NWO Spinoza Prizes go to René Janssen, Birgit Meyer, Aad van der Vaart and Cisca Wijmenga

12 June 2015

This year, NWO is awarding Spinoza Prizes to four leading scientists working in the Netherlands. Organic chemistry authority René Janssen, religious studies scholar Birgit Meyer, statistician Aad van der Vaart and human genetics professor Cisca Wijmenga will each receive 2.5 million euros on 14 September to be used to continue their scientific research. NWO chairman Jos Engelen announced the winners today. The NWO Spinoza Prize is the highest award in science in the Netherlands.

The NWO-Spinoza Prize Laureates 2015. Jos Engelen (chair NWO), Aad van der Vaart, Cisca Wijmenga, Birgit Meyer, René Janssen, Eduard Klasen (chair Committee). Credits: NWO/Sascha Schalkwijk

The NWO Spinoza Prize is not only an honour but also an incentive to conduct further research. NWO awards the Spinoza Prizes each year to researchers working in the Netherlands who rank as the leading authorities in their field according to international standards. NWO is thus fostering research excellence in the Netherlands.

The four Spinoza laureates in 2015 work at the Eindhoven University of Technology, Utrecht University, Leiden University and the University of Groningen, respectively.

Scientists can be nominated for an NWO Spinoza Prize. An international committee subsequently selects the best researchers based on international recognition of their quality as scientists, their level of appeal to young researchers, and their use and exchange of knowledge. The NWO Spinoza Prize was established in 1995. Including this year’s winners, the Netherlands now has 77 NWO Spinoza laureates.

Award ceremony

The NWO Spinoza Prizes will be awarded during a festive ceremony on Monday 14 September in the Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague. During the ceremony, the laureates will explain their research to the audience and how they intend to use the financial part of their prize.

The NWO Spinoza Laureates 2015

René Janssen

René Janssen. Image may be used freely with credits attribution: NWO/Ivar PelRené Janssen

Prof. R.A.J. (René) Janssen (1959) is professor of molecular materials and nanosystems at the Eindhoven University of Technology. He has discovered a unique way of combining chemistry with physics and fundamental research with applied research. As a scientist, Janssen is driven by one of the major societal challenges of the future: the global transition to renewable and sustainable sources of energy. His ideas have served as an inspiration to many international researchers.

Birgit Meyer

Birgit Meyer. Image may be used freely with credits attribution: NWO/Ivar PeBirgit Meyer

Prof. B. (Birgit) Meyer (1960) is professor of religious studies at Utrecht University. Meyer conducts research on faith and religion from the perspective of a cultural anthropologist. She studies religion in its social and societal contexts, but in doing so does not view religion primarily as a social construct. Rather, she sees religion first and foremost as something tangible, something that people do and express in a variety of ways. To gain insight into religion as a complex and tangible phenomenon, Meyer combines perspectives from religious studies, anthropology, philosophy and media studies. By linking disciplines that previously remained distinct and unconnected, Meyer’s work is leading to an important new research area and is gaining her widespread international recognition.

Aad van der Vaart

Aad van der Vaart. Image may be used freely with credits attribution: NWO/Ivar PeAad van der Vaart

Prof. A.W. (Aad) van der Vaart (1959) is professor of stochastics at Leiden University. He conducts research in pure mathematical statistics as well more applied research on statistics and probability theory. Van der Vaart is an international leading authority in the research field of mathematical statistics. His work focuses primarily on extremely complex statistical problems in high dimensional or infinite dimensional mathematical models. The uncertainties in these models not only concern numbers but also vectors and even entire mathematical functions. These kinds of complex statistics play an important part in fields such as epidemiology and econometrics.

Cisca Wijmenga

Cisca Wijmenga. Image may be used freely with credits attribution: NWO/Ivar PeCisca Wijmenga

Prof. T.N. (Ciska) Wijmenga (1964) is professor of human genetics at the University of Groningen and the University Medical Center Groningen. She is a leading researcher, both nationally and internationally, in the area of complex genetics and in particular the genetic risk factors that play a role in celiac disease, a chronic intestinal disorder. Wijmenga identified this disease’s risk genes and also developed a reliable, simple and cost-effective method of testing for these risk genes. With this test, patients and doctors can take preventive action and can start treatment for the disease early on.


High-resolution photos of the laureates can be used for the purpose of reporting on the NWO Spinoza Prizes, providing appropriate credit is given to the source.

Contact, interview requests and more information:

NWO, Communications Department

Maarten Muns, tel.: +31 6 10 01 51 02


Source: NWO