Kasper van Gelderen

Post-doc researcher plant ecophysiology

I’m a post-doc researcher specializing in plant ecophysiology in the Department of Biology. My specific focus is on how plants communicate with each other through light, I want to understand how plants can see each other and the effect that has on the root growth. I love the challenge of trying to answer fundamental questions about plants, but it’s also great to know that my work can be used to help plant breeding companies create more resilient plants.

I love the challenge of trying to answer fundamental questions about plants.

Human job

It might sound strange, but I see science as primarily a human job. You have to create something in your mind together with your colleagues … Testing, testing, testing until you get your research how you would like it to be. In-depth conversations with my colleagues – we make a point of having coffee together every day – have helped me to achieve my goals by giving me new ideas on how to tackle certain problems. You have to think about so many things as a researcher, and many heads are always better than one. When you present your work – which is really easy here – someone will say something you’d never thought about that leads to new insights.

Excellent facilities

At Utrecht I can work with anyone, anywhere. I go to labs worldwide to work with special microscopes and images setups. And I welcome other scientists to come here and use our excellent imaging facilities. The facilities are really state-of-the-art, we can do multicolor live cell imaging, 3D live imaging of thick samples, fluorescence recovery after photobleaching…

The moment I started working here, I was struck by the quality of the research. We really do have some of the world’s best plant scientists.

Never too ambitious

I love living and working in Utrecht. Some of my friends tease me that it’s ‘Amsterdam lite’ but it’s much more than that. It’s a very cultural, beautiful city to live in. It’s also home to some first-rate plant scientists. The moment I started working here, I was struck by the quality of the research. We really do have some of the world’s best plant scientists – not least my supervisor, Prof Ronald Pierik. You can never be too ambitious around here.

For instance, based on some ideas from my PhD research, I started my own project from scratch. We wanted to know how a light signal that is sensed by the shoot can be conveyed to the root. It turns out there’s a small protein that can travel from shoot to root and change plant development. Together with a PhD student at the lab we were able to solve part of this puzzle and get it published in a top plant science journal.

The most satisfying part of my job is being the fundamental connection who brings a new project to life.

Fundamental research

The most satisfying part of my job is being the fundamental connection who brings a new project to life. In the early phases, me and my colleagues and students might all be working on something slightly different. But then, in the end, when you bring all of the separate bits of data together you have something new and unique.

Fundamental research is all about discovering new knowledge. Making a permanent and long-lasting contribution to how humans comprehend the natural world. That’s what I love about my job and what makes it so powerful.