Royal Academy selects 26 new members

10 May 2017

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has selected 26 new members. They include the extra nomination round for women scientists and scholars held in honour of the Netherlands’ first female professor, Johanna Westerdijk, who gave her inaugural address as professor one hundred years ago this year. Academy members, leading researchers from across all the scientific disciplines, are selected for their scientific and scholarly achievements.

The Academy has more than 500 members. Members are appointed for life. The new Academy members will be installed on Thursday 8 June 2017.


The new members are:

André Aleman (born 1975)
Professor of Neurosciences, University Medical Centre Groningen

André Aleman is an innovative, internationally renowned brain researcher. His research covers such subjects as suicide, ageing, schizophrenia and depression. One of Aleman’s achievements was to analyse the brains of schizophrenic patients who hear voices. His research is regularly cited in textbooks and finds its way onto the desks of policymakers. A former member of The Young Academy, Aleman has also written an international bestseller about the older brain and enjoys giving lectures to general audiences.

Isabel Arends (born 1966)
Professor of Biocatalysis and Organic Chemistry, Delft University of Technology

Isabel Arends investigates new technologies that make chemical processes much greener. For example, she researched the basic components of a process that uses enzymes and oxygen (air) to produce aromatics with high precision without involving any toxic and polluting solvents. Arends was one of the first researchers to combine chemical and biocatalytic processes. She also has a passion for teaching and set up a successful online programme in industrial biotechnology.

Carlijn Bouten (born 1967)
Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology

Carlijn Bouten is a pioneer in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. One of her achievements was a technique that induces a damaged heart to construct new heart valves. Bouten’s research focuses on the interface between biology, medicine and engineering. She looks beyond individual cells to complete tissues. She also combines cells with artificial material. Bouten, a former member of The Young Academy, is frequently invited to join discussions on the ethical aspects of tissue engineering in health care.

Erwin Bulte (born 1968)
Professor of Development Economics, Wageningen University & Research and Utrecht University

Erwin Bulte is a development economist who studies the relationship between institutions and economic growth based on large-scale experiments in Africa and Asia. He and his research team investigated the relationship between violence, altruism and economic growth in Burundi, which has been torn apart by civil war. In rural Sierra Leone and Liberia, he studied the influence of local government and corruption on the effectiveness of development aid and the investment decisions of villagers. Bulte is a Fellow at Oxford and Cambridge University and a member of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Lisa Cheng (born 1962)
Professor of General Linguistics, Leiden University

Lisa Cheng compares the syntax of Chinese languages with African and European languages. She became renowned for her analyses of interrogative phrases containing ‘wh-words’ (e.g. who, what and where). In English, the wh-word always appears at the start of the sentence, in Mandarin never, and in French occasionally. And yet the question is the same in all three languages. By comparing different languages, Cheng is seeking to understand the essence of human language grammar. She is also the coordinator of a major European study exploring various facets of multilingualism.

Barbara Franke (born 1969)
Professor of Molecular Psychiatry, Radboud University Medical Centre

Barbara Franke is an expert on the link between genetics and such disorders as ADHD, dyslexia and autism. For example, she studied which aspects of ADHD and autism are hereditary and which are not. She and her team have also shown, at the molecular level, how ADHD in children differs from ADHD in adults. In another study, Franke engineered a strain of fruit flies with ADHD to study the influence of genes on behaviour. Unlike in humans, the genes of these insects can be switched on and off easily. Franke is popular with the media, patient organisations and government.

Beatrice de Graaf (born 1976)
Professor of the History of International Relations, Utrecht University

Beatrice de Graaf studies the history of security and terrorism/counterterrorism from the nineteenth century to the present. She is part of an international team investigating the origins and impact of European security regimes in the nineteenth century. De Graaf also researches contemporary forms of radicalisation and analyses the underlying causes of terrorism and international tensions in the media. She is a science columnist for Dutch national newspaper NRC, a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, and a former member of The Young Academy. She also chaired the National Dutch Research Agenda.

Frank van Harmelen (born 1960)
Professor of Knowledge Representation & Reasoning, VU University Amsterdam

Frank van Harmelen is a prominent researcher in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). The aim of his research is to develop computers that can think and reason for themselves. That requires a logic-based method of organising data so that it can be accessed by computers. Van Harmelen is one of the founders of the Semantic Web, a system for describing web data that computers can read and use to perform tasks. The rules for the Semantic Web have since been incorporated into the standards governing the World Wide Web. Van Harmelen and his research group also turned the Dutch Breast Cancer Guidelines into data that is interpretable by computers.

Amina Helmi (born 1970)
Professor of Dynamics, Structure and Formation of the Milky Way, University of Groningen

Amina Helmi studies the history of the Milky Way. She has shown how the residue of smaller galaxies merged to form the Milky Way as we know it. She did this by developing models and simulations based on telescope data. Helmi and her team were among the first to sift through the vast amount of data provided by the GAIA satellite. She showed how stars from the outer regions of the Milky Way move through our galaxy like wayward drivers speeding in the wrong direction. Helmi is a former member of The Young Academy.

