‘There are so many challenging things to do with the Spinoza Prize’

Spinoza laureates present their research plans to the public

13 September 2016

Today four top researchers received the NWO Spinoza Prize from the State Secretary for Education, Culture and Science, Sander Dekker and NWO chairman Jos Engelen. The award ceremony was held at the Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague. The Spinoza Prize is the highest award in Dutch science. During the awards ceremony physical-organic chemist Wilhelm Huck, philosopher Lodi Nauta, internist/infectious disease specialist Mihai Netea and nanophysicist Bart van Wees presented their plans for using the research prize worth 2.5 million euros per person.

Spinoza prize award 2016: left-to-right Jos Engelen (NWO), Bart van Wees, Mihai Netea, Lodi Nauta, Wilhelm Huck and Sander Dekker (OCW). Credits: Sascha SchalkwijkSpinoza prize award 2016: left-to-right Jos Engelen (NWO), Bart van Wees, Mihai Netea, Lodi Nauta, Wilhelm Huck and Sander Dekker (OCW). Credits: Sascha Schalkwijk

With the NWO Spinoza Prize the four scientists can do groundbreaking research. NWO chair Jos Engelen: ‘It is fantastic to award a prize that enables the best researchers in our country to explore new boundaries and to contribute to answering important questions about disease and health or sustainable energy generation.’ For example, laureate Bart van Wees, Professor of Applied Physics at the University of Groningen, is developing and studying new nanomaterials and nanodevices that can be used in more efficient solar cells: ‘I can use the prize to strengthen my research group, take part in national and international collaborations, and invest in equipment.’ Mihai Netea, Professor of Experimental Medicine at Radboudumc, will use the Spinoza Prize to do research into the immune system: ‘With my work I strive to have an impact on patients’ lives.’

The presentations given by the laureates revealed their considerable drive and curiosity. Laureate and Professor Physical-organic Chemistry at Radboud University Wilhelm Huck: ‘My motivation emerges from my fascination for living things’. With the prize the chemist hopes to discover how living cells work so that these can ultimately be simulated synthetically. Lodi Nauta, Professor of the History of Philosophy at the University of Groningen, is the first philosopher ever to receive the prize: ‘Incredible to have won this prize, and a real honour’. Nauta will use the prize to build up a group that will investigate the intellectual roots of the Enlightenment.

At the end of the afternoon the four laureates received the bronze statuette of the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). The statuette is the symbol of the prize.

Wilhelm Huck

Prof. W.T.S. (Wilhelm) Huck (1970) is Professor of Physical-organic Chemistry at Radboud University Nijmegen. His work focuses on research into the physical-organic, chemical and biological processes that take place in human cells. He applies his knowledge of this complex entity in his search for one of the holy grails in his field: to construct a synthetic cell.

Lodi Nauta

Prof. L.W. (Lodi) Nauta (1966) is Professor of History of Philosophy at the University of Groningen. Nauta has established unexpected but structural parallels in his work between philosophical thought about language in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the twentieth century. His innovative approach combines linguistic, historical and philosophical insights about the place of humanism in the history of Western philosophy.

Mihai Netea

Prof. M.G. (Mihai) Netea (1968) is Full professor of Experimental Medicine at Radboudumc. He conducts research into how the immune system recognises microorganisms, including the dangerous fungus Candida albicans, which is causes blood poisoning. Netea has made significant discoveries in this area. He was one of the first people to work in this research area internationally and is a pioneer in his field.

Bart van Wees

Prof. B.J. (Bart) van Wees (1961) is Professor of Applied Physics at the University of Groningen and the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials. He is a worldwide leading physicist in the field of electricity transport by quantum structures. Van Wees is a top researcher in the field of ‘spintronics’. He focuses mainly on its applications in the revolutionary material graphene.

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Source: NWO