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Never too young to climb the ladder

Never too young to climb the ladder

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts/ Simone Golob

Blanche Schroen inspired by Esther Lutgens

“I work in a man’s world,” says Blanche Schroen (34), lecturer at the Faculty of Health, Medicine, and Life Sciences. “The world of academe is a competitive environment.” She admires women who succeed in those surroundings. Personally, she easily loses her balance and is sensitive to conflicts, she says. Her great example is Esther Lutgens, at one time a colleague at FHML, these days a professor at the Amsterdams Medisch Centrum. Schroen: “Esther is extremely good-natured and has a sharp mind. She is not afraid of doing difficult research. She has created complicated genetically manipulated mice that yielded a top-class publication and important new insights. This combination, how she is and what she does, inspires me tremendously.”

“We were colleagues for about four years. I had just started my tenure track (a trial period of a number of years in which there are agreements about achievements and the possibility of moving forward, ed.) and Esther became a senior lecturer at a young age. She did everything at the same time, work, career and having children, two or three. The day before she gave birth, she was still walking around here. She gives 100 per cent to science. What she showed me was that you are never too young to climb the ladder.”

Exactly how Lutgens’ career took shape, Schroen doesn’t know so that is why she searches for Lutgens’ CV on the Internet: 62 international publications and numerous grants and lectures. “She was born in 1975 and became senior lecturer in 2008. So she was 33.” The fact that Schroen herself might become a senior lecturer this year doesn’t come close to the achievements of her former colleague, as far as she is concerned. “But she is, besides being a researcher, also a doctor and a medical specialist,” she explains, “and I have a husband who is less career-minded. He takes care of the children, does the shopping and cooks, making it possible for me to go after a career. I wouldn’t be able to do that without him. Esther could. She even raised her children by herself for a time, because her husband worked half-way across the country.”

“I regularly asked Esther for advice. She is very open. Some time ago things weren’t going so well for me. I wanted to carry out my own research ideas, but I didn’t have the financial means to do so. My dependence frustrated me. Esther gave me two tips at the time: keep believing in yourself and be patient. ‘It will happen,’ she said, and she was right: a while later I received a Vidi grant from NWO."

They still e-mail or Skype with each other occasionally. “The last contact was about the Vidi grant. Esther was in the committee, but she wasn’t present during my presentation and interview. She left the room. Afterwards I asked her what the committee had thought of my interview. Of course they thought it was good, otherwise I wouldn’t have received the grant, but they felt the presentation was not very scientific, geared too much towards a laymen’s audience.”

Ingrid Candel

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