11 October 2018

My name is Cenna van Manen, I have a Dutch nationality and I’m a PhD candidate at department of Human Genetics in the theme Renal Disorders.

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up? Can you tell us something about your child years. 

As a kid I wanted to explore, but had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. One day it seemed exciting to become an inventor like Gyro Gearloose (Willy Wortel), the next day I wanted to explore history as an archeologist and others days I wanted to improve the world being a teacher. I guess in the end it worked out, since I found a bit of all in my PhD.

What was your previous academic training, where did you study and why that study? 

I started studying applied physics at the TU in Delft, but after my propedeuse I switched studies to focus more on biology and chemistry. The crossroad between those three and mathematics always interested me most. I decided to do my Bachelors in Life sciences at the HAN here in Nijmegen, since it allowed me to obtain a year of practical experience abroad. After my Bachelors, I was certain I wanted to continue in the field, so I did my masters in Medical Biology at the Radboud University in Nijmegen.

The RIMLS motto is: ‘Today’s molecules for tomorrow’s medicine’. What does this mean for you? 

Due to the fundamental nature of my research it will not have an impact on today’s medicine, but the mechanistic knowledge on molecular level we gather now can make a difference for tomorrow’s medicine. Your work now needs to have a function in the future, which sets the focus for every project you set up.

Who is your great example as scientists? And please give a motivation why.

One of my big examples has always been Marie Curie. Her contributions to science are indispensable, but she never asked for recognition. She did not let money, depressions, war, cultural boundaries or limited woman’s rights stop her in learning and understanding the world. Instead she followed her inquisitiveness and curiosity, which lead to great discoveries for which she is well known these days.

Which research discovery that you have made has made you most proud? 

So far there are no great, new discoveries as of yet. However, I did set up a few tools which we could validate by reproducing previously reported data from literature. These tools will allow us to study the same mechanism in different cell types as well as new parts of the mechanism that were not studied as of yet.

Given unlimited finance what experiment would you perform?

If unlimited finance would also mean no time restrictions, I would have the same goal of the project, but the setup of the project would be much bigger. I would study all possible targets in multiple cell lines as well as different model organisms, tag everything endogenously using CRISPR and make a complete interaction network using high-throughput proteomics. These proteomics data could then be linked to the genomics of currently known ciliopathy patients, giving us a better understanding of disease onset and progression. We will get there, but it will take a bit longer without unlimited funds. ;)

What does your working area (desk, office) look like and what does it say about you (or your research)? 

Clean and organized. If my head is a mess, my desk is a mess and I will not get anything done until I clean it all. I don’t know what this says about my research, but everyone should find their own way to work efficiently I think.

Nominate a colleague to be in the spotlight and what would you like to ask him or her?

I would like to nominate Laszlo Groh and ask him how he gets everything done in such an efficient manner, since he planned to finish his PhD in only 3 years.

What type of person are you, quick insights:

a) Mac or PC?                                : PC
b) Theater or cinema?                 : Both
c) Dine out or dine in?                 : Both
d) Ferrari or Fiat?                         : Neither
e) Shopaholic or chocoholic?     : Chocoholic
f) Culture or Nature                     : Nature

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