A Personal Touch of Leonie Kamminga

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Please learn more about colleagues in our "Personal Touch" series setting employees in the spotlight. A light-hearted manner to learn about the colleagues you know and those you don't!.

This week: Leonie Kamminga






1. Name, nationality, current function, department & theme?
My name is Leonie Kamminga, I was born and raised in Leek, a village close to Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands. I am tenure-track assistant professor at the Department of Molecular Biology and my team consists of one post-doc, three PhD students, and one technician. My team is part of the theme cancer development and immune defence.

2. When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up? Can you tell us something about your childhood years. 
As a child I did not have an ambition for a certain profession, I just wanted to know everything about everything. I have always been fascinated about the functioning of the human body and how this can develop normally. At this point my team and I are working on this. We are studying how a new organism can originate from a single fertilized cell and how different tissues can be formed and maintained using zebrafish as an animal model.

During my childhood I played a lot both indoors and outdoors. In summers I was climbing trees, making fires, jumping ditches, and helping out with our vegetable garden. In winters I skated on the canal in front of our house. Next to that, I read a lot.

3. What was your previous academic training, where did you study and why did you choose that study/those studies? 
I studied Biology in Groningen, with the specialization Medical Biology. I chose this study because I was fascinated about life in its broadest sense. After obtaining my Master’s degree in 2000 I started my PhD at the Department of Stem Cell Biology at the UMCG under the supervision of Gerald de Haan. I received my PhD in 2005 and that year I started to work as a post-doctoral fellow at the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht with René Ketting. During this time I was able to set up my own line of research, which led to my current position at the RIMLS, where I moved to in 2012.

4. The RIMLS motto is ‘to understand molecular mechanisms of disease’. What does this mean for you?
For me personally, it is important to first understand molecular mechanisms of normal development and functioning, before understanding what the underlying mechanisms are for diseases Therefore it is essential to keep on funding fundamental and curiosity-driven research. Having the fundamental knowledge at hand, which can be complex by itself, is essential to understand the often even more complex biology of diseases.

5. Which international scientist inspires/inspired you the most? Please give a motivation why.
I do not have a specific scientist as an example. I respect and enjoy people that are passionate about what they do, who are smart, and have a critical mindset.

6. Which research discovery that you have made has made you most proud?
Although there is no specific discovery that I’m proud of, I am proud about the papers I published so far for which I worked hard and where I was in the lead. At this point I am working on the questions that fascinated me as a child. And it makes me proud to have a team of dedicated people working on these questions together with me, sharing the same fascination and to see them develop as a scientist and as a person.

7. Given unlimited finance what experiment would you perform? 
When given unlimited finance I would build a roadmap of early development, starting at the fertilized single cell to the point all tissues are formed. To extend this, I would perform the same kind of experiment during the formation of the germ cells (oocytes and sperm) in order to understand how these cells retain the property to form a new organism upon fusion. This kind of research will give insight into how normal development is organized and will teach us what can cause infertility or miscarriage.

Another type of experiment I would like to invest in is to detect the very first stage of cancer, or being able to detect potential tumorous cells before they start to derail. 

8. What does your working area (desk, office) look like and what does it say about you (or your research)? 
When I am busy my desk tends to get covered with papers, notes, samples, etc. It resembles a bit what’s happening in my brain. I’m continuously thinking about a number of things. Once in a while I get things cleaned up to start with a (relatively) clean desk.

9. Nominate a colleague to be in the spotlight and what would you like to ask him or her? 
I would like to nominate Marion Bussemakers. She is project manager for BLUEPRINT. Next to that she keeps the overview of the finances of the entire department. She is an example of a highly effective person and has a genuine interest in you as a person. I would like to ask her: where would we be without you?

10. What type of person are you, quick insights:

a) Mac or PC?:          Mac   
b) Theater of cinema?: Theater
c) Dine out or dine in?: Dine in
d) Ferrari or Fiat?:     Never Fiat again
e) Shopaholic or chocoholic?: Chocoholic
f) Culture or Nature?: Nature

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