Ron Plasterk on Competition in Science
  Ron Plasterk     Biography    
Recorded: 07 Jun 2004

What I like is rivalry in a way. It is true that the same people that you compete with are the people whose admiration you want the most, right, because they are interested in the same things. They say, “Hey that was really a great experiment that you did there.” If there’s a hard competition it doesn’t work that way, right? If you hate each other, and you try to be nasty to each other it doesn’t make sense because it’s their admiration that you want most, right?

And it’s also something where you don’t want to lose the respect from the people that you admire. I was a postdoc with Mel Simon and John Sulston, I like them both very much. And I would never want to be caught doing something that they would think, oh, this is a disappointment. So this sort of limits the competition because you have to stay honest. So I’m not so concerned about competition and I don’t think it’s so bad. There’s a lot of rivalry where of course you want to be the person who has done the best experiment and at the next meeting you hope that your talk is going to be the biggest news, but that’s normal, that’s fine.

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