Ron Plasterk on C. elegans and Zebrafish Genomics
  Ron Plasterk     Biography    
Recorded: 07 Jun 2004

Well, my graduate work was on an invertible segment phage mu on genetic switches and on DNA rearrangement. Actually I’ve stayed with DNA rearrangements all along. But then I did feel that the excitement was going to be in eukaryotes and in multi-cellular eukaryotes, so I wanted to work on an animal. I moved to C. elegans and I’ve stayed with it. Now actually four years ago when I moved to the Hubrecht Laboratory for Developmental Biology—which has a really good tradition in vertebrate embryology—I thought I should do something on zebrafish as well. Zebrafish, you could view as a sort of C. elegans of the vertebrate world because it has some of the properties that the worm has and had when I decided I wanted to work in that eighteen or so years ago. You can grow a lot of them. They’re easy to breed. They’re transparent. There are thousands of mutants floating around. Also that field seemed ready for some genomics. I’ve always liked genomics, even before it was called genomics.

When I moved into the worm field, what was it, eighteen years ago? One of the first things I did was to set up a way to knock out genes by creating mutant libraries, and that really I think has made some difference in the field. But I really like to play with genomics and genes. I’m still doing that now with zebrafish.

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