A personal touch of Liz van Erp

Erp van, Liz.jpg

Please learn more about colleagues in our "personal touch" series setting employees in the spotlight. A light-hearted manner to learn about the colleagues you know and those you don't!.

This week: Liz van Erp






1. Name, nationality, current function, department & theme?
Liz van Erp, Dutch, PhD-candidate at the department of Immune Mechanisms at the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) in collaboration with the Laboratory of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the RIMLS, theme Infectious diseases and global health.

2. 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 always wanted to become a vet, because I loved animals so much. When I was young I collected all animal pictures and photos that I could find. Imagine how happy my parents were with that.. 

3. What was your previous academic training, where did you study and why that study? 
I studied Biomedical Sciences in Utrecht because I was really interested in how the brain functions. I was especially fascinated by the mechanisms of sleep and memory. However, the neuroscience courses in the bachelor were way too abstract in my opinion (neuronal synaps transmission stuff instead of answering interesting questions like "Why do we sleep?" and "How does our memory work?"). So I soon decided I needed to choose another path. I did a Minor in Journalism, but realised that this was way too superficial for me. Luckily I started the course "Virology" after that, and became fascinated by the way viruses can hijack a complete body while they only consist of a genome and some proteins.. That's why I choose for the master's programme "Infection and Immunity", also in Utrecht. 

4. The RIMLS motto is ‘to understand molecular mechanisms of disease’: Today’s molecules for tomorrow’s medicine. What does this mean for you? 
undefinedI choose for a PhD position that is performed both at the RIMLS and at the RIVM because I like the way molecular, fundamental science can be used to answer questions that are important for the general public. For all the research we do at the RIVM, we have to clarify to the Health Ministry how the Dutch public benefits from it. Which keeps the translation of our molecular work to tomorrow's medicine really close. We are now investigating the benefits and dangers of antibodies induced by maternal vaccination for RSV. Maternal vaccination is a typical medicine of tomorrow, because at the moment there are only a few trials running with RSV vaccines in pregnant women.

5. Who is your great example as scientists? And please give a motivation why.
Professor Rob Hoeben from the Leiden UMC is a great example for me. Although he has been running his own lab for a long time now and has been professor since 2000, he still takes a lot of time for new students and helps new scientists wherever he can. He helped me a lot with finding a PhD position in the field I wanted to work in. I'm happy to see that there are still professors out there that realise how important it is to help the development of young scientists and that are not only thinking about their own interest. On top of that he always has great and funny stories. I guess that for me he is the proof that people that have made it to the top in the scientific world, can also be social and stay helpful. 

6. Which research discovery that you have made has made you most proud?
We are currently working on the effect of RSV infection on the function of NK cells. We see some really interesting things that have not been described before, but we still have to finish some experiments and write up the story, so stay tuned! 

7. Given unlimited finance what experiment would you perform?
Given unlimited finance I would bust all the myths that anti-vaxxers are spreading. I know a lot of this research is out there somewhere, but mostly it is divided in smaller studies and difficult to find and understand for the general public. So if we could perform a very big study with a lot of participants and write the results down in a clear and understandable way, it could provide a clear counter message to anti-vax stories to persuade people that are in doubt whether to vaccinate or not (the die-hard anti-vaxxers are past hope, I don't have the illusion of helping those people anymore...). 

8. What does your working area (desk, office) look like and what does it say about you (or your research)?
My desk is mostly filled with piles of paper (but there is logic in them!) and the wall next to my desk is covered in post-its with ideas/notes/to do's in all different colours. Oh and there is always food on my desk/in my drawer/in our office. I don't want to confront my colleagues with me being hungry. I'm terrible when I'm hungry. 

9. Nominate a colleague to be in the spotlight and what would you like to ask him or her?
Marilen Benner: Do you want to start a research project with me on the effect of dancing on the development of great sciencific ideas? 

10. What type of person are you, quick insights:
a) Mac or PC?                                : PC
b) Theater or cinema?                  : Cinema
c) Dine out or dine in?                  : Dine out
d) Ferrari or Fiat?                          : Ferrari
e) Shopaholic or chocoholic?     : Chocoholic
f) Culture or Nature                       : Nature

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