Frits Hilgen (born 1957)
Associate Professor of Stratigraphy and Cyclostratigraphy, Utrecht University

Frits Hilgen is a world leader in the development of a new geological dating method. He does this by linking sedimentary patterns and astronomical changes in the orbital and rotational motion of the Earth. Known as astronomical dating, it is regarded as the most accurate method for determining the absolute age dates for timespans in the Geological Time Scale. Frits Hilgen works closely with other researchers who study geomagnetic reversals (Fort Hoofddijk), radiometric dating (VU University Amsterdam) and climate change (KNMI).

Suzanne Hulscher (born 1966)
Professor of Water Engineering and Management, in particular Water Systems, University of Twente

Suzanne Hulscher studies the formation and movement of sandbanks and river dunes. Her research is exceptional in combining morphologic modelling with data on flora and fauna. Hulscher’s models are used to calculate the best locations to construct canals, pipelines and wind farms. Hulscher is a former member of The Young Academy and advised on the future of the Afsluitdijk causeway and on nature restoration in the Hedwige Polder in the Province of Zeeland.

Anita Jansen (born 1960)
Professor of Clinical Psychological Science, Maastricht University

Anita Jansen is an experimental clinical psychologist who conducts pioneering research on anorexia, bulimia, obesity and other eating disorders. Jansen and her team discovered that people with an eating disorder have a more realistic body image than healthy people, and that eating patterns are largely learned behaviour. These findings are contrary to prevailing notions. Jansen’s research is laying the foundations for new treatments for eating disorders and obesity. She has authored a number of popular books and participates frequently in the public debate.

Yvette van Kooyk (born 1961)
Professor of Molecular Cell Biology, VU Medical Centre

Yvette van Kooyk specialises in the cell processes that are involved in cancer, HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases. What all these illnesses have in common is the disruption of the immune system owing to the presence or absence of a glycosyl group in certain immune cells. Van Kooyk combines chemistry, biology and medicine and develops nano-medicines that help the immune system fight cancer and other diseases.

Marc Koper (born 1967)
Professor of Catalysis and Surface Chemistry, Leiden University

Marc Koper is an internationally renowned electrochemist. He shows what happens on the surface of electrodes at atomic level. Koper’s research results in better catalysts for converting carbon dioxide into fuel. He is cooperating with the chemicals industry on sustainable energy production, energy storage and energy conversion.

Luuk de Ligt (born 1963)
Professor of Ancient History, Leiden University

Luuk de Ligt is an expert on the history of Ancient Rome. He has translated lengthy passages of fundamental works of Roman jurisprudence and published several authoritative studies on the Roman Empire. De Ligt studies how markets functioned in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds, the demography of Roman Italy, the social structure of ancient cities, and the role of cities in the Roman Empire. He combines literary and legal sources with archaeological data, uses economic and demographic modelling, and compares the Roman Empire with other vast ancient empires, such as China.

Clara Mulder (born 1962)
Professor of Demography and Space, University of Groningen

Claartje Mulder has made significant contributions to the fields of geography, demography and family sociology. She was one of the first researchers to use the concept of the life course to study how people take decisions about work, divorce, family and domicile. Mulder found evidence that children who live near their parents are less likely to move farther away than children who already do live a long way off.

Heleen Murre-van den Berg (born 1964)
Professor of the History of Christianity, Radboud University Nijmegen

Heleen Murre-van den Berg is acknowledged worldwide as an authority on the history of Christianity in the Middle East, in particular from 1500 to 1850. She was the first to unlock obscure sources on Christian missions of that era for scientific analyses. Not only does she have a sterling reputation as a researcher, but she also maintains a vast network of contacts in Middle-Eastern Christian communities. Murre-van den Berg is also a popular commentator and interpreter of the present-day position of Christians in the Middle East.

Bram Nauta (born 1964)
Professor of Integrated Circuit Design, University of Twente

Bram Nauta designs and builds computer chips. Fitted with filters, amplifiers and noise cancellation technology, they can be found in smartphones, tablets and computers. Nauta and his team research and produce inventive designs that help improve chip functionality. He is the inventor of the ‘Nauta circuit’, an energy-efficient signal amplifier that formed the basis of Bluetooth. He also developed thermal noise cancellation technology long before it turned out to be useful in smartphones. Nauta previously worked for Philips Research and became a professor at the tender age of 34.

Wiro Niessen (born 1969)
Professor of Biomedical Image Processing at Erasmus Medical Centre and Delft University of Technology

Wiro Niessen is a leading Dutch researcher in the field of biomedical image processing. At the start of his career, he developed new techniques for keyhole surgery. He then began processing and analysing large quantities of medical images, combining his output with genetic data. This has made it possible to diagnose dementia at an earlier stage and make better choices in cancer treatment. Niessen, who was a member of The Young Academy, is also an inspiring teacher and entrepreneur.

