Beyond the scientist: Jan van den Brand

Jan van den Brand.png

Where and when were you born?

Eindhoven, 30 October 1984

Where do you live and with whom?

I live in Malden with my wife Kim and baby sons Loek and Mats

Who was your role model when you were a kid?

I think my older cousin, Robert. He worked his way up from MLO to a Master’s degree in chemical analytics. When I was young he was still studying to become a lab tech. I thought that was very cool because in the lab stuff explodes.

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

Turns out stuff isn’t supposed to explode in the lab.

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

My thesis defense is the highlight so far. It went really well. Probably because my colleagues roasted me the week before. I made sure I was well prepared and critically read all of my own work. It was hard, but reading them like you are doing a peer review helped. I was able to predict questions that my opponents would have and had the answers ready.

I am proud of the RIHS grant that my supervisor, Jack Wetzels, and I received recently. It is a very interesting project. It is really cool to be able to tell a young and promising student that she will have a job after her graduation.

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

Much of my work is aimed at improving rational decision making in nephrology. A lot of information is collected and registered in electronic patient records, but it is hard to combine all that data to make a good decision. Unfortunately, most prediction models and biomarkers created by us scientists don’t offer a great deal of help. We need to step up and get better at developing technical aids to help physicians and patients to make well informed decisions. I want to unlock the data stored in patient records, indentify the times and places where physicians and patients have to make a tough decision and provide them with clearly understandable information for every option that they have.

For what can we wake you up?

To change diapers …

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

Fencing, the sport of kings, where you get to stab people or whack them in head with a piece of cold steel. Just kidding. It’s actually more like high speed physical chess. You and your opponent are constantly setting up traps for each other, but also picking off the slightest mistake. It’s both physically and mentally demanding and a great way of unwinding. You can’t really think about anything else if someone comes at you with a weapon. Best thing is that you can fence all you life and still feel that there’s so much more to learn. A bit like science in that way. I have a great deal to learn still, I am not a great fencer… Anyone can try the beginner’s course at the Radboud Sports Centre, by the way.

What is your biggest irritation?

Hypocrisy. Do unto others as you would wish onto you.

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

Neill deGrasse Tyson. His work as a science educator is just incredible. The recent remake of Cosmos is a must see. In all his work he continues to inspire young people to venture into science and discover the wonders of our species, our world and our universe. He is an incredibly funny guy as well.


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