Scientists Rock! is a monthly Q&A where we pull an AbbVie scientist out of his or her labs to hear what makes them tick. This month, we met Justin Reitsma, Ph.D. Most people just think he’s a scientist, but he’s really a molecular biologist and geneticist applying advanced proteomic techniques to discover novel drug targets. And, boy, would his high school self think that was cool.
How did you fall in love with science?
I’ve always wanted to know how things work. Some of my earliest memories are of pretending to be a scientist: playing and mixing chemicals from my neighbor’s tractor shed, or dissecting toads and frogs that had already seen their last days. Something about discovery and exploring the unknown has always made me tick.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A scientist, a professional football player, or both! In the end, I found a balance by playing college ball, and on local flag teams during study breaks in graduate school.
What is your advice to children interested in a career like yours?
First, I like to nurture the mindset of a scientist. Be curious. Ask questions. Experiment. Adapt and try again. Second, I simply like to let kids know that science is a career option. Growing up in a rural community, a physician was the closest thing to a scientist. I never met a chemist or biologist, and the only famous scientist I knew of was Albert Einstein. There wasn’t a single mention of “scientist” in all of the career development events at my high school.
If we were to ask your family what it is that you do, what would they say?
It depends upon who in my family you ask. To my grandparents, I was a physician. They’d always ask me how to treat their various ailments. To the remainder of my family, I am a scientist working to cure diseases. To my wife – a fellow scientist – I am a molecular biologist and geneticist applying advanced proteomic techniques to discover novel drug targets.