NWO Spinoza prize for chemist, educationist, astronomer and geologist

06/07/04

'Dutch Nobel prize' for four top Dutch researchers

On 7 June, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) announced which four researchers will receive the NWO Spinoza prize for 2004. The prize is the biggest Dutch award in science. Each researcher receives one-and-a-half million euros to freely devote to his or her research. The researchers receive the prestigious prize for their outstanding, pioneering and inspiring scientific work.

The winners of the NWO Spinoza prize 2004 are:

Prof. B.L. (Ben) Feringa, chemist at University of Groningen. He invented the first molecular motor to be powered by light and he synthesises extremely selective catalysts.

Prof. M.H. (Rien) van IJzendoorn, educationalist at Leiden University. He provided a scientific basis for the theory about how children attach to their parents. He was also the first who tried to make evidence-based practical recommendations.

Prof. M.B.M. (Michiel) van der Klis, astronomer at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. With his group he discovered the first X-ray star which rotated at 400 times per second. The existence of such a star had been predicted 16 years previously, but had not yet been proved.

Prof. J.S. (Jaap) Sinninghe DamstÚ, geologist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and at Utrecht University. His research into chemical fossils rewrote the theories about the carbon and sulphur cycles.

Absolute top

The NWO Spinoza prize, also viewed as the 'Dutch Nobel Prize', is awarded to Dutch researchers who rank among the world's top scientists. The laureates are internationally renowned, and know how to inspire young researchers.

This is the tenth occasion on which the Spinoza prizes have been awarded. The first occasion was in 1995. The awards are made on the basis of nominations. Those allowed to make nominations are the principals of universities, and the chairs of the departments of Literature and Physics of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Netherlands Society of Technological Sciences and Engineering, the Dutch National Network of Female Professors, the Social Sciences Council and the NWO research councils.

The official presentation of the money and the Spinoza statuette will take place on 3 November 2004.

For further information please contact (see also the enclosed jury reports)

NWO
Department of Information and Communication
t: 31-70-3440713
voorlichting@nwo.nl
www.nwo.nl/spinozawinnaars (latest news, photos, jury reports, winners from previous years)
www.nwo.nl/spinoza (information about the procedures)

Enclosure with press release
NWO Spinoza prizes
7 June 2004


Jury report for Prof. B.L. (Ben) Feringa
Professor of synthetic organic chemistry at University of Groningen

Professor Feringa receives the NWO Spinoza prize 2004 for, amongst other things, his work on molecular motors and extremely selective catalysts.

Ben Feringa (Barger-Compascuum, 18 May 1951) has been professor of synthetic organic chemistry at University of Groningen since 1988. He graduated with a distinction from Groningen in 1974 and he obtained his doctorate there in 1978. After his Ph.D. he worked for Shell Research. In 1984 he returned to Groningen where he became a professor in 1988. In 2003, Feringa won the prestigious K÷rber European Science Award and he was appointed as 'Jacobus van 't Hoff' professor in molecular sciences. He was the first person to twice receive a so-called NWO Chemical Sciences Top Subsidy for excellent research groups. Feringa has contributed to more than 300 publications and 16 patents, and recently became a foreign member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Feringa is a chemist who designs and synthesises complex molecules. These molecules can, for example, be used as switches, motors or catalysts. Feringa is the inventor of the first molecular motor to be powered by light. In 1999 his group acquired worldwide fame with the molecule that behaves as a sort of propeller under the influence of light.

In the field of catalysts, Feringa is the leading authority in enantioselective catalysis. He makes catalysts which are so accurate that they differentiate between a molecule and its optical isomer. This unique characteristic is extremely important for the development of new medicines. For example, one form of a molecule might be fatal, whereas the optical isomer is lifesaving.

Within Dutch chemistry, Feringa is one of the most creative and authoritative researchers. With his chemical expertise he successfully cooperates with technologists, physicists, biologists and biochemists from universities and research institutes as well as commercial enterprises.

In a nutshell, Feringa is an excellent researcher of international standing and has a considerable charisma that extends far beyond university chemistry. He is an inspiring and innovative leader. His scientific ideas and his infectious enthusiasm form a source of inspiration for young researchers. The NWO Spinoza prize will undoubtedly contribute to ensuring that we hear a lot more from Feringa and his group of talented young researchers in the future.

