Academy selects sixteen new members

12 May 2015

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has selected sixteen new members. Academy members are prominent researchers active in all the disciplines. New members are nominated by peers from within and outside the Academy.

Photo: Inge Hoogland. Click on the image to download the high-resolution version.

Back row: Hans Kuipers (TUe), Chryssa Kouveliotou (foreign member, United States), Joost Reek (UvA), Nynke Dekker (TUD), Richard Ridderinkhof (UvA), Irene de Jong (UvA), Arjen van Witteloostuijn (Tilburg), Janneke Gerards (RUN), José van Dijck (President KNAW), Pearl Dykstra (Board KNAW).

Front row: Wim van de Putten (NIOO-KNAW, WUR), Mirjam Ernestus (RUN), Michiel van den Broeke (UU), Mieke Zaanen (Director General KNAW), Huib Bakker (UvA, FOM-AMOLF), Renate Loll (RUN), Jan Willem Gunning (Board KNAW), Monique Breteler (foreign member, Germany), Anna Akhmanova (UU), Pauline Kleingeld (RUG), Corinne Hofman (UL), Philip Scheltens (Board KNAW), Sjaak Neefjes (NKI)

The Academy has approximately five hundred members, divided between its Humanities and Social Sciences Division and its Science Division. Members are appointed for life. The new members will be installed on Monday 28 September 2015 at the Trippenhuis Building, the Academy’s headquarters.

New members

Anna Akhmanova (born in 1967), Professor of Cell Biology, Utrecht University, has carried out highly creative research on the cell biology of the cytoskeleton. She uses ultramodern technologies to look inside cells, in particular to track the movement of cellular components and to examine the infrastructure needed in cells to transport information and materials. Disruption of transport in cells can lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Akhmanova’s research on the internal organisation of the cell has won her international acclaim.

Huib Bakker (born in 1965), Professor of Spectroscopy, University of Amsterdam/ FOM Institute AMOLF, is a renowned expert regarding the molecular properties of water and ice. Bakker developed an innovative infrared spectroscopy technique that makes it possible to detect the movement and interaction of individual water molecules. This led to new findings about the behaviour of water molecules that have had implications for the food industry, energy technology and water treatment.

Michiel van den Broeke (born in 1968), Professor of Polar Meteorology, Utrecht University, studies the influence of the climate on the large ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica and its consequences for the sea level. He does this by combining fieldwork and modelling, and has made important contributions to the discipline on both fronts. For example, he pioneered the use of satellite data and increased our knowledge of atmospheric physics. His research is highly regarded internationally.

Nynke Dekker (born in 1971), Professor of Molecular Biophysics, Delft University of Technology, works at the interface of physics and biology by studying the physical properties of biomolecules. One of her research interests, for example, is the mechanism of cell replication in living bacterial cells. Using instruments capable of nanoscale measurements that she has designed herself, such as magnetic torque tweezers, she can also carry out experiments to study the effect of proteins that influence DNA coiling. A better understanding of what happens at molecular level in cells will eventually be crucial for the development of new medicines.

Mirjam Ernestus (born in 1969), Professor of Psycholinguistics, Radboud University Nijmegen, studies how speakers and listeners deal with spontaneous speech in which words are only partially pronounced (for example, “yesterday” might be pronounced “yeshay” ). She has revealed the limitations of existing theories of speech production and perception and developed and tested new, innovative models for speech processing and speech memory in different languages. The results of her research are important for second-language acquisition and second-language teaching.

Janneke Gerards (born in 1976), Professor of European Law, Radboud University Nijmegen, is a multitalented and extraordinarily productive practitioner of constitutional law and European law. She has made a major contribution to the study of fundamental rights and the interaction between national legal systems and the European courts. Gerards is highly regarded both in the Netherlands and internationally for her contribution to the debate about constitutional rights and her efforts to improve methods of judicial reasoning and interpretation. From 2007 to 2009, she was the chairperson of The Young Academy.

Corinne Hofman (born in 1959), Professor of Caribbean Archaeology, Leiden University, is one of the leading archaeologists worldwide. The aim of her research is to tell the story of the colonisation of the Americas from the perspective of the indigenous population. She does this by combining innovative research methods with insights from the humanities, the social sciences, and science. She uses this integrative approach to describe the complex history of the region. Her work is original and innovative and has enormous relevance for society.

