“Nano helping bio, bio helping nano”

After graduating, chemist and bioinformatician Tom Constandse chose TNO mainly because of its traineeship programme. He has now found his ideal workplace in Bionanotechnology, his third traineeship track.

“If we want to explain what happens in the world around us, we have a tendency to view it through the prism of one specific science. As an interdisciplinary academic, though, I think we’ve reached the point where that’s just not enough. Certainly on the molecular and nanometric scale. The way we look at the world needs to change fundamentally. Instead of a vision with chemistry, physics and biology as distinct disciplines, we need to examine all aspects of molecules together. Biological challenges can be solved using knowledge from physics. And vice versa. Nature has created an ingenious means of data storage in the form of DNA and information scientists should make the most of it. Nano helping bio, bio helping nano.

Appealing traineeship

“When I had to choose what to do after completing my degree in systems biology and bioinformatics, TNO wasn’t even on my radar. Everybody expected me to go for a PhD, but I thought, ‘I’m young and I want to do more, not just pure science.’ I was considering traineeships, but where? In 2014, having been awarded the title ‘best graduate’, I was able to attend a TNO in-house day. That was where I first encountered the organization, and I finally chose it because of the traineeship. On this programme you’re given a lot of room to develop, both professionally and personally. That allows you to guide your career. And there are so many possibilities. TNO is huge. They have all state-of-the-art technologies people think are so cool, right here. I’m now on the third and last ‘track’ in my traineeship, in Bionanotechnology. And I’m right at home there in my role as programme manager.”

Better and better

“I like to initiate new things. And I love to create order out of chaos. But doing that, it’s important to have a clear vision and to keep it in focus: ‘We’re going to do things this way!’ As a programme manager, you keep colleagues enthused, demonstrate leadership and support teambuilding. Once everyone is in the role which best suits them, that’s when the team achieves the most. I now realise that and I’m becoming better and better at it. As a team, we work collectively towards a common goal and outsiders know what our vision is.”

Sweet shop

After my traineeship, I want to stay in Bionanotechnology, in the Nano-Instrumentation Department. For a biochemist like me, the technology and know-how you find here are really like a sweet shop. I want to play my part in growing this interdisciplinary science at TNO. We’re now taking the first steps towards that, thinking primarily from the perspective of applications. One of my dreams is to one day set up my own company here. I’m sure that’s going to happen.”

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