In May, Netherlands-based Oost TV interviewed Einstein pathology PhD student Mike Veenstra as part of a series on people from the Overijssel region who currently work and live in New York City. In this series, Mike discusses his science, life in NYC - and what initially brought him to the United States. Although the interview was conducted in Dutch - without subtitles - we’ve loosely summarized the video. Please take a look here.
Mike, 27, was born and raised in Overijssel, a province in the in the central-eastern part of the Netherlands. As a predoctoral researcher in Dr. Joan Berman’s laboratory at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Mike focuses his research on the mediators of cognitive impairment in HIV-infected individuals. He said more than 50% of HIV-infected individuals develop some kind of cognitive impairment irrespective of whether they use antiretroviral therapy.
His current research project focuses on the phenotypic and functional differences of HIV-infected cells and HIV-exposed cells (specifically CD14+CD16+ monocytes) in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders. The cells in the body of an HIV-infected individual are heterogeneously infected (not every cell carries HIV); the lab is interested in determining how the cells that carry HIV are different from the cells that do not carry HIV, and how this affects the development of cognitive impairment in HIV-infected individuals.
Despite his love for science, Mike first came to the United States for a different sort of love. Six years ago, he met his partner Jaume Amengual, a fellow scientist, while studying and performing undergraduate research in Mallorca, Spain. Soon after, the couple moved to Ohio so Jaume could research vitamin A metabolism at Case Western Reserve University. Two years later, they moved to New York City so Mike could pursue his graduate studies at Einstein.
Mike and Jaume, who now works at NYU as a postdoctoral fellow in arthrosclerosis research, live on campus in the Einstein dorms, where they love to cook after a long day at work. Despite their busy schedules - both work between 60 to 70 hours per week - they take time to exercise and swim together, and explore the city's many offerings. Meanwhile, Mike tells fellow Overijsselaars not to believe what they read or see in the movies. He said, "The idea that the Bronx is unsafe I think is old, or at least, the area where we live is totally fine."