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The Silly Scientist

The Silly Scientist is a Dutch start-up company that aims to make science fun and accessible through tabletop games! It is run by long-term friends and scientists Iris van Zelst (a geophysicist) and Ronnie Peskens (a chemist). 

Here is a little bit about us:

Dr. Iris van Zelst

Research & development and education

Iris is a geophysicist, science communicator, and newly minted entrepreneur (well, she tries) from the Netherlands. She currently works as a postdoctoral researcher at the German Aerospace Center in Berlin (Germany), where she studies the geodynamics and seismology of Venus. She studied Earth Sciences (BSc) and Geophysics (MSc) at Utrecht University (the Netherlands) and obtained her PhD in geodynamics and seismology from ETH Zürich (Switzerland) in 2020. She also spent two years doing a postdoc on subduction dynamics in her apartment in Leeds (UK) during the pandemic. Iris makes YouTube videos about life as a researcher in the Earth and Planetary sciences and produces the podcast Science Sisters on academic life and career paths. She has also dabbled in science poetry and served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Geodynamics blog of the European Geosciences Union from 2017 to 2023.  

Proterozoic eon
Mesozoic era

Ronnie Peskens

Finance, supply, and legal

Ronnie is a chemist and entrepreneur from the Netherlands, where he works as a global product manager for PPG. He has over a decade of experience in research & development, and wrote ten patents in the fields of protective coatings and polymer chemistry (meaning - for the uninitiated - that Ronnie knows a lot about fire-resistant paints). Ronnie studied molecular science and engineering at the Fontys University of Applied Sciences in Eindhoven (the Netherlands) and also holds a masters degree in business administration from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (also in the Netherlands). He has lived in the United States of America and Hungary for several years and travelled all over the world for his work, giving him valuable experience in international business.


The Silly Scientist collaborates with freelance (and sciency!) illustrators to bring their products to life.

Dr. Lucia Perez-Diaz

Illustrations and graphic design for QUARTETnary

Lucia is a Spanish Earth Scientist and freelance author-illustrator based in the UK. Having studied Geology (BSc and MSc) at the University of Oviedo (Spain), she came to the UK over ten years ago as an MSc student at Royal Holloway, University of London (UK), where she later also obtained her PhD in computational geodynamics in 2017. Following this, she spent time as a researcher and teacher at UK Higher Education, before making the move to industry. She currently works as a computational geodynamicist in Oxford.

Lucia's adventure into illustration and design started during her PhD studies as a way to open up scientific discovery to young audiences and communicate complex topics in engaging ways. She specialises in flat illustration and enjoys building fun and whimsical imagery by combining minimalistic design with bold colour and hand-drawn patterns.  

The history of The Silly Scientist

Archean eon
Hadean eon
Cenozoic era

Iris first began dreaming of the game QUARTETnary in 2018. After pitching the idea to several colleagues and working on it on and off, she got one step closer to making the game a reality when she met Lucia in 2020 (online, of course). After convincing Lucia that she should definitely illustrate QUARTETnary and saying “no, I’m sure it won’t take much time at all” at the end of 2020, the game slowly started to take shape and Iris and Lucia won a Public Engagement Grant from the European Geosciences Union in 2021 to further develop QUARTETnary. 


With some of preliminary card designs finished in December 2022, Iris was enthusiastically showing off QUARTETnary to a couple of old university friends from the Netherlands when one of them, Ronnie, mentioned that he had always wanted to set up his own company. Perhaps QUARTETnary could use his expertise? This seemed like a great idea, since Iris knew nothing of running a business and was quite keen to keep it that way (although unfortunately she can’t completely escape it anymore). 


So, Iris and Ronnie officially founded The Silly Scientist in October 2023 with the initial aim of publishing and distributing QUARTETnary and dreams of many more sciency games and fun, creative forays into science communication for the future. 

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