Beyond the scientist: Dirk Braanker


Where and when were you born?

I was born at home in Drunen (Noord-Brabant) on June 13 in 1990, during the soccer World Championship. Our national team just tied against Egypt, but fortunately the outcome for my mother was better.

Where do you live and with whom?

At the moment, I live in Vlijmen, which is small place near Den Bosch, together with my sister. For almost one and a half year we are renting a house attached to the local butchery.

Who was your role model when you were a kid?

Every little boy dreams of being a famous soccer player, or an astronaut. This was no different for me. Despite my attempts of becoming the new Dennis Bergkamp, I quit playing soccer when I was about 12 years old. Ever since I can remember I also had a special interest in the stars and planets, I wanted to know how the universe originated. I think Wubbo Ockels (the first Dutch astronaut) was my role model back then.

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

I gave up soccer because I was very small for my age and could not keep up. Also, I did not like the players in my team. Over the years, my interest in how the universe originated faded, and I wanted to learn more about the molecular origin of diseases.

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

The course of my life so far. I have always worked very hard and had some struggles in my childhood, but I graduated in Molecular Life Sciences, and are now working on a PhD project which perfectly fits my ambitions, in the field of kidney diseases. On top of that, I have great friends, family, and colleages, and a wonderful girlfriend!

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

Currently our group is establishing an experimental model that can be used to identify a still unknown blood factor in patients with idiopathic nephrotic syndrome. This factor damages specific kidney cells (podocytes), which are involved in the filtration of the blood. In the next 5 to 10 years, my aim is to identify this factor and to find its mechanism of action. Hopefully this will lead to improved treatment and healthcare for kidney disease patients.

For what can we wake you up?

A game of Fifa on the Playstation, of course I get to be Ajax!

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

I regularly slip into my Australian training suit and visit a hardcore/frenchcore music party. Because you cannot really dance to this music, we do something called ‘hakken’ in Dutch. I get compliments quite often, so I like to think I am pretty good at it.

What is your biggest irritation?

Dishonesty and lying. Can’t stand it.

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

Unfortunately this man past away in 2009, but if I had the chance, I would invite Willem Kolff, a pioneer in the field of dialysis for kidney failure. He developed a machine and performed the first human dialysis in 1948. Besides his work in artificial kidney and heart devices, he also saved a lot of people during the second world war by pretending they suffered from (made-up) illnesses. This man was really a hero!


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