Looking back at twenty years at VIB: Eef Parthoens in the Spotlight
A story from the Bio-Imaging core
December 8, 2023
Eef Parthoens is a familiar face within the Bio-Imaging core to many colleagues. What you may not know is that Eef has been working at VIB for two decades. To celebrate this milestone, we’re pleased to give her the floor. We delve deeper into her career and her role within the Core.
Hello Eef, thank you for taking the time, and congratulations on your 20 years at VIB. Let's rewind the clock. Could you summarize your career and tell us how it led to your current position?
Thank you! My interest in science began in my childhood. I still remember asking Saint Nicolas for microscopes to study my marzipan (laughs). After high school, I studied biomedical sciences at VUB, followed by a master’s in industrial sciences specializing in biochemistry/cell biology at KHLim. During my thesis year at UZ Leuven, I came into contact with VIB scientists and their research. I was immediately hooked and started looking for opportunities within VIB. I began working at the Center for Human Genetics in Leuven as a scientific collaborator on a project screening for autism-associated genes. Coincidentally, microscopy played a significant role in that project. The childlike enthusiasm from my Saint Nicolas days resurfaced, and my interest in microscopy continued to grow.
Three years later, on the dance floor of a VIB seminar, I met my husband who was pursuing a doctorate in Ghent at the time. Coincidentally, a vacancy arose during that period at DMBR – the precursor to IRC – for someone specializing in microscopy: supporting scientists, providing training for new users, conducting analyses, and much more. This was a dream job that I couldn’t let pass. Since then, I’ve been working in Ghent, turning my passion for microscopy into my job within IRC.
What can researchers turn to you for in the Bio-imaging Core?
Researchers can come to us with biological questions they want to answer using microscopy. We guide them from A to Z and have various imaging equipment available, ranging from basic microscopes to more advanced equipment like confocal microscopes, electron microscopes, light sheets, and more. We aim to cover a broad spectrum – from tissue to cell organelles – so we can provide answers to as many questions as possible.
We work with the researcher to determine the experiments to set up, provide training for equipment usage, assist with analysis, and support interpretation. However, each project requires a different approach. For some, training and access to microscopes are sufficient, while others need co-development.
My specific role is to handle all intakes. When you contact the Bio-imaging Core, there’s a good chance you’ll contact me. We have a conversation to outline the major aspects of your project. Every Monday, there's a team meeting within the Core where we distribute projects, assigning the most suitable people to each project. I also personally oversee several projects that require functional imaging or super-resolution – something I've made my specialty over the years.
Additionally, I handle larger projects with industry partners, and recently, I've started supervising the Light Microscopy (LM) team.
How have you grown within this role? Have you had to master new techniques? Did you follow training? Bio-imaging technologies are rapidly evolving, and I can imagine you need to stay well-informed.
You’re right! I’ve followed a lot of training in my career. Saskia Lippens (Deputy Technology Director of VIB and former head of VIB Bio-Imaging Core) and the team leaders within the Core have always been incredibly supportive. It was truly motivating to see that training and education were promoted from both sides. This allowed me to actively seek interesting training opportunities, and suggestions and new ideas for training also came from VIB. It has significantly boosted my personal development. Additionally, there are internal VIB training sessions that taught me soft skills such as presentation skills, personal development, and leadership skills, to name a few.
What do you find most rewarding about working within the Bio-imaging Core and VIB Technologies in general?
What I find incredibly fascinating is being involved in many different projects and collaborating with a diverse group of people. Contributing to such varied research is genuinely enjoyable.
Each project requires a different approach, so I often have to find the best method to answer research questions. This frequently involves bringing in new knowledge or thinking outside the box. No day is the same!
VIB is also willing to allocate resources to support and realize this out-of-the-box thinking. You feel that genuine innovation is possible, and there are opportunities to take risks and explore new paths. The translation from theory to practice is also a tremendous motivator.
In an ideal world, what do the next 10-20 years of your career look like? What would you like to achieve?
Oh! If I can, I’d love to stay with VIB until my retirement (laughs). Seeing how technology is evolving and what’s yet to come genuinely inspires and makes you want to keep learning. Working in a field where there’s still so much to discover is just incredibly motivating. Additionally, I enjoy collaborating with young, motivated researchers, creating a dynamic work environment that keeps me sharp. So, if possible, I’ll be here for another 20 years!
And let’s be honest, I still thoroughly enjoy creating beautiful images! (laughs)
Do you want to explore other core facilities at VIB technologies : https://vib.be/en/technologies/core-facilities
Did this story inspire you and would you like to look for job opportunities within VIB technologies: https://vib.be/en/technologies/jobs#/job-list
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