Alumniverhaal

Martijn - Breeding manager & Research manager

After graduation from his master's at Wageningen University & Research, Martijn started working as pre-breeder and PhD student. Currently, he still works for Rijk Zwaan as Breeding Manager Tomato and Research Manager Biotechnology.

Cutting edge research does not exclusively take place in universities and institutes, but also at (breeding) companies.

Where did you start working after your graduation?

"In 2007 I started as pre-breeder Solanaceae (tomato, pepper and eggplant) at Rijk Zwaan in De Lier, focussing on new trait development. During the hiring process I indicated to be interested in an in-company PhD. Rijk Zwaan was open to this idea and after a year of introduction and proposal preparation I started the PhD project (taste of pepper) in collaboration with Wageningen University & Research (chair Plant Breeding). As the PhD was part-time (30% PhD, 70% pre-breeder) I invested also quite some free time in the project. In 2013 I finished the PhD and this was also the year when I switched to the position of Breeding manager tomato."

Could you describe what you do in your current roles at Rijk Zwaan?

"As Breeding manager tomato I am responsible for the global tomato breeding and new trait development strategy. This is a very dynamic and international role as we have breeding teams in eight different countries over Europe, South-America, Africa and Asia. Since the beginning of 2018 I combine this role with the position of Research Manager Biotechnology with my colleague Ben Scheres. In this role we are responsible for the basic and applied research strategy for all - more than 30 - Rijk Zwaan vegetable crops. This includes the research disciplines cell biology, molecular biology, quantitative genetics, bioinformatics and biochemistry."

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Is this what you always wanted to be?

"During my studies it was already clear that I have a broad interest. Being more a generalist than a pure specialist. I however did not foresee as a student the rapid change from dedicated crop research, to a broader strategical and managerial role. But I appreciate it a lot."

How did studying in Wageningen help you prepare for your career?

"I conducted my BSc thesis project in collaboration with a breeding company, as adviced by a professor. This made me realize already at that point, that cutting edge research does not exclusively take place in universities and institutes, but also at (breeding) companies. Several, perhaps many, studies at Wageningen University have proven to understand that not all students aspire a career in academics and are (and should be) transparent about options outside academics. In my case this was stimulating and in my current role I still have a lot of interaction with WUR and other research groups.

The program in Wageningen is not only focussed on content, but also on soft skill development. All our projects either in breeding or research are about content ánd people. Studying in Wageningen helped me to understand the importance of this and to proactively invest in both."

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