Ron Plasterk on Growing Interest in RNA
  Ron Plasterk     Biography    
Recorded: 07 Jun 2004

You see as student I hated RNA because at our practicals we could just do recombinant DNA research, add restriction enzymes, you could clone, and again the results would be discrete, you could clone an ecoRI fragment into pBR322 and it’s there, right, and it’s clear. So RNA was for one thing you had to wear gloves, and you had to treat all the glasswork with specific stuff because some magical RNase would degrade your experiment. The results were also a little bit fuzzy. I had this bias with RNA, that it was uninteresting and something to stay away from. That’s a bit ironic because now I work on RNAi and we do a lot of RNA stuff all the time. I don’t think there is such a concern, you don’t have to wear gloves at all. But initially I liked DNA because it was so discrete.

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