café. I really like spending time there. Also my fantastic, supportive boyfriend who has molded my whole experience of my life here.
I really like work-life balance Danish society has achieved, however sometimes it is not really compatible when you are in academia. I have this battle sometimes, especially when it comes to my career and it is very difficult to decide what to do, and you think “oh, I’m failing”, and other times I feel so lucky because my boss gave me this opportunity to work on what I enjoy doing the most. Overall, I feel very lucky to be here.
What would you improve in Aarhus?
Sometimes I worry about what some people may call these "vanity projects". For example, the Letbanen, it’s been built and it is very expensive, but how much is going to be used? I worry about the projects that want to place Aarhus on the map, which are on one side fantastic, but sometimes I think, are we forgetting about the more socially disadvantaged people? Are we using these resources wisely?
From the perspective of a gay person in Aarhus I feel that there is not a huge “scene" so to speak. That is not necessarily a problem in itself, but what I noticed is the lack visibility of LGBT/queer people. A lot to seem all move to Copenhagen because it is a bigger place, it is easier to blend in there, and it is a shame that people cannot feel the way they want to be in their home city. I’ve discussed this often with Søren.
This leads to a discussion, not only here but in general, about queer space. You have places like gay bars that try and be what they think gay bars should be. In reality, you can make inclusive, safe spaces without the need for any sort of theme or style.
I worry sometimes about the popularity of DF (Dansk Folkeparti) and their influence in the government. We are quite lucky because we are migrants from Western-Europe, we are not the target of the sort hatred that other segments of the population are getting. I’m concerned about how these individuals (immigrants) are going to make their way in this world, just because they were born in a different country.
I always knew that Denmark is not that utopia that media wants to picture. It is interesting to see a country from an outsider’s perspective as well as some of those underlying currents. How do you tackle the perceived immigration issue? How do you help with integration? When specific parts of the population are placed outside of towns and cities you can see how problems occur.
I’m always very critical of any government, we have to be better at defining how can we improve the lives of the weaker. At the end of the day we are only as good as the weakest part of our society.
What are your plans in the near future?
The problem with science all over the world is that you often require funding and currently, governments are cutting funds. At the moment, I’m doing in experimental neuroscience but I’m also interested in doing research on research, in other words, looking at how research is done, how research can be improved. I’m quite interested in improving the quality of research. The problem we have in science right now is that a lot of people make research that other people can’t reproduce, so it is unlikely to be true. It is statistical noise, or based on bad methods, or it is biased.
My long-term plan is to keep applying for funds. I’ve got things moving in the right direction with my research. Over the next 6 months I’m going to push to get some good research out.
In the long term, I would like to move away from experimental science, I get pretty bad anxiety and often the uncertainty around biology doesn’t help that. But we shall see, I’d like to be in a role where I help with other people to make their research better. My boyfriend is about to finish his degree in medicine, and he will be working in Aarhus at least for the next year and then, depending on what his specialty is, he may have to move, we hope within commuting distance.
Brexit is a big worry for me, we don’t really know what is going to happen, the politicians are playing with the lives of 3 million EU citizens and 1 million or so citizens from the UK living abroad. I know I will still be a lot luckier than a lot of people even if the worst of Brexit takes place. I try not to freak out too much, otherwise I will lose my energy. We just have to wait and see. I did the best I could with my vote. I’m just going to work the best I can and keep going.
If you had all the means in the world, all the resources in the world, all the power in the world, what would you do?
I guess I think about LGBT asylum seekers and in a more broader sense, any people seeking asylum fleeing from all around the globe. These people are doing that to improve their lives. I will bring down the fences all around the European Union, it sounds a bit idealistic but if we think about it, one day, it could be us. We lose a bit of humanity when start seeing people like numbers. I’d like to be in a position influence how we see other people.