5 July 2018

My name is Renske van den Bijgaart, I am Dutch, and I work as PhD candidate at the Radiotherapy & OncoImmunology Laboratory, Department of Radiation Oncology, theme Cancer development and immune defense.

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 child I didn’t really know what I wanted to become. I’ve always loved animals, so I thought maybe I would become a veterinarian. As a kid, I suffered from a lot of headaches after which I was diagnosed with a reflux and had to undergo surgery. That convinced me that I wanted to become a doctor. However, I became more interested in biology and science during secondary school. After attending the medical sciences open day in Utrecht, I realized that I was more interested in figuring out how diseases develop and how to prevent it, more than learning how to treat diseases.

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

Because of my interest, I studied Biomedical Sciences in Utrecht. After my bachelors I continued with the master program ‘Cancer, Stem Cells and Developmental Biology’, also in Utrecht. During my first internship at the Hubrecht Institute, I became interested in the communication between immune cells and cancer cells. The Master’s program had a lot of freedom and flexibility and allowed me to work for 9 months at the University of California in San Francisco.

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

My project focuses on the development of new immune-combination therapies for cancer, including high-intensity focused ultrasound and epigenetic therapy. My work is mainly pre-clinical, studying the effects of these treatments on the immune response.

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

My professor in San Francisco is a great inspiration to me. She was still working full-time although she was 70 at that time. I admire her passion and dedication to science. Furthermore, in my daily work I’m very much inspired by colleagues in the lab.

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

I’m currently setting up some exciting experiments, which you’ll be able to read about in my thesis. What I’m most proud of is that we are able to perform a unique technique, namely high-intensity focused ultrasound ablation.

Given unlimited finance what experiment would you perform?

 As this question is the most cliché one to be asked, I will give a very standard answer: find out at my defense!

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

The messiness on my desk follows a repeating pattern: it is filled with pieces of paper full of sticky notes, protocols and notebooks so that it’s almost always messy. Then at some point I decide to spend a couple of hours organizing everything, so that the cycle can start all over again. I believe it says that I’m always doing a lot of stuff in parallel, but sometimes I just have to start with a blank sheet.

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

I would like to nominate Pieter Roelofs; I would like to ask him: How many blisters did you get during your 200 km hike in Scotland?

You are nominated by Eva-Leonne Göttgens.

Her question: I would like to nominate Renske van den Bijgaart. Renske, if there were no technical or economical restrictions, with how many colours would you want to FACS at the same time?

My answer: Now I’m using a lot of different panels to characterize immune cells and tumor cells in my experiments. If there are no limitations, I would like to be able to fit all markers in just one panel so that will be around 40 colours. Compensation will be awesome ;)

What type of person are you, quick insights:

a) Mac or PC?                                : Mac
b) Theater or cinema?                 : Cinema
c) Dine out or dine in?                 : Dine out
d) Ferrari or Fiat?                         : Fiat
e) Shopaholic or chocoholic?     : Shopaholic
f) Culture or Nature                     : Nature​ 

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