Ron Plasterk on Interest in Genetics Research
  Ron Plasterk     Biography    
Recorded: 07 Jun 2004

The sort of biology I never liked was the biology when you asked; what’s the influence of magnesium? You know, why the curve goes like this and with magnesium it actually goes like this. If you use statistics you can tell the difference between the two curves. I always thought that was—other people should do that—that was a bit boring. It wasn’t discrete enough. I’m probably simple minded, I want discrete differences, making real differences.

I’ve always loved changes in DNA. That was my graduate work, on genetic switches actually that was an invertible segment in DNA, in one orientation, phage mu grows on e.coli K-12. If the segment switches around, it will make different tail fibers and grow on another host. The simplicity and the clarity of such a switch has always appealed to me.

I still like the idea that you can change a nucleotide there and it’s a mutant, nobody can take that away from you. An A is turned into a T. That’s a fact of life. So that’s what I like about genetics is that at least some of it is clear and certain and clean.

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