Irene de Jong (born in 1957), Professor of Ancient Greek, University of Amsterdam, applies the theory of narrative to ancient Greek literature, in particular the works of Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles and Euripides. She is especially interested in why Greek literature – which was usually recited – was so effective and convincing. De Jong is a world authority on narrative analysis.

Pauline Kleingeld (born in 1962), Professor of Ethics and its History, University of Groningen, is a leading expert on Kantian ethics and political philosophy. She has published on such matters as free will, the role of emotions, and cosmopolitanism in the past and present. Kleingeld has succeeded in connecting discoveries in the behavioural sciences and ethics. She is currently studying the significance of empirical psychology for ethics and the question of the foundations of moral obligation.

Hans Kuipers (born in 1959), Professor of Multiscale Modelling of Multiphase Flows, Eindhoven University of Technology, studies flows that consist of multiple phases, for example liquid-gas or gas-solid. Using highly advanced computer simulations, Kuipers develops accurate models for new chemical reactors in the process industry, allowing the large-scale production of synthetic fuels, fertiliser, laundry soap, polymers and numerous other products.

Renate Loll (born in 1962), Professor of Theoretical Physics, Radboud University Nijmegen, is working on a mathematical description of space and time that answers such questions as ‘why does space have three dimensions, whereas time has only one?’. Ultimately, she wants to derive both space and time from a single, fundamental law. To achieve that aim, she combines physics and mathematics and uses computer simulations to build models of the universe, which she then compares with Einstein’s theories. This enables her to develop new ideas about quantum gravity.

Sjaak Neefjes (1959), Group Leader, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (Netherlands Cancer Institute), is a leading international researcher in cellular immunology. He studies how cells regulate the immune system and communicate that they are infected. Neefjes has thought of new techniques to make reactions in cells visible and to manipulate them so that he can track processes in healthy and diseased cells. Neefjes’ approach is highly original and multidisciplinary, and many of his findings have already found their way into clinical applications.

Wim van der Putten (born in 1958), Head of the Department of Terrestrial Ecology, Netherlands Institute for Ecology; Professor of Functional Biodiversity, Wageningen University & Research Center, is an internationally recognised leader in the field of soil ecology. For example, he has done pioneering research into the role of soil-borne pathogens in the natural development of plant communities. Thanks to his work, we now have a better understanding of how terrestrial ecosystems work, what the influence is of biodiversity, and how we can more accurately predict the way plant communities adapt to the changing climate. Van der Putten’s emphasis on aboveground-belowground linkages has even led to the development of a new ‘subdiscipline’ within soil ecology.

Joost Reek (born in 1967), Professor of Supramolecular Catalysis, University of Amsterdam, studies the development of supramolecular concepts in catalysis. He takes his inspiration from examples in nature. His work in the field of catalysis has both scientific significance and commercial potential.

Richard Ridderinkhof (born in 1964), Professor of Neurocognitive Development and Aging, University of Amsterdam, has conducted pioneering research on neurocognitive development. Ridderinkhof is interested in which areas of the brain are active in ‘action control’, the intentional inhibition and selection of behaviour. His research on ‘cognitive control’, the brain’s ability to respond flexibly to the demands of the environment, is considered classic in the field.

Arjen van Witteloostuijn (born in 1960), Professor of Institutional Economics, Tilburg University, is a multitalented and highly productive researcher who is also active in political debate. The question that runs through all his work is why some institutions (in the broad sense of the word) are successful while others are not. Van Witteloostuijn’s interdisciplinary approach is unique; he combines insights from general economics, business economics, business science, and the social sciences in innovative studies that examine the behaviour and structure of organisations. 

The Academy has also selected two new foreign members:

Monique Breteler (born in 1961), Director for Population Health Sciences, German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Bonn, Germany, is an epidemiologist with an outstanding reputation in the field of dementia. Her work in the Rotterdam Scan Study led to important insights about Alzheimer’s disease, in particular the role of lifestyle factors, metabolic disorders, inflammation, and vascular mechanisms. Breteler has been hugely successful at identifying links between epidemiological data and brain scan information. She recently helped establish the Rhineland Study, a cohort study of 30,000 individuals.

Chryssa Kouveliotou (born in 1953), Professor of High-energy Astrophysics, Department of Physics, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at George Washington University, United States, is recognised worldwide for her work in high-energy astrophysics. She has made fundamental contributions to determining the origins of gamma-ray bursts, the most powerful and brightest explosions in the universe. They are caused by colliding neutron stars or the collapse of massive stars into black holes. She has also been at the forefront of international research into magnetars, neutron stars with the most extreme magnetic fields in nature.