Gerrald Lodewijk joined the Baskin School of Engineering as a postdoctoral scholar in July 2020 under the faculty mentorship of Ali Shariati, assistant professor of biomolecular engineering. His current research uses live imaging technology to study the cell fate and cycle in human embryonic development. During Lodewijk’s master’s program, he interned at UCSC for six months in the lab of Distinguished Professor of Biomolecular Engineering David Haussler (now known as the Haussler-Salama lab), studying genes that cause autism and characterizing human-specific duplicated genes in primate evolution. Currently, he is the chair of the UCSC STEAM Postdoc Association, which helps secure funding and organizes informational events that support UCSC postdocs.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your path to Baskin Engineering.
I’m originally from the Netherlands, where I did my undergraduate program in biomedical sciences and master’s program in neuroscience. I did an internship in the Netherlands during my master’s program, where I was first introduced to stem cell research in one of our journal clubs. A former Ph.D. student from the same lab, Frank Jacobs, was then doing such research at UCSC as a postdoctoral scholar. After connecting with Jacobs, I was able to get an internship at UCSC. I was at UCSC in 2013 for six months before moving to Amsterdam, becoming the first to start a Ph.D. program in the newly founded lab of previous mentor Dr. Jacobs. In Amsterdam, we were still able to collaborate with people at UCSC on projects. Throughout my doctoral studies, I kept an eye on open positions at UCSC since I really enjoyed working there and wanted to come back, if possible. I was able to secure a postdoc position in 2019, but due to COVID restrictions, my appointment was delayed. I finally started my position in July of 2020.
Why did you choose the Baskin School of Engineering to do your postdoctoral work?
On one side of Baskin Engineering, you have the incredible genetics and genome assembly work being conducted under the Genomics Institute and then on the other side, you have stem cell research being done within the Baskin Engineering Biomolecular Engineering Department. It's nice to be able to combine those two areas of expertise, which has always been a dream project for me. Ali Shariati’s work of looking at the quantitative aspects of cell biology and comparing different species and how they develop really appealed to me. And with his lab being new, I wanted to be challenged and get the opportunity to help in a lot of different ways
What research are you working on at Baskin Engineering?
I’m interested in comparing genomes across species to understand how those species branch from each other and develop. One project I am working on goes back to the beginning of embryonic cell development. Through the use of live imaging technology and genetic engineering tools, I aim to understand how cells divide, how they adopt specific cell fates, and how specific genes and proteins in the cells are doing this. I’m also training undergraduates and rotation students in the lab on how to apply new techniques for cell cycle research, which helps to contribute to the project I’m working on. In addition to conducting cell cycle research and helping manage the lab, I’m finishing up my Ph.D. work.
How has your partnership with your faculty mentor strengthened your research efforts?
My research interests align well with Ali’s. The cell cycle project is a major research initiative that Ali started, but I’m helping to support by using my expertise to apply new techniques and methodology and assisting him with securing grants and writing publications. I also get to continue working in stem cell research, which is where a lot of my expertise lies. It’s been nice to establish a research network at UCSC and outside of the UCSC research community, which has allowed me to secure new project collaborations and expand my research scope.
What’s next for you?
Training people to do research and conducting research on my own are the two things that really interest me. I enjoy helping people in a smaller group setting, so working as an instructor in a small lab or managing my own lab would be something I would enjoy pursuing. I’m open to the location of my role after my postdoc appointment, but would love to be in a place that has a lot of outdoor activities like UCSC.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I am currently the chair of the UCSC STEAM Postdoc Association. The association has been around for six years now. It was created entirely by UCSC postdocs with the mission to improve support and training for postdocs. The association provides year-round events to help train our postdocs and prepare them for life in academia and other career paths. We need more postdocs to keep our mission alive, so new members are always welcome.
Interview date: September 8, 2021