New KNAW Early Career Awards for twelve young researchers

5 November 2019

Twelve young researchers are receiving an Early Career Award from the Academy. The Award, a sum of €15,000 and an art object, is aimed at researchers in the Netherlands at the start of their career who are capable of developing innovative and original research ideas. This is the first time that the Academy Early Career Awards have been granted. 

The winners come from all scientific disciplines. They are researching topics such as anatomical collections, the 'flow' of conversations, how computers can learn social aspects of language, the role of emotion in politics, and predicting droughts and floods. 


Romy Gaillard (born in 1988)
Assistant Professor of Paediatrics, Erasmus Medical Centre

Gaillard studies the impact of maternal health on children. For example, she examines the effect of the mother's overweight on the health of the (unborn) child. Gaillard was the coordinator of major international studies at an early age and leads a team of young researchers. She combines her expertise in paediatrics with her expertise in epidemiology to identify cause and effect. On the basis of her interventions, she wishes to improve the health of children.

Marieke Hendriksen (born in 1982)
Scientific researcher in early modern art, science and knowledge history, Academy Humanities Cluster

Hendriksen approaches history from a material perspective. She is concerned with the way in which techniques were taught in art and science, and has published on historical anatomical collections, medicine chests, preparation methods and glass production. Hendriksen is an important contributor to the debate on the preservation and display of human remains in a museum context. Her research involves artists, museums and scientists, and she has an excellent understanding of the social relevance of her research projects.

Berthe Jansen (born in 1980)
Postdoc researcher in Tibetan Studies, Leiden University

As an expert in Tibetan studies, Jansen researches the interplay between canon law and secular law. This provides an innovative perspective on the relationship between religion and state in Tibet. Jansen knows how to penetrate Tibetan society through her knowledge of Tibetan, Sanskrit and Chinese. This leads to a whole new perspective. Internationally, Jansen has already built up a good reputation. She was recently appointed Junior Professor of Tibetan Studies at the University of Leipzig. Her work also has an impact on the wider public debate about Tibet in the world.

Namkje Koudenburg (born in 1986)
Associate professor in social psychology at the University of Groningen

Koudenburg investigates the social consequences of the 'flow' of conversations. She wonders what the role of the micro dynamics of conversations is in maintaining or changing public opinion. She examines the consequences for the individual, for group dynamics and for public opinion and culture. Koudenburg works in an interdisciplinary manner and also uses particularly innovative methodologies. She is not only known to colleagues at home and abroad, but also appears in various media. She has already received various awards for her work.

Tim Korevaar (born in 1988)
Postdoc researcher in thyroid diseases and doctor in training, Erasmus Medical Centre and Sint Franciscus Gasthuis

Although Tim Korevaar has only recently gained his PhD, he already has an impressive list of achievements in scientific research. His work shows that an abnormal thyroid function of the mother during pregnancy has consequences for the brain development in the child. This has consequences for the monitoring of pregnancies throughout the world. He is a much sought-after speaker at international conferences on this subject, about which he also publishes. Korevaar works at the interface of clinical patient care and fundamental scientific research. 

Geert Litjens (born in 1985)
Assistant professor in pathology, Radboud University Medical Centre

He uses artificial intelligence to fundamentally change the research of tissues by pathologists. He develops smart computer algorithms that detect and interpret anomalies. His work is already quoted and imitated all over the world. Litjens' work can radically change an important part of the health care system.

Dong Nguyen (born in 1987)
Assistant professor in computer science, Utrecht University

She investigates how computers can learn the social aspects of language use by means of neural algorithms. This leads to more effective systems for automatic language processing. Nguyen is an up-and-coming talent and her interdisciplinary research enables her to create a broad base of support. Since she gained her PhD, she has encouraged young women to study computer science and has brought diversity to the fore. At the prestigious Alan Turing Institute, she performed independent research and led a personal research programme. Using her NWO Veni talent programme grant, she wishes to develop new methods with which computers can understand the social aspects of language use.

Stephanie Rap (born in 1984)
Assistant professor in juvenile law, Leiden University

Rap is a leading national and international researcher in the field of child-friendly justice. Rap would like to know how legal proceedings can become more accessible for children and young people. She has broadened her research to include youth welfare and the asylum procedure in order to gain a better understanding of child-friendly justice for young people in specific situations. In doing so, she combines various research methods and, through empirical research, shows how children's rights work in practice. In recent years, Rap has made every effort to use the scientific insights from her research to develop training modules for professionals worldwide.

Said Rodriguez (born in 1983)
Head of the Interacting Photons Group, AMOLF

His PhD research was devoted to nanophotonics for lighting. He succeeded in controlling and manipulating the interaction of photons and electrons in a network of microscopically small optical cavities. This network works as if it were a quantum computer. Rodriguez effectively combines fundamental and applied research. He works with companies and also has a number of patents to his name. He is committed to popularisation. His work appears in newspaper and magazine articles in various countries, inspiring young students.

Gijs Schumacher (born in 1982)
Associate professor in political science at the University of Amsterdam

He researches political leadership, the development of party systems and the reforms of welfare states. In his recent research, he wishes to understand the role of emotion in politics. He does so by combining text analyses of political rhetoric with experimental psychophysiological measurements of emotional reactions to political rhetoric. In addition to the text of a speech, he also analyses the emotional expressions and the pitch of politicians. In this way, he wishes to discover which politicians are able to express the emotions of their text in voice and image too. Schumacher is also known outside science for his blogs and his appearances with his mobile lab at various public events and in the media.

Carolien Stolte (born in 1983)
Assistant professor in history, Leiden University

In the field of world history at the time of the Cold War (1945-1960), Stolte has managed to shift the emphasis to the role of informal Afro-Asian networks. She succeeds in making the importance of these networks clear to a broad scientific and wider general public. Stolte has not only published a great deal on this subject, but has also set up a digital database of Afro-Asian networks and created a teaching module on decolonisation and the Cold War for schoolchildren. She is also a much sought-after speaker on the subject in national and international media.

Niko Wanders (born in 1986)
Assistant professor in physical geography, Utrecht University

Wanders conducts groundbreaking research into the predictions of large-scale floods and droughts. He examines the interaction between extreme drought or precipitation, climate change and human water use. Wanders also plays a prominent role in science communication. He is the main initiator and organiser of the Dutch Drought Network, which informs citizens about fundamental and applied research into drought and provides advice on policy measures. He has a strong international reputation. He used his Rubicon scholarship to work for two years as a postdoc at Princeton University, where he is still a visiting researcher. 

KNAW Early Career Award

The winners have been selected in four areas: humanities; behavioural, social and legal sciences; natural and technical sciences; and medical, medical-biological and health sciences. There are three winners per domain. The KNAW Early Career Award consists of a sum of €15,000, made available from the Academy Fund. The money may be spent at the discretion of the winners on their own research careers.

Art object

In addition, the winners all receive the art object Extended Jewellery by Laura Klinkenberg. It is a brass screw with a twist. This twist is needed both in science and in art in order to come up with new ideas, and it is also a symbol of contrariness in research. Laura Klinkenberg (born in 1992) studied at the jewellery department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, and has her own company, Ritual Design. The design was the winning entry for the art competition associated with the Academy Early Career Award. The prize for the winner of that competition consists of a sum of €7,500.

Awards ceremony

The presentation of the KNAW Early Career Awards will take place during a festive gathering in the Trippenhuis Building on 4 February 2020.