NWO Spinoza laureates announce plans for their prize money

27 September 2013

Today the three NWO Spinoza laureates of 2013 - physicist Michail Katsnelson, chemist Bert Weckhuysen and linguist Piek Vossen – announced their plans for the 2.5 million euros prize each of them has received. State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science Sander Dekker and NWO chairman Jos Engelen awarded the prizes in the Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague. The NWO Spinoza Prize is the highest scientific award in the Netherlands.

NWO Chair Jos Engelen, State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science Sander Dekker and NWO Spinoza laureates Bert Weckhuysen, Piek Vossen en Mikhail Katsnelson after the presentation of the NWO Spinozaprizes 2013 on Friday 27 September. Credits: NWO/Arie Wapenaar. Click on image to enlarge.NWO Chair Jos Engelen, State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science Sander Dekker and NWO Spinoza laureates Bert Weckhuysen, Piek Vossen en Mikhail Katsnelson after the presentation of the NWO Spinozaprizes 2013 on Friday 27 September. Credits: NWO/Arie Wapenaar.

Michail Katsnelson, Professor of Theoretical Physics at Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, announced that he will use his prize for research into graphene and for high-risk research. Katsnelson: 'With the NWO Spinoza Prize I can do adventurous research with my research group. For example, into the multibody theory of graphene, the origin of chemical complexity and the equilibrium of magnetism: fundamental problems in physics.'

Piek Vossen, Professor of Computational Lexicology at the VU University Amsterdam: 'The computer has little understanding of language; just look at online translation programs. I want to change that. With the NWO Spinoza Prize I want to investigate how ambiguity in language works –when is a horse an animal or when is it apiece of gymnastic equipment (vaulting horse)? How does the world around us determine our understanding of language? And I will invest in a large project with which computers will one day be able to automatically write history: the history recorder.'

Bert Weckhuysen, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis at Utrecht University, will use the prize to rejuvenate catalysts: 'I want to give catalysts eternal youth, keep them at the most productive point in their lives for as long as possible. If they "grow up" or "age" then they do not work as well. By improving catalysts we could use biomass, for example, instead of crude oil for the manufacture of plastics and petrol. I also want to show the wider public exactly what happens in catalysts. This research area is highly visual and I will use part of the prize to examine how I can convey my fascination for catalysts to a wider public.'

About NWO

NWO awards the NWO Spinoza Prize each year to researchers working in the Netherlands who belong to the international absolute top of science. An NWO Spinoza Prize is both an accolade and a stimulus for further research. The NWO Spinoza Prize was first awarded in 1995. NWO established the prize to encourage top research in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) is one of the biggest funding bodies for scientific research in the Netherlands. NWO promotes quality and innovation in science by selecting and funding the best research. It manages research institutes of national and international importance, contributes to strategic programming of scientific research in the Netherlands and brings science and society closer together. Research proposals are reviewed and selected by researchers of international repute. More than 5000 scientists can carry out research thanks to funding from NWO. 

Further information

www.nwo.nl/spinozapremie (including photos in high resolution and film portraits of laureates). As long as the source is correctly stated, the photos can be freely used for reports about the NWO Spinoza Prizes.

Source: NWO

Further information

NWO, Information and Communication Department, tel.: +31 70 344 07 41