Ron Plasterk on CSHL Arrival: Phage Meeting
  Ron Plasterk     Biography    
Recorded: 07 Jun 2004

So it’s difficult for me to tell fact from fiction because this place is my first impression of the United States, which is not a fair impression. So I came here and I thought, hey, I love America. You get three meals a day, there’s no traffic, it’s still safe. You can just leave your stuff, you can leave your doors open, and everybody is friendly and polite, a great place. Of course later on, I realized this was not an all representative picture of the United States. But that was the first impression. And then the famous people that I read about in literature—they were there. My first impression was a phage meeting, probably 198-something, mid ‘80s, and I was a young graduate student but it really impressed me cause this was my first introduction to the big world of science. So this whole place has really put an imprint on me. It’s hard to get rid of that and to look at a place objectively. So there was—I was in the transposon and gene recombination fields and Ira Herskowitz and Nick Cozzarelli who later on became the editor of PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and was always in topology. Kiyoshi Mizuuchi the wizard with the beard and the hair band who was doing the transposition and stuff—great scientists! And all these people were there at recombination, I mean at that phage meeting. So, yeah, that really impressed me.

And it’s this combination which is still there of, you know, the pinnacle of science on one hand and also this sort of democratic atmosphere where everybody is wearing shorts and sneakers and you can just talk to everybody. You don’t have to say professor, you can just address them whatever way you like and talk science. That was my first impression.

Ronald Plasterk, is a Dutch politician of the Labour Party and successful scientist and molecular genetics. He studied biology at the Leiden University and economics at the University of Amsterdam. In 1981 he received the Dutch doctorandus degree in biology. In 1984 he earned a doctorate in mathematics and natural sciences from the University of Leiden.

After receiving his Ph.D. he moved to California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and worked as a post-doc (1985-1986) on the transposon sequences in DNA in the parasite Borrelia hermsii. Plasterk was also a post-doc at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge (1986-1987) where he studied Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode that is used as a model organism. His major area of research include genetics and functional genomics.

He came back to the Netherlands in 1987 and became a group leader and member of the board of the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. Between 1989 and 2000 he was director of the research school of oncology at the institute. From 1997 till 2000 he was professor of molecular genetics at the University of Amsterdam. In 2000 was appointed director of the Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology (Hubrecht Laboratory) and at the same time he was a professor in developmental genetics at Utrecht University.

In February 2007 Ronald Plasterek was appointed minister of Education, Culture and Science in the fourth Balkenende government and he decided to end his scientific career. He held this position until February 2010. He is a member of the House of Representatives and Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

More Information: Wikipedia