Published on: 01 June 2017
Written by: Djamari Oetringer

Who do you think of when I say "CognAC weekend"? Bram. Who do you think of when I say "that person with an unusual profile picture on Facebook"? Bram. Who do you think of when I say "that active member that is a member of 5 committees and fulfills all possible functions divided over those committees? Bram! (At least that is what you would think as a Chief of Internal Affairs)

It is time for the interview with AI* of the month May: Bram van Asseldonk!


Who is Bram?
Bram is a spontaneous boy from the north of the south of the east of the country, or a bit more specific: Boekel. I am 21 years old, a third-year Bachelor AI student, and I am as proud as a Fries of Brabant. I’ve got an older brother and two younger sisters. My brother, 24 years old, studies Computer Science in Utrecht. He started with the study program Gaming in Breda, but that was too easy for him. He then did a double Bachelor in Leiden: Mathematics and Physics. He then thought: ‘you know what would be a great follow-up study program? A Master in Computer Science.’ Next summer he has got an internship in Zürich at Google! There he will do some AI-related stuff.

Djamari types along with her mouth wide open, feeling the envy throughout her whole body.

My oldest sister is currently going to the culinary school in Eindhoven. She can cook really well so that’s nice. It’s also a bit weird, because she is 2 years younger than me but nevertheless she’s is already planning to buy her second car, while I don’t even have my driver’s license.
My youngest sister is 16 years old and, of course, she is still in high school.

Why did you decide to study AI and why here in Nijmegen?
Well that’s a questions of which my answer is not that useful. I first looked at Japanstudies in Leiden. I was very interested, but then Jake told me that he was going to a Study Trial (Dutch: Proefsteerdag) of AI here in Nijmegen. I decided to go along and this Bachelor also seemed to be great for me. Then I basically chose AI based on a coin toss and that is how I got here. That may be a bit weird, but I knew that I would end up fine if I studied either of those too, so I didn’t mind deciding it that way.

Where do you live right now?
Heidebloemstraat in Nijmegen. #heidebloemstraatSquad #AITakesOverTheTower #Gerwin&Aruna. Shout out to my roommates Jake and Rik! Shout out to my unofficial roommates Wessel and Lennart!

Do you have any hobbies?
Not really, currently I am too busy with all kinds of stuff to have a real hobby.

Then what about the past when life was not that busy, did you have any hobbies back then?
I did watch a shitton of anime, probably more than 3000 hours.

And if you now had enough time to spare, what would you like to do?
Well there are a few things that I would like to learn. I would like to learn how to cook at a high level, and also learn dancing with a partner.

Which course is your favorite one?
Definitely a programming course. I think Object Orientation was great.

I really like programming. I can just effortlessly work on a piece of code for 6 hours, without noticing or even feeling like so many hours have passed. 

And do you then really like OO because of the level of programming?
Partly. I also liked Modern Software Development and Technique, during which you also program at a high level, but there was a focus on working together and Scrum and agile. OO was more like ‘here’s an assignment you can make within a week’ and I liked that. I myself don’t have many ideas of things I would like to program, so it’s nice to be given such an assignment. I did once program an evolutionary algorithm. If you gave it a number, it would generate a basic mathematical operation of which that number was the outcome.

When do you expect to finish your Bachelor’s? And what do you want to do after that?
I expect to finish at the end of this academic year, which is very close. Then I want to start with the AI Master also here in Nijmegen. I am still doubting between the specializations Robotics and Computation, but I will probably have a delay in my studies because of doing a board year. Then if I am already taking a year extra, I might be able to combine the two specializations. That all depends on how next year is going.

Did you look at any other options?
Yes I did. Data Science was definitely not going to be it. I also looked at Cognitive Neuroscience and I really like the field of CNS, but that Master’s program just had too much of a focus on research for me.

What was your first thought about CognAC?
Well, fun fact: I wasn’t a CognAC member until April or May of my first year as an AI student. I missed my own orientation week so I was not hyped. I just did not know much about CognAC. All of my friends were members of the 1C and I also joined them at activities. We were basically one big group of friends enjoying CognAC, even before I was a real member.

During the second semester I had applied for mentorship for the next orientation week. Luckily two OrC members knew me and were in favor of me, but I couldn’t be a mentor if I wasn’t a CognAC member. So the OrC called me during one of the big meetings and they told me “Hey, we are talking about you becoming a mentor, but you are not a CognAC member. If we are going to consider it, could you then fill in a membership form tomorrow?” Okay. It was worth it. That call of the OrC convinced me.

Which committee was your first one?
Weekend Committee. This was during my second year.

