NWO Spinoza Prizes awarded to Eveline Crone, Albert Heck, Michel Orrit and Alexander van Oudenaarden

16 June 2017

Today NWO President Stan Gielen announced that developmental psychologist Eveline Crone, analytical chemist Albert Heck, physical chemist Michel Orrit and biologist and biophysicist Alexander van Oudenaarden have each been awarded an NWO Spinoza Prize. These researchers have been given this prize for their exceptional, pioneering and inspiring work. The NWO Spinoza Prize is the highest scientific distinction in the Netherlands. The laureates will each receive 2.5 million euros which they can spend on scientific research.

Spinoza Laureates 2017 | left-to-right: Alexander van Oudenaarden, Eveline Crone, Albert Heck en Michel Orrit  (credits: Ivo de Bruijn)Spinoza Laureates 2017 | left-to-right: Alexander van Oudenaarden, Eveline Crone, Albert Heck en Michel Orrit (credits: Ivo de Bruijn)

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 no more than four researchers working in the Netherlands who rank as the leading authorities in their field according to international standards. Not only do they conduct high-quality research that has a major impact within and outside their field, but they are also an inspiration to younger researchers.

Internationally renowned leading scientists

Professor Eveline Crone, professor of neurocognitive developmental psychology at Leiden University, was one of the first in the world to systematically monitor over several years adolescents, their lifestyle and the neurological processes in the brain. Her innovative insights were the impetus for an entirely new field of research, which explains why her colleagues describe her as an international opinion leader.

Professor Albert Heck has made a major contribution to the worldwide breakthrough of systematically mapping all proteins in human cells and their biological functions by means of mass spectrometry. This technique plays an important role in current research on illness and health, and therefore contributes to the development of new and better medicines. Heck is professor of both chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences at Utrecht University. He has been praised for his broad-based cooperation with researchers from other scientific fields and industry, and for his unique ability to innovate.

Professor Michel Orrit’s work has helped to unravel the physical and chemical processes in living matter and has contributed to identifying the cause of serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Ebola. Orrit is professor of spectroscopy of molecules in condensed matter at Leiden University. Orrit laid the foundation for single-molecule optics and is considered by his peers to be one of the leading and continuously innovative researchers in this field.

Professor Alexander van Oudenaarden has been praised by his peers as a pioneer in single-cell biology, and he is considered to be a global authority in this new field. Van Oudenaarden is director and group leader at the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW), which works closely with the University Medical Center Utrecht, and he is professor of quantitative biology of gene regulation at the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Medicine at Utrecht University. Van Oudenaarden conducts research on the way in which cells in living beings use networks of genes and proteins to develop into different kinds of cells, which have specific properties and functions.


Researchers are nominated for the Spinoza Prize. This year the Spinoza Committee received 34 nominations. Based on these nominations an international science-wide committee compiled a shortlist with no more than eight candidates. Committee members discussed each candidate with several foreign experts. Partly based on these discussions, the committee referred four scientists to NWO for the Spinoza Prize this year. The most important criterion for being awarded an NWO Spinoza Prize is international recognition of the candidate’s quality as a scientist. Including the new laureates, there are now 85 Spinoza laureates in the Netherlands.

Award ceremony

The NWO Spinoza Prizes will be awarded during a festive ceremony on Tuesday 12 September in the Koninklijke Schouwburg in The Hague. During the ceremony, the laureates will present their research to the audience and how they intend to use the financial part of their prize.

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Source: NWO