Beyond the scientist: Fitsum Tadesse


Where and when were you born?

I was born in a small town in Ethiopia called Abomssa, in June 1981. It is close to the place where most of the elite athletes of Ethiopia come from, like Haile Gebresilassie.

Where do you live and with whom?

I live in many places due to the character of my study. I am mainly based in Addis Ababa (the capital city of Ethiopia). Not as flat as Holland; 2355m above sea level. I live with my lovely family: Sarina (my wife), Barkot (four years old son) and Rodas (1 year old daughter).

Who was your role model when you were a kid?

I do not have one as a kid but I had it when I was in junior/highschool. It was my chemistry teacher (s). That was when I decided to study chemistry.

Why aren’t you doing the same thing now as your role model (or do you?)

When I passed the national exam upon the completion of my highschool studies I knew that I would study chemistry. In the beginning I wanted to study chemical Engineering but I did not get the chance. I then decided to doing Chemistry, teaching. I started my carrier by taking an assistantship position at a University and then studied MSc in Biochemistry. That was when I developed an interest in the chemistry of life. I lately found out that teaching is my thing and enjoyed sharing my knowledge for few years. Later I decided that it was time to do a research based study to contribute more in the future. I decided to do another MSc before starting my PhD studies. That was when I came to Nijmegen, in 2010, to do the most prestigious MSc program, Molecular Mechanisms of Disease (MMD), before starting my PhD studies. I can say that my highschool chemistry class still has its influence in me.

What is the thing in your (work or other) history that you are most proud of?

The time that I spent explaining the biochemical and molecular principles to my students back in Ethiopia and noticing that I contributed to fill a gap in their knowledge. I love to teach, and I’ve always thought that teaching would be a big part of the process of change, a change that we would like to see.

What is it that you would like to achieve in work in the next 5 to 10 years?

I would like to start my own research set-up and group back at home and continue working in collaboration with scientists from across the globe in a translational research that can influence or contribute to the decisions to be made by policy makers. I would like to find myself doing a research that will make the most impact. Of course, I will keep on doing my teaching duty.

For what can we wake you up?

When politicians wake-up from their current state of mind.

What is your hobby and how good are you at it?

Going to church and participating in church choir. We have a unique church music that was composed by St. Yared in the 6th century, 1500 years ago. But I recently found myself busy with my current life: studying, working and being a father. Nowadays most of it is playing with my son (4 years old).

What is your biggest irritation?

I hate how politics is driven by small group of elites. They are there to make our lives complicated.

Who would you like to invite for dinner, if you had the chance?

It is always my wife. She is the heroin of my family!

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