And why the WkC?
I was at the Committee Picnic during my second year when I was introduced to all the committees. All the committees seemed nice, but just a bit incomplete. Only when the WkC came up, I got the feeling “yes, this is it”. They said things like “if you’ve got good ideas, if you want to setup a campfire, if you want to be responsible” and things like that “then this is the committee for you”. I agreed to all of those questions. The Weekend something towards which you can work. It’s not that intense and afterwards you really feel like you accomplished something. You can be really proud about it.

I was actually also interested in the WebC and I also enrolled myself, but due to some administration problems with my email address, I did not receive any emails about the startup meetings. I therefore missed the startup of the WebC and after that I did not do anything with it. Luckily, I heard from others when the startup meeting of the WkC took place so I did attend that one.

Did you join any other committees in the meantime?
Yes, currently I am also a member of the WkC, DAtA, AC, DisCo, and PaparaC.

And which one is your favorite one? The WkC by any chance?
I don’t think I am allowed to say anything else. We just did a lot of cool stuff with the WkC that are completely new, like making a promo movie. We were also wearing Bademäntel as committee members: Best. Choice. Ever.
Of course I also like the other committees. The general ambience is really nice.

I’ve got this blurred feeling inside of me that is telling me that you actually want to do a bit more with CognAC than just committees. Is this true?
Yes, I indeed want to! My intention is to be the chairman of the CognAC board next year.

Are you excited about it?
Tremendously :) *laughs*. I am already intens aan het genieten (enjoying intensively).

Are you also ready for it?
I would like to say that I am ready as I can be, but that is not the case. I think I will only be ready at the end of the year. My goal is not to have a flawless year, but to solve the flaws as soon as possible.
*Thumbs up from Djamari*

Why chairman? And especially: why not Chief of Internal Affairs L?
Because I notice that I can have an opinion and because I can delegate and take the lead, just like within the WkC. I just know that if I would be a board member, any board member, that I would do that anyways and then I would prefer that I also get the credits for it. I also really want varied tasks and I want to be the jack of all trades; I want to be informed about everything and be able to help wherever I can and then chairmanship fits best.
I did consider being the Chief of Internal Affairs, but I concluded that there were other candidates who wanted to do that more than I did and they would have been at least as good as me. I would then probably also take the lead within the board too much and this could result into a clash.

What are you planning to do with your study next year as a board member?
Taking it easy, just 30 EC, 15 per semester. My intention is to live a relaxed life next year (excluding the board of course).

Then what do you want to do next year regarding committees?
That depends on what is needed. My goal is to join as few committees as possible and to join those that need me as a board member or just as a committee member.

Djamari approves.

Of course I will join at least one. If I had to choose one, I might chose the WkC, but I think it would also be nice to join the CognAC weekend from the other side; as a participant instead of a committee member.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
At some company as an employee. I would be a programmer, but with the vision to do something in management, leading a project or something.

Are you a fan of the BoyCo?
Yes. Easy question.

Alright then the next one is going to be harder. Which BoyCo member is your favorite one?
That is not a question you are allowed to ask. If you really are a fan, you choose all of them. I would also like to mention the Boyserves, who are there in case that not all BoyCo members can be present when they have to perform.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
Sing-along songs and really cheesy RomComs. I do love movies for which you have to think a lot and that make you think, but sometimes you just don’t have the mental strength to do that. Then I just want to watch a movie without having to use my brain and just don’t think about anything else.

What’s your favorite Disney movie?
I would like to say Frank en Frey (The Fox and the Hound). The movie is not so well-known. I like it partly because of that, but also because the mood and the plot are not the standard Disney category you would think of.

If you right now had the chance to travel for free to any place of the world, where would you go to?
Japan. My love for Japan fits well with my interests. The technology over there is great for AI students. Of course also because of anime.

If you had to describe yourself with just one word, which word would that be?
Reflective. Secretly I think a lot about myself and I like that, as long as I’ve got the time for it.

On Facebook I saw that your profile picture is not really a picture of yourself. Could you explain that picture?
That’s the robot from hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy called Marvin. Before that I had another Facebook account, but then I decided that Facebook is just nothing for me so I deleted it. Then later on I actually needed Facebook to join a project, so I created a page of which it was clear enough that it was me, while not actually showing my face. I’ve never taken the time or effort to change the picture.

What would be a suitable per for CognAC?
Pandas. Wouldn’t it be great to have pandas in the garden next to the board room? They should be small enough to entrain them, but big enough to cuddle.

Will CognAC stay in your heart forever (and especially the current Chief of Internal Affairs)?
Of course. Of course.

Is there anything you would like to say to the readers?
Kids, stay in school, don’t do drugs, greetings to the children.
Shout out to the Candidate Board!