Science - December 17, 2009

Rubicon grant for Mark Zwart

On 15 December Wageningen virologist Mark Zwart was awarded a Rubicon grant of 55 thousand euros by Dutch research-funding body NWO. This will enable him to spend two years researching the evolution of viruses in the lab at Santiago Elena in Valencia, in Spain.

Zwart, who is currently working as a postdoc in the Quantitative veterinary epidemiology chair group, got his doctorate (on baculoviruses) in the Virology group in 2008.
'The lab in Spain is very good and does very exciting research on virus evolution', says Zwart. 'A virus can be compared with a computer programme. You can adjust the programme for simpler tasks by removing the codes, or for more complex tasks by adding codes. We are going to use plant viruses to find out now the genome evolves in size and complexity to fulfil its tasks.'
But whether Zwart will go to Spain is far from clear. 'I've also got a job offer in the US, as postdoc in Florida.' He is going to think it over in the Christmas holiday. 'I know what the research in Spain is about, and I get on well with the people there. There are more unknown factors in the US, but I'll be given more responsibility there and it might be more stretching for me.' It's not only up to Zwart to decide. 'I am married and I have two children. They want to come too.'