Anne-Marie Glynn, Gerrit van Meer, Jop Kind
The EMBL Alumni Relations office held its sixth annual reception at The EMBO Meeting on 23 September. More than 30 local alumni, as well as EMBL and EMBO staff and alumni attending the Meeting, gathered for what has become a much-anticipated and enjoyed tradition.
With the largest clusters of Netherlands-based alumni working in Amsterdam and Utrecht, it was little surprise to have a good turn-out from these cities, with a few travelers from the northern outreaches of the country. It was a diverse group in terms of nationality, staff category, EMBL sites and generations. The group included two former Chairs of the EMBL Staff Association and two current EMBL Council delegates, as well as many alumni now at the Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI), where the largest numbers of alumni in Amsterdam work.
Here, a few alumni share their thoughts on their time at EMBL and what drew them to the Netherlands...
Anastassis (Tassos) Perrakis
Now: Group Leader, NKI, Amsterdam
Was: Predoc, 1992–5, Wilson Group, EMBL Hamburg; Staff Scientist and Team Leader, 1997–2000, Cusack Group, EMBL Grenoble
“I worked at the NKI between my stays at EMBL Grenoble and EMBL Hamburg. When I was asked to return as group leader, I didn’t have to think twice. There’s a lot of exciting biology here, giving me the opportunity to focus on the ‘why’ instead of the ‘how’, which was the case at the synchrotron.
“We use a strange blend of physics, maths and chemistry to answer biological questions. I like to work on diverse systems, and collaborate closely with people that know the field in terms of biology, as is the case at the NKI.
“In my first weeks at EMBL Hamburg, I despaired that I would never learn all the things taken for granted there. This turned to positive motivation and resulted in a work frenzy. In Heidelberg, you could learn more things from one day in the cafeteria than ten hours in the library – I miss that too! For me, EMBL is all about the people, and remains unique in bringing together so many motivating, inspiring and enthusiastic."
Gerrit van Meer
Now: Professor and Dean Faculty of Science, Utrecht University; EMBO Member; EMBL Council delegate
Was: Staff Scientist, 1981–7, Simons Group, EMBL Heidelberg
“Since EMBL, I have essentially spent 20 years on research in lipid cell biology in the Netherlands. For me, the country offers the right mix of top science and informal but respectful relations. People are dedicated to their work yet the atmosphere is relaxed.
“My attitude towards science and scientists was greatly influenced by my mentor and other exemplary scientists and colleagues at EMBL, where I met some of my best friends! I also chaired the Staff Association, which has been useful experience in keeping people in line in my present job as Dean.
“It was great to meet former colleagues at the EMBL alumni get-together. My stay at EMBL greatly contributed to shaping my scientific network, and each meeting with EMBLers past and present reinforces this network – the feeling of being part of an extended EMBL ‘family’ is an added bonus!”
Now: Postdoc, NKI, Amsterdam
Was: Predoc, 2007, Proteomics Group, EMBL-EBI
“I went to EMBL-EBI thanks to a Marie Curie fellowship for six months during my PhD, which I was doing in France. My stay was a real push for my scientific life: the highly interactive and dynamic nature of EMBL-EBI was motivating and inspiring.
“At the alumni reception I met several interesting people and even had conversations with NKI colleagues, which was good since I don’t always take the time to connect with my colleagues, despite meeting in the elevator daily!”
Now: IT Director, Eenrum
Was: Technical Team Leader, 1994–8, EMBL Core Facilities and Services
“Since EMBL I’ve been working in multiple international companies in senior IT and e-commerce positions. Being a female leader in a very male oriented area (IT) – especially in the Netherlands – has been a challenge.
“The people at EMBL taught me a passion for food and life in general. Although I was there for a relatively short time, I still feel welcome in most parts of the world, with alumni located in every corner.”