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Alumni Relations

25 October 2013

Gerrit van Meer

Now: Professor and Dean Faculty of Science, Utrecht University; EMBO Member; EMBL Council Delegate
Was: EMBL Staff Scientist, 1981-1987, Simons Group, Cell Biology and Biophysics

What drew you to Utrecht University and what are you doing there?
Since leaving EMBL, I’ve essentially spent 20 years on research in lipid cell biology at the departments of Cell Biology and much later Chemistry at Utrecht University Medical School, as full professor of Cell Biology at the Amsterdam University Medical Center, and the Bijvoet Center for Biomolecular Research. Since 2011, I’ve been heading the Faculty of Science as Dean at Utrecht University. This includes the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Computing Science, Mathematics, Pharmaceutical Science and Physics.

What's life and work like in the Netherlands in general?
For me, the Netherlands offers the right mix of top science and informal but respectful relations. People are dedicated to their work yet the atmosphere is relaxed. This has allowed me time to think (and write reviews). My wife is now an artist after 20 years as a family doctor. We raised two happy children.

What did you gain from your time at EMBL?
The five years at EMBL and the papers I published as a result have shaped my scientific career. 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! Finally, I chaired the staff association, which has been useful experience in keeping people in line in my present job as Dean. I couldn't let go, so for the last few years I’ve been the scientific representative for the Netherlands on the EMBL council.

How did you find the EMBL reception at TEM?
My stay at EMBL greatly contributed to shaping my scientific network, and each meeting with EMBLers past and present reinforces this network. My new position - serving scientists and science in a broader sense in the areas of science funding, education and science and society – has made it even more important for me to extend my network to former colleagues who have also expanded their activities and, in many cases, now occupy important positions in society outside academic science. It is always great to meet such people at get-togethers like alumni activities. As a bonus there is the family feeling!