Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Marije Been

Date of news: 27 May 2021

photo_donders_MarijeWhat's your name, nationality, current function, and department?
My name is Marije Been and I am Dutch. I am a third year PhD student at the Department of Molecular Neurobiology, which is part of the DCN.

What is the topic of your PhD project and what does your work look like in practice?
I am working on a genetic screen in Drosophila where I am trying to identify genes that are involved in motor neurodegenerative diseases. To do this I have generated almost 10.000 different mutants, which were then screened for neurodegenerative phenotypes using microscopy. Finally, we are using Next Generation Sequencing to identify the causative mutations, so we can compare these to human databases of disease. Hopefully this will help us to identify new disease-related genes and the underlying molecular mechanism.

Practically, this means that I spend most of my working hours in our fly lab, although at the moment I am working on analyzing my whole genome sequencing data from home.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
I have always seen myself as a doctor, which is why I originally wanted to study medicine. I tried to get through the numerus fixus twice, but I did not make it. In retrospect, I am very happy that I wasn’t selected, because I’ve enjoyed every single step so far.

What has your career path been so far and how did you come to your current position?
Initially I started with a bachelor in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Groningen, which I enjoyed a lot. During my bachelor, I participated in the Honours College were I learned skills like scientific writing, debating and presenting. However, while I was in my third year I realized that I was more interested in the courses that were more oriented towards molecular biology. So I extended my bachelor with one year in order to do some courses from the Molecular Life Sciences bachelor in order to be eligible for the topmaster Biomolecular Sciences. During this master, I had to do two internships, of which the second internship could be one in a research group outside of the Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology institute. At that point, I had worked with quite some different model organisms, but only few of them were multicellular organisms. Thus I decided I wanted to work with Drosophila during my second internship and ended up at the Molecular Neurobiology at the Radboud University.

What is an important life lesson you have learned in the past?
To not stick too much to a plan, because things might (and usually will) go very different than you had originally planned it, not necessarily in a bad way. The first time I really experienced this is when I started studying biomedical sciences because I could not be admitted to Medicine. Then, when I started my PhD in 2018, I was sure I would finish it within 4 years. First, the coronavirus came along and I had to temporarily drop my own work and help on another project. While things on the fly lab went back to “normal”, I became pregnant and had a son. Even though I will not finish my PhD within four years, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What does your perfect weekend look like?
At the moment, my perfect weekend would be to sleep in (although this will probably not happen in the coming few years), hiking through one of the beautiful nature reserves around Nijmegen and then cook an amazing dinner.

What are you looking forward to in life?
At some point, I would like to live in a nice cottage with a big garden. In this garden, I would have all kinds of fruit trees, a kitchen garden, chickens and rabbits.