Interview with Michael Mueller

Prof. Dr. Michael Müller (born 1956), Professor and chair; scientific director of the Netherlands Nutrigenomics Centre works in the fields of acute phase response, gene regulation by nutrients, molecular nutrition, nutrigenomics, transporter proteins. He has recently published on how fish-oil supplementation induces anti-inflammatory gene expression in human blood cells.

Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently in the early part of your career?

Likely I would have been chosen to stay for a few years in an outstanding US lab to learn highly competitive research.

What problems and opportunities did you face early on?

As I started in Germany it was not easy to develop an independent research line as Postdoc as at the time the system was rather hierarchical (it likely still is).

How did you surmount obstacles and persist on the scientific route?

I was lucky at crucial phases in my career to meet the right people and to develop a good gut feeling for new interesting trends: I moved from multidrug resistance transporters to liver drug transporters to liver disease research to regulation of nuclear receptor research to molecular nutrition and nutrigenomics and now towards systems biology (this all as a trained chemist/ biochemist).

What qualities would you “recommend” someone have if they’re hoping to be a scientist?

It’s hard to say. It’s like love, like a fire, you want it and you need it, to understand the mechanism and to elucidate the involved pathways. It’s hard work, lots of commitment, lousy salary, and a lot of fun (if you stay away from industry).

What career do you think you would have enjoyed more?

I would also like to do pottery (maybe not to live from) or write books (but I am really a scientist).

Is science a good career?

Yes of course, but It remains to be defined what is a good career? Lots of money? Happy family? 8-5pm job? Fame? Or, leaving some trace in the history of science? Many of these are possible in science but highly dependent on how capable one is and how flexible.