What is your area of expertise and the current focus of your research?
In my research, we collect biopsies from patients with intestinal disease, such as rare congenital diseases, inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease. We then generate organoids (stem cell-based cultures) from these patients in the lab, which provide unique in vitro model systems to study the pathophysiology of these diseases.
I am also involved in a translational project, Regenerating Intestinal Tissue with Stem Cells (RITS), from Hans Clevers (Hubrecht Institute) and Edward Nieuwenhuis (WKZ, UMCU), to translate organoids from bench-to-bedside as an alternative for intestinal transplantation in children with congenital intestinal disorders. For this project, we have recently determined that the location-specific properties of small intestinal epithelial cells are intrinsically programmed within the stem cells, suggesting that we would need to grow organoids from different parts of the small intestine to rescue most functional properties.
What is your greatest pleasure in life?
Spending time with my husband and two sons (ages four and one and a half). It is a challenge to balance family and research, but I love my job. I try to leave my work behind when I’m home and on holiday.
What is one thing that your peers or colleagues would be surprised to learn about you?
I have a large Miffy collection – puzzles, books, collector’s items, my sandwich box
– started when I was 16. Miffy, called “Nijntje” in Dutch, is the creation of Dick Bruna, a well-known artist in the Netherlands, who resides in Utrecht. I admire his work and am always amazed by his way of drawing complex things with very simple lines. He strives to make things as simple as possible, a philosophy that also inspires me.
What is your favorite thing about living in Utrecht?
It is a cozy town, only 320,000 people and many students, with World Heritage canals running through it. I bike to work most days year-round.
Congratulations on winning a free registration to the ISSCR 12th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, for completing our member survey. Are you a lucky person? Do you win a lot of things?
Yes, I am indeed a lucky person. I regularly win things – a vacuum cleaner, tickets for musicals, movies and amusement parks, hotel vouchers, a beanbag and now the free meeting registration. I plan to register before February 28, so I have a chance to win the Vancouver seaplane tour, as well!
What are you most looking forward to when visiting Vancouver?
I was in Vancouver for a conference last year, and enjoyed lunch on the promenade, the boat houses and Stanley Park. I’m planning to rent a bicycle this year, so that I can see more of the city. Most of all, however, I am excited about the meeting program and am looking forward to meeting people within our field.