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This page was published on 14/06/2004
Published: 14/06/2004


Published: 14 June 2004  
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Shining examples of science, Dutch awards jury says

Four Dutch researchers will receive their nation's top prize for scientific achievement, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) recently announced. This year's Spinoza prize-winners work in the fields of chemistry, social sciences, astronomy and geology.

Jaap Sinninghe Damsté – His work on chemical fossils rewrote the book on carbon and sulphur cycles © Source: NWO
Jaap Sinninghe Damsté – His work on chemical fossils rewrote the book on carbon and sulphur cycles

© Source: NWO

Now in its tenth year, the NWO Spinoza prize celebrates the contributions of a select group of researchers to the scientific world. In the Netherlands, this prize has built a reputation for highlighting pioneering research by Dutch scientists who also rank among the world's top in their respective fields.

“The laureates are internationally renowned and know how to inspire young researchers,” notes the NWO about the winners, who will each receive €1.5 million to put towards their research in the fields of chemistry, pedagogy, astronomy and geology. The prize helps the NWO achieve its goal of enhancing the quality of scientific research in the Netherlands as effectively as possible.

Professor Ben Feringa, a chemist from the University of Groningen, received worldwide fame for inventing the first molecular motor to be powered by light and, together with the Feringa Group, his team are synthesising extremely selective catalysts. He can now add the Spinoza prize to his trophy cabinet. Social scientist and pedagogue at Leiden University, Professor Rien van Ijzendoorn is also being distinguished for his work on relationships between children and their parents.   

Holland's Nobel Prize
Professor Michiel van der Klis and his team at the University of Amsterdam's Astronomical Institute ‘Anton Pannekoek' proved a 16-year-old theory about an X-ray star which rotates 400 times per second. While the final laureate, Professor Jaap Sinninghe Damsté – geologist at the Royal Netherlands Institute  for Sea Research, Utrecht University – rewrote the theories on carbon and sulphur cycles during his research into chemical fossils.

The awards – which will be officially presented on 3 November this year – are based on nominations from principals of universities, representatives from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Netherlands Society of Technological Sciences and Engineering, the Dutch National Network of Female Professors, the Social Sciences Council, and the NWO research councils.

Other factors also contributed to the jury's decision to award prizes to these four scientists. In Professor Feringa's case, the jury noted his ability to co-operate with colleagues in other fields and in industry as worthy attributes. “Feringa is an excellent researcher of international standing and has considerable charisma that extends far beyond university chemistry,” it wrote.

The prize will give valuable exposure to the professor and his talented young researchers in the Feringa Group, the jury went on to say. This kind of public awareness of science is also something being sought through the European Union's science and society activities, such as the Young Scientist Contest and European Science and Technology Week.


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Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
Spinoza Prize
Feringa Group
University of Leiden (Pedagogy Department)
Astronomical Institute ‘Anton Pannekoek’
Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Science and society programme

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