John van der Oost (born 1958)
Professor of Bacterial Genetics, Wageningen University & Research

For the past 25 years, John van der Oost has been at the forefront of international research on the genetic material of bacteria and other micro-organisms. Ten years ago, he and his research group were the first to explain the mechanism behind the CRISPR-Cas immune system in bacteria. Thanks to their discovery, researchers were able to develop a new tool for targeted genetic modification. Van der Oost recently unravelled a second bacterial immune system that will make further additions to the genetic toolkit possible. His findings are driving the development of gene therapy, i.e. the repair of genetic disorders.

Patricia Pisters (born 1965)
Professor of Media Studies (specialising in Film Studies), University of Amsterdam

Patricia Pisters is the director of research at the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA). Her research and teaching focus on the interface between film studies, media studies, philosophy and the neurosciences. Pisters analyses contemporary visual culture and studies how images influence our thinking. She has analysed the work of Alfred Hitchcock in a volume on film theory and has studied Maghreb cinema, the new Hollywood aesthetics, and Dutch film culture.

Maarten de Rijke (born 1961)
Professor of Information Processing and Internet, University of Amsterdam

Maarten de Rijke is best known for his contributions to information retrieval, the science behind search engines. He and his team work on search engines that learn to decipher what their users are seeking in order to improve their results. He was one of the first to develop social media search engines and search engines that use the knowledge in Wikipedia to learn about connections and to perform analyses. More recently, he has developed search engines that can explain their own results. His PhD students and post-docs contribute to better search engine technology in positions all over the world.

Thomas Spijkerboer (born 1963)
Professor of Migration Law, VU University Amsterdam

Thomas Spijkerboer conducts authoritative research on Dutch, European and international migration and refugee law. He has published academic volumes, articles and opinion pieces on asylum-seekers fleeing homophobia, on migrants who die crossing the Mediterranean, and on the crisis of European asylum law. The outcomes of Spijkerboer’s research regularly prompt changes in European and national law and in aliens policy.                           

Linda Steg (born 1965)
Professor of Environmental Psychology, University of Groningen

Linda Steg examines how we can understand, predict and influence environmentally aware behaviour. She has studied how people use their cars and why they waste energy, for example. Steg showed that when it comes to the environment, people pay less attention to cost/benefit analyses, facts and arguments than to standards, values and emotions. Her research helps policymakers influence people’s behaviour.

Marcel Visser (born 1960)
Head of the Department of Animal Ecology, Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO); Professor of Ecological Genetics, Wageningen University & Research; Professor by Special Appointment of Seasonal Timing of Behaviour, University of Groningen

Marcel Visser was one of the first researchers to demonstrate how climate change disrupts the plant and animal food chain. One of his discoveries is that when oaks bear leaves earlier in spring, the food supply of winter moth caterpillars also peaks before time and the great tits that depend on them arrive too late to find caterpillars to feed their fledglings. Visser’s research is exceptional in that it combines different biological disciplines, from the genetics of organisms to populations and ecosystems, and from field trials to lab experiments and models.

Piek Vossen (born 1960)
Professor of Computational Lexicology, VU University Amsterdam

Piek Vossen develops computer models that can understand human language. He headed the EuroWordNet, a project that linked words in eight languages to one other based on their meaning, resulting in a giant ‘wordnet’. Computers can use wordnets to differentiate between the word ‘bank' as a monetary institution and ‘bank’ as the shore of a river. Vossen is also considered the most prominent Dutch researcher in the field of text-mining. He came up with the ‘History Recorder’, a computer program that documents history by 'reading' the news each day and aligning current events with events from the past to form a single storyline. Vossen worked in the private sector for about ten years before his meteoric rise in science.

New foreign members:

Peter Carmeliet (born 1959)
Professor of Medicine at KU Leuven University (Belgium)

Peter Carmeliet is internationally renowned for his research on the growth and functioning of blood vessels. He showed which signalling molecules play a role in the formation of new blood vessels. He has also investigated vascular growth in tumours. Carmeliet’s research led to a drug that prevents oxygen and nutrients from reaching medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumour in children. Another of his studies could lead to a more effective treatment for ALS.

Guido Imbens (born 1963)
Applied Econometrics Professor and Professor of Economics, Stanford University (USA)

Guido Imbens is one of the most authoritative econometrists in the world. After studying econometrics in Rotterdam, he continued his career in the USA. Imbens is best known for having developed methods that produce an impartial measure of the impact of a policy on the economy. Policymakers and researchers use these methods to predict whether it is actually helpful to retrain redundant workers for new jobs, for example. More recently, Imbens has teamed with researchers at Facebook and Amazon to study artificial intelligence and machine learning.