20 Questions with Jonathan Klapwijk


Tea with Senior Research Assistant

Organisation: University of Oxford

GPI role: Senior Research Assistant, ParentApp for Teens in Tanzania

We sit down with Jonathan Klapwijk to talk about food, his adventures, and his career journey.

1. What is your role at GPI, and what aspects of your job bring you the most satisfaction?

I am one of the team members in the ParentApp study. The most satisfying part of the job comes from working with such incredibly motivated people who are putting everything on the line to achieve the collective goal of improving the lives of children, everywhere.

2. Your research focus in one sentence? Go!

Learning how to positively impact and intervene with anyone responsible for the well-being and development of an adolescent.

3. Where are you currently based?

Oxford, UK.

4. Where did you grow up and how would you describe your childhood?

Pretoria, South Africa. My childhood was everything a child could wish for. Lots of playing outside and getting into more trouble than any parent hope for.

5. What’s one thing most people probably don’t know about the country of your origin?

The largest diamond in the world, the Cullinan diamond, is from South Africa. It was "gifted" to Edward VII by a colonialist colony and they broke it. Unbelievable.

6. Tell us about your education and why you chose the career field you are in.

I have three degrees in psychology. I moved away from clinical work and into intervention research after spending time with a professor who opened my eyes to the impact of "scale." Psychologists are generally only taught to focus on individuals and pathologies, which is such a small portion of the study of mind and behaviour. I learnt that you can make an exponential impact on the lives of people if you learn how to intervene and develop at community, national, and finally global levels.

7. What's the most valuable lesson you've learned from your career?

Remember that the only thing you know is that you know nothing. Keep asking questions. Never stop learning.

8. What do you do to unwind after a long day of work?

Throw my laptop in a river and find my friends.

9. ​​If you could invite three historical figures to join you for tea, who would they be?

I suspect the attendees might ask for very strong tea. I would like to invite Mpho Tshivhase, Christopher George Latore Wallace, and Tupac Amaru Shakur. I'd ask Mpho to please moderate the discussion.

10. If you were a president for a day, what new law would you create?

Free access to education. (And another public holiday, maybe two!)

11. If you could swap lives with any fictional character for a day, who would it be and why? Doctor Manhattan. He teleports to other planets where he knows no one can email him so he can actually get some work done.

12. What's the most memorable vacation you've ever taken, and what made it unforgettable? 

I once drove North from Makhanda, Eastern Cape, South Africa, through the spine of Zimbabwe, across the whole Zambia, up and down Malawi, and back to South Africa along the coast of Mozambique. It took several weeks and was one of the most challenging and ridiculous adventures I have ever done.

13. If you could have any wild animal as a pet, what would it be?

An air-breathing, tail walking, shark.

14. What's the weirdest food combination you've ever tried, and did you like it?

What I think is weird, is drinking weird drinks while eating.

15. Sweet or savoury: which flavour profile wins your heart?

Savoury. Every time.

16. If you could magically learn any skill overnight, what would it be?

Learn how to learn faster.

17. What's the silliest fear you have that you're almost embarrassed to admit?

I have such a big fear that I will be asked to name my silliest fear in a newsletter. Terrifying.

18. If you could have a personal theme song that played every time you entered a room, what would it be?

"Opposite People" by Fela Kuti

19. Would you rather have the ability to speak and understand all languages in the world or be able to play every musical instrument proficiently?

Language. Being a polyglot must be way too much fun.

20.  What motivates you when you feel discouraged?

People. Music. Food.