Ron Plasterk on Becoming a Scientist
  Ron Plasterk     Biography    
Recorded: 07 Jun 2004

My father was a publisher of scientific literature; I grew up thinking that science was the hottest thing on earth. My father would go and take me to visit laboratories where his authors [and] professors were doing their research. He was actually, I think, looking up to them a little. I picked it up when I was a kid.

I don’t think I knew what I wanted to do in science. I was fascinated as so many kids are by books about the evolution of man. You know, with the skulls getting bigger and, of course, evolution and dinosaurs and all that. I think evolution was an important thing that fascinated me. You have this “Harry Potter” age when the magic of the world grabs you. I think that’s the age when you really want to grab children, not when they are 16 or 17, but when they are 12 or 13. Then [for] some kids, it’s the universe and it’s the stars, or it’s the atom. For me it was evolution. Because I’m from [was born] ’57, so when I was 13 that was 1970 and this was before DNA was common knowledge. So I was not fascinated by DNA at that time.

Later on, of course, as a student of biology, I quickly picked up on the new trends in biology and felt that that was really where the excitement was and where I wanted to go. But when I was 12 it was evolution, dinosaurs and paleontology that fascinated me the most.

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

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