17 February 2019

My name is Gerald Verhaegh, I am Dutch, senior scientist at the department of Urology, theme Urological cancers.

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

I was born and raised in Venlo. As a child I had a very strong fascination for astronomy and space and I dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Besides that, I also loved, and still love, sports, but I was realistic enough to realize that I would never become a professional athlete. So I had to become a scientist.

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

I doubted whether I would study biology or physics. The choice for biology was rather random, I filled out the first and second study choices on the university application form in alphabetic order. I studied biology in Nijmegen, obtained my PhD in Leiden (NL), and then did a post-doc at the IARC in Lyon (FR). After that, I returned to ‘the old nest’ in Nijmegen. 

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

Everything. We must treat the right patients with the right drugs at the right time. To achieve this goal, it is necessary to identify and understand the molecular changes in disease (urological cancers in my case) and translate and implement these findings in clinical practice. Within our theme we cover all those steps “from bench to bedside”.

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

I do not really have a great example as a scientist. Of course, some persons have a higher or more impressive output than others, but it is the collective human creativity and performance that help us move forward.   

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

During my PhD in the pre-genomics era, I was very proud (for a short time) of discovering a new DNA repair gene, this was a fantastic moment. It soon became clear that someone (not me) had swapped some DNA repair-deficient cell lines. Sadly for me the gene appeared to be already known. Later in my career I did not experience such a Eureka moment, but that moment is coming closer...

Given unlimited finance what experiment would you perform?

Hmm, maybe go into space after all. The first step would be to establish a colony on Mars and then try to breed microbes, which could live in the water under the Martian ice cap. Then I would conduct molecular analysis to find out if life on Mars is like that on Earth.

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

My work area is paperless, tidy and well organized. The latter also applies to my mind.

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

Vicky Luna Velez. I guess she will get the same 10 questions.

What type of person are you, quick insights:

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

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