“Could you take a look at this dead mouse?”

Professor Mark Post shares a meal with Sororitas sorority


Tuesday morning, 30 May, the day after the professor dined with the girls, in the Editor's office of Observant.
“And? Did they have hamburgers?” The colleagues fervently hoped that the girls of Sororitas would have served hamburgers to the cultivated-hamburger professor Mark Post.
“No, that would have been some joke. They served risotto.”
“Risotto again?” That dish, in whatever variation, was often on the menu in this series, giving some colleagues the idea that students always make risotto.
“Mark Post thought the dish was fantastic.”
“Were the girls at all interested in him?”
“Certainly. They are sweet, humorous, but goodness, such chatterboxes! Name any subject and we talked about it. And then the story of that dead mouse …”

Monday evening, 29 May, having dinner with the girls of Sororitas.
“Could you take a look at this dead mouse?” Michelle Hulsman asks. “I am not quite sure which organ it is.” She hands over her telephone to Mark Post, professor of Physiology. Hulsman must have thought: ‘There is a doctor visiting who did research on rats, he must know a lot about mice too.’
Post looks attentively at the photograph. “We have a cat in our student house and he is always out to get me. If I walk to the shower in my dressing gown, he angrily jumps on me. Just look at my arms, covered in scars. Every now and again, he leaves a gift at my door: dissected mice with skull and tail, I once even got a bat.” A few girls give dirty looks. Hulsman, laughing: “I take pictures of them, I am always curious to see if I recognise an organ.” After doing Biomedical Sciences for a year, Hulsman switched to medicine. Anatomy intrigues her; there is no doubt about that.
Post reckons he sees the large intestine. “Wow, intense,” shouts medical student Elsemieke Mols. “But I don't see any twists.” “The large intestine twists less in mice,” Post educates. Then: “Wait, the photograph is very much enlarged. It could be the stomach after all.”

After a question from Bo te Baerts, it becomes clear – not fifteen minutes after his arrival – that they are dealing with the cultivated-hamburger professor. “Wow! That was in the newspaper,” they say. It was a huge happening in the summer of 2013 in London, where Post subjected the cultivated hamburger to a tasting session in front of the world press. “There was no fat in it at that time, we added that later. But it really tastes like a hamburger.” A brilliant idea, says Te Baerts. “How did you come by the idea?” Hulsman, laughing: “I was sitting on the loo and suddenly I thought …”
Is it vegetarian, one of them wants to know. “No, it is just meat that grows in our lab,” says Post. All eyes go to Maartje Koot, the vegetarian in the group. “Whether I would eat that? I think I might.” Still, the main objective wasn't animal cruelty, but food security and the environment, Post emphasises.
He is asked about four times when this cultivated hamburger will be on the shelves in the supermarket. “I am doing psychological research, for which I have appointed a master's student from Dijon. I want to know how one would market such a product.” Chazz Sutherland: “Ha ha, you started off with Medicine, then Psychology and you ended with Marketing.”

It is over 25 degrees; the group of six are sitting at the table in a spacious attic studio on the Brusselsestraat. The windows are open and the fan is on high. Koot places the starter on the table: “a glass with “cold tomato sauce, garlic, avocado mousse and lemon, em, some salt and pepper, also some sesame seeds and croutons with a dash of rosemary. Oops, the croutons have softened a little, that is a pity.” “Looks good,” Post laughs, “but you need to work on your oral presentation.”
Later on, when conversation has turned to test tubes – and how boring it can be to work on them day in and day out – Psychology student Koot comes back to her presentation skills. “I have that test tube feeling regularly, but then with people. During my bachelor's research, I had to tell our test subjects the same story time and again. Anyway, you saw how well I presented the starter. It makes me slightly hysterical.”

Post studied Medicine in Utrecht – “I wasn't a member of any association, but I played hockey” – and specialised in Surgery for five years. “Just before the end, I quit; it wasn't my thing.” Te Baerts can't imagine it at all: working hard at a certain career and then just giving up everything. Post: “I just didn't find it challenging enough, I am not one for patient care. I really need to come out of my comfort zone, otherwise I get restless.” Aha, maybe that is something genetic. Actually, Post moved 22 times in his life. “Umpteen times within Amsterdam. Why? I don't know, maybe my father was restless.” When he completed his PhD, Post went to the United States (Boston and New Hampshire). He returned to the Netherlands in 2001. The UM, as well as a few other universities, asked if I would come and work for them. Maastricht is really the best in the Netherlands in the cardiovascular field.”

One of the bottles of red wine brought by Post is opened with the risotto and small tomatoes and mushrooms (and for those who indulge, Parma ham). It says Kapelkeshof on the label. “It is from the Peel,” says Post, “I received it for giving a talk to civil servants in Peel en Maas”.  “Peel? Guus Meeuwis sings about that place, doesn't he?” someone says (the singer sings about it in his song Brabant). “No way,” another calls out. “Peel en Maas is in Limburg, near Horst.”

Then Post takes something from his plate of risotto and places it on the table. “O no!” Mols says, somewhat embarrassed. Post: “Calm down, it has been found, no problem,” and he calmly continues to eat. Koot: “What was that? Did you spit while talking Chazz?” Sutherland, who is sitting on the opposite side, shakes her head. Mols: “Case of A time. We don't talk about that.” It starts with an H and ends with an R.

Mark Post * 59 * Professor of Physiology and inventor of the first cultivated hamburger * married, son (16) and daughter (18) * lives in Berg en Terblijt

Michelle Hulsman * 20 * third-year student (2nd-year Medicine) * member of independent sorority Sororitas

Chazz Sutherland * 20 * second-year European Law School * member

Maartje Koot * 21 * third-year Psychology * member

Elsemieke Mols * 22 * third-year Medicine * member

Bo te Baerts * 20 * third-year Dutch law * member

Score (maximum of five stars), given by professor Post:

-Quality of the food: 4 stars “Starter was good, tomatoes were a little bitter and the pieces of toast slightly soggy underneath. Main course: best risotto I have ever eaten! Fruit Mon Chou pie was excellent, balance was superb.”

-Cleanliness: 5 stars “Who pays any attention to that when you are having an animated evening?”

-Hospitality: 5 stars “Best chair, fan and open windows to make the temperature bearable. Lively conversation.”

“Could you take a look at this dead mouse?”