David Huybens – Pharaon and the next generation of researchers

David Huybens is a Creative Technology student at the University of Twente. He earns a little extra by working as an assistant in the Pharaon project. His job is to collect the paper questionnaires provided by the Dutch participants and keep the data safe. He is interviewed by our Pharaon partner Femke Nijboer, University of Twente.


Femke: Can you tell us a bit more about your work for Pharaon? You are closely involved in processing the data, so that everything ends up neatly on the University Twente’s secure servers. Is that correct?

David: Yes, that’s right, some participants know me as helping with the meetings. Or, as a hungry student who eats everything during one of the many lunches. But behind the scenes, I enter the responses to the questionnaires and process the data. That goes as follows: We anonymise the data first. So we don’t see who filled in what. The data is stored in a large file on the secure servers, which only our team can access. Then we archive the paper questionnaires in a vault at the university, and these questionnaires are separated from the papers where we link the participant number to the name. So you would have to break into two different vaults to find out who said what.

Femke: You are still a student yourself and hadn’t had much experience doing research with older people? What has stuck with you the most so far?

David: Indeed, I had no experience at all with research in practice, only theoretical knowledge. What will stay with me the most is how instructive the overall study is for me. I would almost dare to say, I learnt more in one year on the Pharaon project than in my entire bachelor study. As for the participants: I think we have an exceptional group of older people. I notice that the participants are very positive and full of life. That is very nice to see. However, this does, I think, give us a distorted picture of how things actually are with older people in general. A few small examples: in our test group, everyone has a computer, smart phone or tablet, and the Pharaon participants are on average much more highly educated than the average population in the Netherlands, so if anyone has any suggestions on how we could reach even more older people, please let us know!

Femke: Finally, our studies are about growing old healthily and happily. What do you do to take good care of yourself?

David: I think this is a bit of a mean question to ask a student! I really enjoy cooking delicious food. So I use a lot of fresh ingredients in the kitchen. But I do like a frikandellenbroodje (puff pastry filled with sausage) and a beer ? But I do that in moderation and in combination with a varied diet. I also really like traditional Dutch food; stamppot (mashed potatoes with one or more vegetables), hachee (traditional stew), draadjesvlees (Flemish Stew). And since our participants surely still have old, secret family recipes: will you send them to me ☺