Further information for the press available from:

Prof. B.L. (Ben) Feringa
Organic and Molecular Inorganic Chemistry, University of Groningen
t: 31-50-363-4278/4235
feringa@chem.rug.nl
http://www.chem.rug.nl/feringa

This jury report served as the basis for the speech given by Prof C.T. Verrips at the announcement ceremony for the NWO Spinoza prizes 2004 on 7 June.

Enclosure with press release
NWO Spinoza prizes
7 June 2004


Jury report for Prof. M.H. (Rien) van IJzendoorn Professor of family pedagogics at Leiden University

Professor Van IJzendoorn receives the NWO Spinoza prize 2004 for, amongst other things, providing a scientific basis for theories about child raising.

Rien van IJzendoorn (Tiel, 14 May 1952) has been professor of pedagogics at Leiden University since 1981. He graduated in 1976 with a distinction in education from the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Two years later, in 1978, Van IJzendoorn obtained his doctorate with a great distinction from the Free University of Berlin. From 1978 to 1981 he was a researcher at Leiden University and in 1981, at the age of 29 years, he was appointed as a professor there. Van IJzendoorn has been a visiting researcher in the United States and in Israel on several occasions. In 1990 he received a Pioneer subsidy from NWO which he used to set up a new research group. Five of his former Ph.D. students have since become professors.

Van IJzendoorn's subject is pedagogy. He has specialised in attachment theory. Broadly speaking this theory says that all children are evolutionarily 'programmed' to somehow make an attachment to a parent. Only children who are safely attached to their parents, in other words children who can find support and comfort from their parents when needed, have the best chances of development. Van IJzendoorn was the first to use meta-analyses to combine the results from many studies in a statistically responsible manner. He ensured a thorough scientific basis for the theory and he was the first who tried to make evidence-based practical recommendations.

Van IJzendoorn and his group demonstrated that parents usually pass on their own experiences with attachment relationships to their children. But together with German and Israeli researchers, Van IJzendoorn discovered that survivors of the Holocaust were often successful in protecting their children or grandchildren from their own horrendous experiences. The measuring instrument for these studies was validated by his group and has now become a worldwide standard.

Together with Israeli researchers, Van IJzendoorn also demonstrated that children who grew up in a traditional kibbutz were less frequently safely attached to their parents than children who were raised in a family. Further, Van IJzendoorn and his group discovered that day nursery children make an emotional attachment not only to their parents but to the day nursery leaders as well.

Referees call Van IJzendoorn an outstanding scientist of world class. He works in an extremely thorough and accurate manner. Van IJzendoorn and his group have furnished pedagogy in the Netherlands with an international reputation. He is full of plans and brimming with energy. It is therefore expected that the money from the NWO Spinoza prize will be well spent on Van IJzendoorn.

Further information for the press available from:

Prof. M.H. (Rien) van IJzendoorn (Child and Family Studies, Leiden University)
t: 31-71-527-3435/3434
vanijzen@fsw.leidenuniv.nl
www.childandfamilystudies.leidenuniv.nl/index.php3?m=154&c=142

This jury report served as the basis for the speech given by Prof. H. de Ridder-Symoens at the announcement ceremony for the NWO Spinoza prizes 2004 on 7 June.

Enclosure with press release
NWO Spinoza prizes
7 June 2004


Jury report for Prof. M.B.M. (Michiel) van der Klis
Professor of astronomy at Universiteit van Amsterdam

Professor Michiel van der Klis receives the NWO Spinoza prize 2004 for, amongst other things, his pioneering research into X-ray radiation from binary stars.

Michiel van der Klis (The Hague, 9 June 1953) has been professor of astronomy at the Astronomical Institute 'Anton Pannekoek', Universiteit van Amsterdam since 1993. Van der Klis gained his doctorate in 1983 from the Universiteit van Amsterdam for his observations of X-ray stars. After his Ph.D. he held various positions, including a period at the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk. In 1989, Van der Klis returned to the Universitiet van Amsterdam as a senior lecturer and he became a professor there in 1993. In 1987, Van der Klis received the Bruno Rossi Prize, the highest international award in high-energy astrophysics. In 1991 he received a Pioneer subsidy from NWO to set up a research group.

Van der Klis investigates the X-ray radiation from binary stars. Binary stars consist of two stars which rotate around each other. A small percentage of such binary stars contain a neutron star or a black hole. These are the two most extreme objects in the universe. Van der Klis studies how material moves in the strong gravitational field of such objects. This not only provides data about the mass, radius and rotational speed of the stars and black holes, but it also provides insights into the general theory of relativity.

