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: Jolanda de Vries
1. Name, nationality, current function, department & theme?
Jolanda de Vries, dutch, professor of Translational Tumor Immunology, Departments of Tumor Immunology and Medical Oncology, Theme Cancer development and immune defence (and interested and attending meetings of other themes as well)
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.
I’m not sure if I thought about the possibility of becoming something. I had many interests but I do not remember exactly my preferences other then becoming a speed skater. I liked sports and I saw opportunities as a medical doctor specialised in sports. But at the same moment I was also interested in planning infrastructure, economics and I even applied for a computer specialist job directly after high school (with 400 other applicants). Making it to the final round really scared me and I declined quickly.
3. What was your previous academic training, where did you study and why did you choose that study/those studies?
Because I could not makeup my mind what I wanted to do, I choose the school closest to my home: University of higher laboratory education (HLO) and became a technician. During my internship in Switzerland I found out I had a passion for medical sciences and liked performing experiments and also design my own experiments and discuss results. I was offered a job as a technician and stayed for a while in Switzerland. My supervisor explained to me that it was better for me and possible future supervisors to become an independent researcher. So, at the moment a PhD position was offered, I accepted it and went to Utrecht. Unfortunately I did not know what doing a PhD meant and I struggled/suffered a lot during that period. But finally I received my PhD on T cell migration in Atopic Dermatitis. Thereafter, I almost accepted a job in industry, but decided to give science a last chance. I became postdoc in Nijmegen. It was a great time, working long hours, talking to suffering PhD students and enjoying life at the lab. Although no publications were achieved during this postdoc period, I found out I liked working at the interface between lab and clinic: Designing and testing novel therapeutics in clinical trials for the benefit of cancer patients!
4. The RIMLS motto is ‘to understand molecular mechanisms of disease’. What does this mean for you?
For me it means to understand the mode of action of immunomodulating (cellular) therapeutics in humans and how to manipulate the immune system for combatting disease.
5. Which international scientist inspires/inspired you the most? Please give a motivation why.
6. Which research discovery that you have made has made you most proud?
Of course I’m proud of the results of our clinical trials with natural dendritic cells in which patients lived longer then expected! But most of all, I’m proud of my team (past and present members): students, PhDs, postdocs and especially the technicians. They manufacture the patient-specific vaccines, they have a huge responsibility: the product they make is injected into real patients!
Furthermore, I’m really proud that I can work in a department with a pipeline of discoveries that can and will be translated for the benefit of patients!
7. Given unlimited finance what experiment would you perform?
Exactly what we plan to do: a randomised clinical study (one should not wait for Sinterklaas to bring the money). Of course, with unlimited finances, I would add an extra arm to the study to investigate if that’s working even better. Postponing tumour outgrowth and reaching long-term tumour-free survival in the majority of patients would be the ultimate goal. More dream projects: setting up and performing a randomised trial to prevent cancer in individuals prone to develop cancer at an early age. To reach the stage of “unlimited” finance we will write a grant proposal because Sinterklaas really doesn’t exist.
8. What does your working area (desk, office) look like and what does it say about you (or your research)?
The presence or absence of chaos in my office tells you how busy I am or have been in the previous days. I think I’m the only one within the RIMLS building who has curtains! Judge for yourself if it tells something about me.
9. Nominate a colleague to be in the spotlight and what would you like to ask him or her?
Now it is my chance to nominate someone! I would like to nominate one of the medical doctors who are showing so much interest in basic science because I think it is important for other RIMLSers to get to know them. One of them is Leon Massuger, he is not only interested in curing patients but also how tumours develop and which kind of mechanisms play a role. I ‘m really impressed by his enthusiasm and persistence in unravelling the mechanisms of disease. Of course I want to know what he wanted to become as a kid but more interestingly how he envisage to reach his goals.
10. What type of person are you, quick insights:
A. Mac or PC: Mac
B. Theater or cinema: No time
C Dine out or dine in: Dine out
D. Ferrari or Fiat: Only the color is of interest.
E. Shopaholic or chocoholic: Shopaholic, expecially after finishing a huge task like writing a grant proposal.
F. Culture or nature: Nature
Jolanda de Vries was nominated by Anneke den Hollander/ Her question for Jolanda is:
I would like to nominate Jolanda de Vries to be in the spotlight. As one of our female role models, I would like to ask her how she balances family life with being a top researcher?
Answer Jolanda de Vries:
Shortly, I’m not sure if I have a balance. Raising two children with both parents working full time is a real challenge. Especially if you believe your kids deserve to explore all opportunities they want.
I have a few (work-related) tips and tricks that are (a little) successful for me:
- Try to avoid window dressing, do the work that makes the difference at the right time!
- Quickly decide whether you are going to do it or not (don’t spoil time)
- Don’t feel guilty if you are working and therefore not with your family and don’t feel guilty if you are at home enjoying the family and not working.
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