Student Els ten Dam - MSc Plant Sciences

After Els had a practical class at secondary school on photosynthesis, given by students of Wageningen University, she became excited about Wageningen. “Thereafter, I visited the study Plant Sciences at the Open Day. This made me decide to study Plant Sciences.”

Follow your heart, see which things you enjoy in life, and use that for your choice of study.

Choice of Study

I chose for Plant Sciences for it is a very broad study. First, one gains a lot of general knowledge on various subjects, subsequently one can choose out of many different specialisations. Also, the study itself is highly diverse. Theory and practice are well combined, both often aimed at situations in practice. The teachers are most enthusiastic, and share their own practical experience, through which you get inflamed yourself by their enthusiasm and learn a lot.”

After her bachelor, Els went for the master Plant Sciences with specialization Greenhouse Horticulture. “I chose for this specialisation since horticulture develops very fast and I like thinking along on new innovative developments. Yet, I also decided to fill the free part of my study with a wide range of subjects, for I also am interested in other specializations.”


Enza Zaden placed an advertisement in the weekly mail of Semper Florens, with which they hoped to find a student willing to do a half year internship in Australia. “The head office is located in the Netherlands (Enkhuizen), but the company has many subsidiaries around the globe. One of the subsidiary companies is located in Narromine, a small village in Australia. There, they carry out breeding of several types of vegetables, among which onions. For the breeding of plants races, different races with different traits are mixed to make sure the good traits are extra represented in the next generation of plants, hence improving the race.”

During her internship Els conducted research to problems in the onion seed production. “For the onion seed production, bees are needed to pollinate the flowers of onions. Without this pollination, no seed is produced. However, bees do not particularly like onions for pollination. Due to this poor pollination, the seed yields are low.” To study this, Els carried out many experiments. “We have studied the activity of bees and the nectar of several onion races, for instance. We measured bee activity by counting the number of bees in the different fields. We compared the results to see whether nectar differences influence bee activity.”

During her internship, Plant Sciences proved to be of great use for Els. “During my study I specifically got proper general knowledge on the cultivation, breeding and structure and function of plants. This knowledge came well in handy during my internship. But the most important I have learned at Wageningen University, is the way to conduct research, how to tackle a problem and which methods to use. This helped me lot during my internship. I think these points are really important for every future job.”

Future plans

For her future job, Els is sure about one thing: she doesn’t want to spend whole days behind a computer. “Up till now, breeding companies really appeal to me, for a lot of innovative developments take place there. In the near future, I will further deepen myself in what it is I exactly want. Then, when my study is finished, I will look for job vacancies.”


As advice Els says to students: “Follow your heart, see which things you enjoy in life, and use that for your choice of study. When you finally have decided, I hope you enjoy student life every day, just as I did. When you are offered the opportunity for a nice internship abroad, I would certainly advice to do so. It is a terrific experience, which you will memorise the rest of your life.”