Dorret Boomsma, Professor of Biological Psychology at VU University Amsterdam, has been awarded the 2011 Academy Merian Prize. Professor Boomsma researches the issue of whether genetic differences contribute to variations in health and behaviour.
As part of her research, Professor Boomsma analyses the individual differences in normal and deviating behaviour, health and thinking. Twins are the ideal population group for this type of research, which focuses on matters such as: to what extent is intelligence genetically determined? What role does genetic predisposition play in the occurrence of migraine? Are depressions genetically determined? How susceptible is someone to addictions? In 1987, Professor Boomsma started registering twins in the Netherlands Twins Register. This register now contains information about more than 80,000 participants (twins and their family members). It is currently one of the largest and most valuable twins registers in the world.
'On the basis of her impressive scientific career alone, Dorret Boomsma may be considered an inspiring role model for young, promising researchers both within and beyond her research field", the jury wrote in its report. "She has been involved in the development of her discipline right from the beginning. Partly because of the reputation she has acquired, the number of female psychology students has increased over the years.'
About the laureate
Dorret Boomsma has been a professor since 1998. She has expanded her research group at VU University from twelve to more than fifty researchers. Professor Boomsma is considered as pre-eminent in the field of twin research and behavioural genetics. By holding a key position at the interface of behavioural sciences and genetics and by having a very science-based approach, she is an excellent example of a researcher successfully working in several disciplines.