Twenty years ago, Van der Klis opened up a new research field and he is still the world's leading expert in it. In 1985 he clarified why X-ray radiation emitted by binary stars does not consist of stable pulses but instead of quasi-periodic oscillations. And in the 1990s his group hit the world headlines, when they discovered the first X-ray star which rotated at 400 times per second around its axis. The existence of such a star had been predicted 16 years previously, but had not yet been proved.

The research methods of Van der Klis and his manner of processing data have been a gold standard within his subject area and beyond, for the past 20 years. He gives many lectures and holds several important board positions. But above all Van der Klis is a prolific researcher. For example, in recent years he has published more than 20 articles per year, many of which have appeared in top journals such as Science and Nature. In a nutshell, Van der Klis is a scientist with a considerable international reputation, a pioneer and an inspirer. In view of his drive and creativity, it is expected that over the next ten years he will continue to make considerable contributions to worldwide astrophysical research.

Further information for the press available from:

Prof. M.B.M. (Michiel) van der Klis
Astronomical Institute 'Anton Pannekoek' Universiteit van Amsterdam
t: 31-20-525-7491/7498
michiel@science.uva.nl
http://zon.astro.uva.nl/cgi-bin/astroweb/person.cgi?name=Klis


This jury report served as the basis for the speech given by Prof. R. Prins at the announcement ceremony for the NWO Spinoza prizes 2004 on 7 June.

Enclosure with press release
NWO Spinoza prizes
7 June 2004

Jury report for Prof. J.S. (Jaap) Sinninghe DamstÚ
Head of Marine Biogeochemistry and Toxicology at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and professor of molecular palaeontology at Utrecht University

Professor Sinninghe DamstÚ receives the NWO Spinoza prize 2004 for, amongst other things, his biological, geological and chemical work on fossil molecules in sediments.

Jaap Sinninghe DamstÚ (Baarn, 1 January 1959) has been head of the Marine Biogeochemistry and Toxicology Department of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research since 2002. In addition to this he has been professor of molecular palaeontology at Utrecht University since 2003. Sinninghe DamstÚ graduated with a distinction in analytical environmental chemistry from Delft University of Technology in 1984 and he gained his doctorate in organic geochemistry with a distinction from there in 1988. In 1993 Sinninghe DamstÚ received an NWO Pioneer subsidy. He left Delft and set up his own research group at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research on Texel. Sinninghe DamstÚ has also held a position at Utrecht University since 1993.

Sinninghe DamstÚ is a molecular biogeochemist. He analyses specific organic compounds in sediments, so-called chemical fossils. He uses the information he obtains to reconstruct the life and climate of earlier epochs. The chemical fossils form, amongst other things, a sort of biological ancient thermometer and provide insights into the microbial evolution on earth.

Sinninghe DamstÚ's research into chemical fossils is of world class and has resulted in important new insights. For example thanks to his Ph.D. research, theories about the worldwide carbon and sulphur cycles had to be revised. This was because Sinninghe DamstÚ discovered large numbers of new organic sulphur compounds in sediments and crude oil. Later in his career Sinninghe DamstÚ discovered that archaea, also called 'ancient bacteria', not only occurred at extreme locations but were in fact widely distributed. Furthermore, he found that just like plants, archaea grow using carbon dioxide and that once again had consequences for the theory about the carbon cycle.

According to insiders, Sinninghe DamstÚ has been 'a pivotal force in biogeochemistry' over the past 10 years and he leads one of the world's best research groups in this field. Sinninghe DamstÚ is one of the most outstanding and inspiring researchers of his generation. He already has more than 300 publications to his name, about 20 of which have been in Science and Nature. His achievements and varied interests, combined with his productivity and age justify high expectations for the future.

Further information for the press available from:

Prof. J.S. (Jaap) Sinninghe DamstÚ
Marine Biogeochemistry, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, and Organic Chemistry, Utrecht University
t: 31-222-369550 or 31-30-253-5005
damste@nioz.nl
http://www.nioz.nl/nioz_nl/2384a08d599a5b4c78929309e5b38f7a.php

This jury report served as the basis for the speech given by Prof. R. Kaptein at the announcement ceremony for the NWO Spinoza prizes 2004 on 7 June.

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