Four top scientists announce their plans for the NWO Spinoza Prize

9 September 2014

Experimental physicist Dirk Bouwmeester, archaeologist Corinne Hofman, environmental technologist Mark van Loosdrecht and migratory bird ecologist Theunis Piersma will today present their plans for the NWO Spinoza Prize they are receiving: 2.5 million euros each for scientific research. They will receive the prize in the presence of His Majesty King Willem-Alexander.

King Willem-Alexander, accompanied by (left to right) Secretary of State Sander Dekker (OCW), laureates Piersma, Van Loosdrecht, Hofman and Bouwmeester and NWO Chair Jos Engelen. Photo: NWO/Sascha Schalkwijk (cllck for large version)

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) awards the NWO Spinoza Prizes each year to researchers working in the Netherlands who according to international standards belong to the absolute top of their discipline, inspire young researchers, and do research that has an impact in society. An NWO Spinoza Prize is both a personal honour as well as a major financial boost for further research. With the Spinoza Prizes, NWO strengthens top research in the Netherlands.

Dirk Bouwmeester

‘I will use the NWO Spinoza Prize to connect different research areas with each other. Together with my research group I will work, for example, on quantum optical experiments with DNA structures that have possible applications in medical science, on plasma experiments with possible applications for storing a plasma, and on experiments that study whether gravity plays a role in the quantum measuring process.’
Professor. D. (Dirk) Bouwmeester (1967) is Professor of Physics at Leiden University and is also a professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Corinne Hofman

‘I research the confrontation between the original indigenous inhabitants of the Caribbean area and the European colonisers. With a transdisciplinary approach (humanities, natural sciences and social sciences) we are investigating the indigenous perspective. I want to use the Spinoza Prize to facilitate the continuity of the Caribbean archaeological research in Leiden and to embed this in the Caribbean area by setting up a centre of excellence and by providing grants for local top talent. I want to invest in innovative techniques for finding archaeological sites in areas that have not been explored yet and I want to put the indigenous Caribbean history on the world map by investigating the impact of colonial meetings elsewhere in the world. Then the research can contribute to the broader debate about the confrontations between groups and diversity in a globalising world. Finally, I hope to make my research accessible for a broad public through the training of local people, activities aimed at the general public, and with films and animations.'
Professor C.L. (Corinne) Hofman (1959) is Professor of Caribbean Archaeology at Leiden University.

Mark van Loosdrecht

‘The prize offers me the opportunity to expand my research into microbial diversity on earth. Only about one percent of microbial life has been characterised up until now. The research must provide more insight into microbial ecology. That knowledge can be used to develop new processes to convert waste into raw materials. These processors will contribute to the development of the circular economy and making our society even more sustainable still.’
Professor M.C.M. (Mark) van Loosdrecht (1959) is Professor of Environmental Technology at Delft University of Technology.

Theunis Piersma

‘One-hundred-and-fifty years ago Darwin divided the world into plants and animals on the one hand and the environments of those plants and animals on the other hand. This disentanglement has allowed considerable progress to be made in biology. But because we have lost sight of the vital importance of environments, biological research has become one-sided. Using the NWO Spinoza Prize I will once again give the environment the attention it deserves. That is desperately needed in an era in which the loss of healthy living environments for people and other animals has become dangerously large. I will use the NWO Spinoza Prize to make the role and importance of environments tangible and visible through studies on the individual development of migratory routines in black-tailed godwits, spoonbills and knots.’
Professor T. (Theunis) Piersma (1958) is Professor of Global Flyway Ecology at the University of Groningen and Wadden Sea biologist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ).

About NWO

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research is one of the most important science-funding bodies in the Netherlands and ensures quality and innovation in science. Each year NWO invests more than 650 million euros in curiosity-driven research and research related to societal challenges. NWO selects and funds research proposals based on the advice of Dutch and international experts from science and society. NWO encourages national and international collaboration, invests in large-scale research facilities, promotes knowledge utilisation, and manages research institutes. NWO funds more than 5600 research projects at universities and knowledge institutions.

Source: NWO