Ron Plasterk on Scientific Aspirations
  Ron Plasterk     Biography    
Recorded: 07 Jun 2004

It’s a difficult question because in a way I don’t think I’ve ever dared to have the wish to achieve something. Maybe it’s out of fear that you wouldn’t achieve it. So I’ve always thought let’s see what comes my way, trying to do my best and that’s all you can do. But still if you think about it, I think, realistically the only thing that you could desire, you could hope to achieve is that you are going to discover something, which will be in the first year biology textbooks. In a way you could say, you know, if you spend forty years of your life being a scientist you might as well discover something which is in a textbook for students, right? If you don’t do that, then what have you done all these years? On the other hand, actually these textbooks are not very thick. There are a lot of scientists. So for most people that is something, a goal they will not achieve.

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