In 'Beneath the surface', we deep dive into the mind of a UAntwerp researcher. Stroom digs for experiences, interests and motivations, in order to discover: what makes a scientist tick? This time, we put Jente Wagemans in the spotlight. Wagemans is working to get his doctorate degree in medical sciences.
The big I
My ‘why’ — why I get up, why I do sports medicine research, why I am who I am — can be summarised as ‘the big I’: Innovation and Inspiration. As a PhD student, I hope to innovate within my field, the rehabilitation of ankle sprains, by engaging in scientific research. With my results, I want to contribute to the bigger picture of medicine. On the other hand, on a personal level, I also hope to inspire people by serving as a role model. Life has dealt me some heavy blows. My sister died in 2009 after she was hit by a car. And a few years ago, I became partially paralysed in a car accident. Still, I strive every day to become the best version of myself. My limitations do not define me. By working on myself, I want to be an example.
Eager to learn
Looking at the world, I am in awe. When I come across a subject that intrigues me, I immediately start reading books about it. I am particularly passionate about history. From Alexander the Great to Leonardo Da Vinci to Winston Churchill. Historical figures inspire me. History teaches us how we can do better today and tomorrow. Philosophy also has an important place in my life. Stoicism as described by Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius remains extremely relevant even today. Learning to accept and even appreciate things that happen beyond my control is a source of stability for me.
I have never hidden my ambition. Some call it boastfulness or arrogance, but for me it is a matter of getting the most out of everything. I never shy away from a good challenge. Doing what you already know does not allow you to grow; looking for solutions does. This mantra applies to my research, but is also relevant in my personal life. My PhD is a very ambitious project. I owe a lot to my supervisors, who put their faith in me. They know that I will pull out all the stops to make this research a success. I have also personally navigated many waters — oceans, even. They have all shaped me into who I am now. And I am still wading through water to this day, on my lengthy rehabilitation journey. But every wave I overcome makes me stronger and instils in me the confidence that I will achieve my dreams.
'Life has dealt me some heavy blows. Still, I strive every day to become the best version of myself.'
Sports is so much more than just playing a game. It is togetherness, passion, emotion. I started playing football at the age of four. For years I played in the youth series, and even at national level, at Royal Antwerp FC. Unfortunately that chapter has come to an end, but my heart is still red and white. Even as a scholar, I keep close ties to the club. For instance, I am working with the first team as part of a scientific study. It is really great to be able to apply the knowledge I have gained in practice. Before my car accident, I was the second physiotherapist for the Telenet Giants Antwerp: a wonderful basketball team that I hold very dear. When the Giants play, you can still find me in the crowd cheering them on.
For me, any occasion is a good occasion to put on a tailor-made suit. The word ‘overdressed’ is not in my dictionary. As a student, I would even go to class in a suit. When I imagine the best version of myself, he is always wearing a nice suit with a pocket square, matching cufflinks and dress shoes. I enjoy being in the spotlight every now and then. It brings out the best in me. I will always remember the first time I got to present our research on a big stage. At the Isokinetic Conference in London, I spoke to a room full of other researchers, who were all ears. Dressed up, talking about innovation and inspiring others ... for me, that is a good time.