Jurriaan Ton is a Professor of Plant Environmental Signalling at the University of Sheffield in UK. He obtained his PhD at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands, where he studied plant-microbiome interaction in the lab of Prof. Corné Pieterse. After extensive international experience and after working as post-doc in Switzerland and as a PI in Utrecht University and Rothamsted Research, he became a professor at the University of Sheffield in 2015. His current research is focused on understanding the (epi)genetic basis of stress memory, as well as chemical interactions between plants and microbes.
This interview had the most scenic Zoom meeting background ever as Jurriaan was working from home in southern France. We reached consensus on the recommended soundtrack to listen to while reading this interview: “Anything” by Pink Floyd. Enjoy!
Aida: Since we want people to know the person behind the editor’s name, let’s start from the very beginning. How and why did you get into plant science?
Jurriaan: That was a bit of a detour, to be honest. I always wanted to become a biologist from very early on, but I had never really envisaged I would become a plant biologist. So, when I was growing up and doing the Dutch equivalent of A levels, I had very naive expectations of becoming a biologist: I wanted to study dolphins and go on all sorts of adventurous field trips. And then I started my degree in the early 1990s at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. In one of the first weeks, we had a zoology practical where we had to cut open a rat. I was really horrified and disappointed in myself because I wasn’t coping well with the bloody mess I made of it. That was about three or four weeks into my degree. Then, I figured that at least zoology was not what I wanted to specialize in. I was lucky that the first-year curriculum in Utrecht started off very broad, so it gave me a perfect opportunity to sample lots of different biological disciplines.