The Scientist: Eline Verbon

Eline Verbon, me!, is a PhD candidate at Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

What made you decide to go into research?

My interest for doing research was not kindled by work in the lab. Instead, I became interested when writing research proposals for two courses during the final year of my undergrad. I loved the curiosity- and creativity-driven process of writing these proposals. When I later started doing research in a laboratory, I continued enjoying the thinking behind the experiments and the process of interpreting the results. That was when I decided to try to continue doing research.

What is your area of study?

I study the interaction of plant roots with bacteria naturally present in soil. The bacteria I study induce plant growth and resistance against disease and are therefore promising agents to increase crop yield. I am interested to know what happens in the root upon colonization by a bacterium on the molecular level. I believe that knowing this is both cool in itself – we will know more about cross-kingdom communication! – and will ultimately contribute to using bacteria in agricultural settings as a replacement for pesticides and/or fertilizers.

What is the result that you are most proud of so far?

Right now, among other things, I am working on a project with people in the USA. We are trying to find out how plants change the expression of their genome – the DNA that carries the genetic instructions of all processes in a cell and thus in an organism - in response to bacteria. While we are not done with the analysis, I am already very proud of this project. We have worked really hard to gather these data and the data looks promising.

What is the hardest thing about being a researcher?

It can be tough that the relevance of my work is not always immediately clear: I am not building a house, curing a patient or helping people with their finances. Sometimes I work on a project for weeks or months and it turns out it does contribute to the bigger story. On the other hand, the freedom to do what feels right and the uncertainty of what will be found is also what makes doing research great.

What do you enjoy most about doing research?

I love discussing my results with other people, both with colleagues and with my students. These interactions very often lead to new ideas and insights and make me all the more enthusiastic about what I am doing.

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