A Personal Touch of Joost Schalkwijk

Schalkwijk, Joost.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: Joost Schalkwijk 






1. Name, nationality, current function, department & theme?
Joost Schalkwijk, Dutch, professor of Experimental Dermatology, department of Dermatology. The main area of my investigations over the years has been “Inflammatory diseases”, so it was not too difficult for me to pick that theme within the RIMLS.

2. When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up? Can you tell us something about your childhood years. 
I was quite average in my ambitions when I was a child: my first dream was to become a professional soccer player (remember, I grew up in the sixties when Ajax ruled….), but it turned out that I had no talent. Then, as a teenager I wanted to join a rock and roll band, but alas same story. In the end I am quite happy that I ended up being a scientist. By the way, my kids are quite good musicians, so I presume I do have a few recessive musicality genes after all.

3. What was your previous academic training, where did you study and why did you choose that study/those studies? 
I first studied Dutch literature and linguistics, which I nearly finished. I was a bit late to discover that natural sciences were more interesting, so I switched to Biology and Chemistry (a curriculum in Nijmegen called B4, we did not have Molecular Life Sciences in those days). I was interested both in classical biology and chemistry, so this was a logical choice. I still have fond memories of the private organic chemistry lessons that we had (there were only four B4-students). I did my master largely at Leiden University where I studied mycology, which included a 6-month mushroom-hunting expedition in South America. My last internship at the former pharmaceutical industry Organon in Oss, made me decide to turn to medical sciences after all. In 1982 I accepted a PhD position at the department of Rheumatology of the Radboud UMC. After a brief postdoc period, in 1988, I got the opportunity to build my own group at the Dermatology department here in Nijmegen.

4. The RIMLS motto is ‘to understand molecular mechanisms of disease’. What does this mean for you?
It is exactly what I am doing. Inflammatory diseases such as psoriasis and eczema are major skin diseases, highly prevalent and with considerable burden to the patients. In the past decades many genetic risk factors have been identified (some of them by us), and the big challenge now is to translate these risk factors into plausible disease mechanisms. This will allow us to design new and better therapies for these diseases. As a result, my group is heavily involved in drug development. 

5. Which international scientist inspires/inspired you the most? Please give a motivation why.
There are many. I have tremendous admiration for the biochemists of 19th and early 20th century (e.g. Pasteur and Krebs), who made all these wonderful discoveries, using simple equipment and a lot of imagination. I also like the work of Oliver Sacks, the neurologist who passed away recently, although not everybody would call him a scientist in the usual sense.

6. Which research discovery that you have made has made you most proud?
If you ask a writer what is your best book, he/she will reply: my next one ! , and I am no different. We are on to a few big things that will hopefully be published in top journals. One of them is our recent discovery how genetic polymorphisms of an epidermal protein determines the skin microbiome composition. I like that one very much.

7. Given unlimited finance what experiment would you perform? 
I would use it to expand the RIMLS with a group of organic chemists, medicinal chemists and pharmacologists to have unlimited access to drug development facilities.

8. What does your working area (desk, office) look like and what does it say about you (or your research)? 
I have the illusion that my desks (I have two) and my PC are well organized, but many would not agree. In my head I can be quite chaotic. I love to think that chaos and creativity are two sides of the same coin, but again this may be my own distorted perception.

9. Nominate a colleague to be in the spotlight and what would you like to ask him or her? 
Wiljan Hendriks, a great consultant and teacher for all your questions on molecular cell biology and beer. My question for him: double or triple ?

10. What type of person are you, quick insights:

a) Mac or  PC:
I use both
b) Theater or Cinema:
c) Dine out or dine in: 
Dine in
d) Ferrari or Fiat:
e) Schopaholic or chocoholic:
I actually like shopping, in my case: getting the ingredients for good cooking.
f) Culture or Nature:
Music and art make me happy, so: culture

Joost schalkwijk was nominated by Ellen van den Bogaard. Her question for Joost is: 
"Joost Schalkwijk, his way of leading a research lab and mentoring young investigators should be an example for many! I would like to know if he is still pursuing certain goals for his last years in research and what they are".

Answer Joost Schalkwijk: 
"My ambition for the remaining part of my career would be to come up with new therapeutics for atopic dermatitis, as a result of the basic science that we did over the last five years". 


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