ONTOX Young Scientist: Job Berkhout

Job Berkhout is a PhD Candidate at the Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Utrecht University, which is one of the partners in the ONTOX project. Job is motivated to work in ONTOX by the novel way the project aims to reduce animal testing.

Job is a biologist with a strong interest in computer science, which led him to start his PhD study at the IRAS. Here he combines the knowledge of the two fields in the ONTOX project. Job wants to learn how research is performed within a large ONTOX consortium and grasp the essence of scientific collaboration on an international scale. He likes to be creative in science and enjoys thinking of new ways to solve a problem.

Dive into the following lines of the next ONTOX #YoungScientist Series and learn more about Job.

Job, you have won the ECETOC Christa Hennes Early Career Award (ECA) for toxicological research into mechanisms and risk assessment for your abstract and poster “Computational modelling of neural tube closure defects”. How do you feel about this EUROTOX Early Career Award presented during the International Congress of Toxicology (ICT) 2022?

I feel honoured to receive this award. Computational models of biological processes are promising tools to improve chemical risk assessment without using animals in the future. I am glad to see this recognised by the scientific community.

Job Berkhout during the award ceremony for the ECETOC Christa Hennes Early Career Award at the ICT 2022.

Did you want to be a scientist since your childhood?

I’ve always been curious about how the world works for as long as I can remember. Starting with simple questions like, “why are most leaves green”. The questions grew more complicated as I grew older. Science, the field in which we try to unravel the unknown, fitted my interest.

Job is presenting his award-winning poster at the ICT 2022.

You work on developing the neural tube closure model in the ONTOX Work Package 9 (Developmental neurotoxicity). What is exactly your task in the team?

My main responsibility is to develop an in silico model of human neural tube closure to predict chemical-induced neural tube closure defects. I work in this with Harm Heusinkveld (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, RIVM) as my direct supervisor (co-promoter). Aldert Piersma (RIVM, IRAS) and Juliette Legler (IRAS) are my indirect supervisors (promoter).

Job Berkhout, together with Aldert Piersma and Harm Heusinkveld, starred in the RIVMs video about the development of a computational model for neural tube development.

Have you already achieved something in your career that makes you particularly proud?

I developed a novel analysis method from in vitro data generation to in silico analysis and prediction using artificial intelligence, with little to no guidance. It was a challenging and enjoyable experience!

“Computational models of biological processes are promising tools to improve chemical risk assessment without using animals in the future. I am glad to see this recognised by the scientific community.”

What is the greatest challenge in your life as a young scientist?

To combine your drive to perform as a scientist with fun things like going out and travelling.

Job is a big fan of guitar playing and enjoys the festivals.

Do you have any hobbies? Of course, in addition to science!

I enjoy being creative. I play the guitar, mainly acoustic, and enjoy writing songs myself. I also like to paint, although I am not really good at it. Besides this, I relish visiting festivals for the music and the ambience. I also like to meet my friends for drinks or game nights. We play video games or more complicated games, like Dungeons and Dragons.

Who inspires you either in science or in general?

My parents are my biggest inspiration. They gave me the freedom to explore life and always supported me while I was doing so.