Wouter Masselink: reflections on doing a PhD at ARMI
Wouter Masselink was the first student to complete a PhD at ARMI after it opened its doors in 2009. If that isn’t an achievement in itself, it’s also worth noting that he’s been working in a postdoctoral position in Germany since October 2015.
After completing a Masters Degree at Utrecht University, Wouter came to Australia in 2011 to undertake his PhD after being awarded an Endeavour Europe award. The award gave him the opportunity to study in the lab of Peter Currie, who was recently appointed as Director of ARMI.
“Being able to move to the other side of the world and get my PhD was only possible thanks to the financial support from both ARMI and the Endeavour scheme,” said Wouter.
Realising that limb muscle development is still very much an open field of research and with a keen understanding of zebrafish developmental biology, Wouter made the decision to join the lab of Peter Currie.
“Joining Pete’s lab was based on two things. Firstly, my interest aligned with Pete’s and secondly, the excellent facilities that are offered in the form of FishCore and Monash Micro Imaging.”
During his studies at ARMI, Wouter identified a cellular program that was required for the fin to limb transition during evolution, even though this was not what he initially started work on. What lead him onto this path was the observation of some unusual cells within the developmental program of pectoral fin muscle development.
“It is difficult to predict the direction of research, but one of the key things I learned during my time at ARMI was to be observant and to trust your own data. I was very fortunate to have been given the freedom to explore this totally new and exciting event.”
Wouter acknowledges that getting a PhD is no easy feat. In order to get over the line, you not only have to work on a project that you find exciting, but you also need a great support network. He believes ARMI helped facilitate this criteria.
“Not only did ARMI provide me with a fantastic opportunity to follow my own research interests, but it gave me support I needed to successfully finish my PhD.”
Wouter also notes that apart from his experience in the lab, he also got to explore all that Australia has to offer.
“Being from the Netherlands, not exactly a country known for its size, wildlife, mountains, or cuisine, I had an absolute blast exploring Australia. While the cost of living was a bit of a shock initially (I got here just after a cyclone decimated the banana harvest and bananas were up to over $10 kg), the stipend was more than sufficient to not only survive but to enjoy myself. I have made friends and had experiences I never thought I would have. I ran over 20 km through mud and over obstacles, got my motorbike license and drove a motorbike all over Tasmania. I also got to find out that I am a terrible surfer.”
Now that some time has passed and he has some time to reflect, what does Wouter think about his time at ARMI?
“Having spent time in several different countries, institutes and labs during my studies and now postdoc, I very much appreciate the culture and support that I experienced during my stay at ARMI. The people I’ve met and the things I have learned will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
It was a privilege to have someone with Wouter Masselink’s talents complete their PhD at ARMI. We hope that you join us in wishing him the best of luck in his science career.