Who is this Scientific Dutchman – and what can I do for you?

Scientific Dutchman is a one-man company. It has a name because that’s required for registration at the Chamber of Commerce. But it is just me: René Fransen. I’ve love science as long as I can remember. Eventually, I studied Biology at the University of Utrecht, where I subsequently did a PhD and a postdoc, both at the University Medical Centre.

In 1995, I took a course in science journalism at SCW in Amsterdam and started to write on science. A year later, I became Science editor at the University of Groningen newspaper Universiteitskrant. In 2012, I moved to the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the same university as ‘Science Writer’, and increased my activities as a freelance science writer and consultant, which became ‘Scientific Dutchman’.

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Resurrected protein reveals the structure of an important enzyme

My last contribution to the University of Groningen website in 2019: an interesting study by enzyme engineer Marco Fraaije and colleagues. They reconstructed the ancestral gene sequence for three human enzymes, expressed the protein and analyzed its structure. (The current enzymes were not stable enough to study, the ancestral ones are!) The result is an interesting paper describing the structure and function of these flavin-containing monooxygenases (FMOs).

Full paper in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. See also this Nature News & Views commentary.

Two workshops: writing a grant proposal, or a popular summary

I have two workshops on offer for scientists. The Art of Scientific Storytelling tells you how to write your grant proposal as clear and catchy as possible. This workshop has been tried and tested over many years.

Slightly newer, but also well-received, is the Reach Out workshop that will teach you to write a popular summary of your work.

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February limited offer: free abstract editing

Are you working on a grant proposal at the moment, or writing other research-related texts? During the month of February, I am offering free editing on 15 abstracts.

I have been editing dozens of research proposals since 2011, written to different funding agencies, mainly for University of Groningen scholars. I would like to extend my client network (which already includes grant proposals Belgium, Germany and the US), so that’s why I am offering this ‘free trial’.

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Writing for the new Chemport Europe website

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The new Chemport Europe website

One of my clients as a science writer is Chemport Europe, the innovative ecosystem for chemicals and materials in the Northern Netherlands. Chemport Europe works towards a green, sustainable chemistry. The chemistry parks in Delfzijl and Emmen are the main locations for this ecosystem.

Chemport Europe launched their new website on 16 December. For this website, I wrote most of the texts in the section Chain of Products: All texts in  Feedstocks, Intermediate chemicals, and Polymers and materials. It was fascinating to discover how green chemistry is developing in the northern region of the Netherlands. 

Three stories

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This week, three science stories I’ve written were released. The first is on how E. coli has ‘MacGyvered’ a unique mode of membrane transport by combining a selective pore with an active transporter. The resulting protein complex can transport potassium ions against a 10^4 concentration gradient! This discovery was made at the University of Groningen, using their state-of-the-art cryo-electron microscope, and the results were published in Nature Communications. Continue reading

Treat yourself to some editing support

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Are you considering a grant application, or already facing a deadline for e.g. the Dutch NWO Rubicon grant or Teachers Ph.D. scholarship? Or perhaps an ERC Proof of Concept or Consolidator? In that case, have you considered hiring a scientific editor to give your proposal an extra edge?

Of course, as an academic, you know how to write scientific papers. But a grant proposal is a different genre, you don’t just present your results and ideas to your peers, you are trying to sell your plans to a review committee that might include scientists who are not fully familiar with your topic.

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Lorentz Workshop, Scientific Storytelling and Embryos

Just a quick update on some special activities in the coming weeks… From 27-31 August, I will attend a Lorentz Center workshop in Leiden, entitled ‘Distinguishing Science and Metaphysics in Evolution and Religion‘. Organizers are Gijsbert van den Brink, professor of Science and Religion at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Duur Aanen, associate professor at Wageningen University. An interesting list of participants and I’m proud to have been invited to this workshop,

A few days later, on 3 September, I will be teaching my workshop on grant writing ‘The Art of Scientific Storytelling’ at ETF Leuven (Belgium), as part of their annual Doctoral Colloquium, a week of interaction and academic activities for the Ph.D. students and the doctoral faculty.

Over a month later, on 12 October, I will be presenting a lecture on genetic modification in embryos and developments in research with human stem cells.

If you are interested in a lecture or workshop, don’t hesitate to contact me.


Art of Scientific Storytelling – sold out!

Next week, I’ll be presenting my workshop ‘The Art of Scientific Storytelling’ during the Grants Week Groningen (organized by the University of Groningen and the University Medical Center Groningen). If you still haven’t registered there’s some bad news here: both workshops are fully booked, at 30 participants each.

But you might try and ask the organizers for a third workshop later this year!

If you are interested in this workshop, which teaches scientists to look at their grant proposal as a story that is being told, do contact me!