Prof. dr. A.M. (Marileen) Dogterom

Marileen Dogterom is professor of Bionanoscience at TU Delft. She became world famous for her experimental research on the forces generated by the cytoskeleton. The cytoskeleton is a kind of molecular ‘frame’ that gives the cells of yeast, plants, animals and humans their shape and sturdiness. It also plays a vital role in cell division. Dogterom was the first to measure the forces generated by the microscopic tubules of that cytoskeleton during cell division. This knowledge helps us to understand how healthy cells function – and therefore also what goes wrong at the molecular level with afflictions such as cancer. That creates opportunities for treatments, but also for synthetic biology: building functional, artificial cells from molecular building blocks.

Prof. dr. A.M. (Marileen) Dogterom (image: Rafael Philippen)

Early on in her career, Dogterom was already publishing ground-breaking studies in well-known scientific journals – and she continues to do so. She has taken her field to new heights, both in the Netherlands and internationally. She initially achieved this at the FOM institute AMOLF and later at the universities of Leiden and Delft. She also made important contributions to the development of biophysical techniques. One example is a laser technique called ‘optical tweezers’, which enables its user to measure the forces generated by individual molecules.

Dogterom is one of the most important faces of biophysics in the Netherlands. She is the driving force behind the national consortium BaSyC (Building a Synthetic Cell). BaSyC seeks to improve our understanding of the basic physical-chemical processes of life by building an artificial cell bottom-up. BaSyC consists of six research institutes and is supported by a Gravitation grant worth 19 million euros.

Since 2016, Dogterom has also been a ‘Medical Delta’ professor. The ‘Medical Delta’ programme is a partnership between various research institutes in Delft, Leiden and Rotterdam; it was set up to build a bridge between science and medical practice.

Internationally, Dogterom also works in a major, leading network with colleagues from Stanford, Harvard and the Max Planck Institute. In 2013 she was elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), the most important European organisation of academics working in the life sciences. That same year she received a prestigious Synergy Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), with her fellow-Spinoza laureate Anna Akhmanova.

Dogterom is known as a warm personality who commits herself passionately to her students, PhD students and other colleagues. She likes to contribute to courses and summer schools and began a discussion network for young researchers working in biophysics in the Netherlands. Dogterom is also vocal when it comes to scientific policy. Indeed, she is a board member of KNAW, co-wrote the vision paper ‘Chemistry & Physics: Fundamental for Our Future’ and was involved in the development of the Dutch National Research Agenda.

Dogterom likes to give lectures to pupils and teachers. She contributed to innovations in how physics is taught at secondary schools. She is also regularly interviewed in national media. She has appeared in popular events, such as De Wereld Leert Door, the Nationale Wetenschapsquiz and the Avond van Wetenschap & Maatschappij.

Interview Marileen Dogterom | Pushing and pulling inside a cel

  • Who is Marileen Dogterom?


    born on 20 November in Utrecht


    graduates in theoretical physics at the University of Groningen


    publishes influential article about the growth of the cytoskeleton in Physical Review Letters


    receives her doctorate cum laude at the University of Orsay in Paris, France, for her work on the physics of the cytoskeleton


    postdoc at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, US (until 1996)


    publishes article in Science: first measurements of the forces generated by the cytoskeleton


    project leader at FOM institute AMOLF


    group leader at FOM institute AMOLF


    affiliated professor of physics at Leiden University (from 2010 onwards regular professor)


    head of department at FOM institute AMOLF



    sabbatical at the Department of Cell Biology at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, in the group of Anna Akhmanova (who is also a Spinoza laureate this year)


    receives a Vici grant from NWO


    elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO)


    receives a prestigious ERC Synergy Grant with Anna Akhmanova to jointly unravel the regulatory networks of the cytoskeleton


    professor and department chair at the Kavli Institute for Nanoscience, Department of Bionanoscience, TU Delft


    elected member of the Academia Europaea


    ‘Medical Delta’ professor: a double appointment at Leiden and TU Delft


    elected member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)


    awarded Gravitation funding for the development of a synthetic cell


    board member of KNAW