Ron Plasterk on Stages of Scientific Inquiry
  Ron Plasterk     Biography    
Recorded: 07 Jun 2004

There was a paper by René Ketting and me published in Cell [mut-7 of C. elegans, Required for Transposon Silencing and RNA Interference, Is a Homolog of Werner Syndrome Helicase and RnaseD] in 1999. So that was five or six years ago. That really changed the lab because I think I had gotten a bit bored with studying transposase, how it binds to the end of the transposon DNA, makes cuts, excises it and puts it somewhere else, because wonderful studies have been done in phage Mu and in TN10 and it was a bit the same. I don’t want to lock [or] to clean up after the party is over, right, so I didn’t want that? I’m sort of glad to find something where we could be in the first wave—I like the romantic phase where you don’t know what’s going on; where any, almost, hypothesis could still be valid and be true.

I’m doubtful about that because on the one hand, I really admire people who just stay with their protein, who discovered that protein and then purified it and did the activity in vitro and then did atomic resolution by crystallography and now they’re really asking the question, does the active side grab the strand like this? Or does it do it like that? And [they] want to know all the details and once they solved it for monomer they want to know it for the multimer and which accessory proteins are involved. I myself can’t do that. You know, once I roughly know who the players are and what the plot is then I want to move on to something else.

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