The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has awarded the 2014 Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences (USD 200,000) to Professor Jaap Sinninghe Damsté, head of department at NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research and Professor of Organic Geochemistry at Utrecht University (Netherlands).
Professor Sinninghe Damsté is receiving the prize for his tremendous contributions to the discovery and development of ‘chemical fossiles’, which help us reconstruct the history of the earth’s biosphere.
Jaap Sinninghe Damsté was born in Baarn (Netherlands) on 1 January 1959. He commenced a study in Chemical Engineering at the Technical University Delft (Netherlands), but gradually became more interested in fields like biology and geology.
His Ph.D. research brought all of these fields together. In 1988 he graduated in Delft on a geochemical study into the origins of organic sulfur present in crude oil.
Sinninghe Damsté became a researcher for the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) in Den Burg (Netherlands). Using a ‘Pioneer’ grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), he initiated a programme called ‘Molecular paleontology of marine sediments’ in 1993. In this programme, he began developing and widely applying chemical fossils.
Sinninghe Damsté (co)authored about six hundred published papers, 35 of which appeared in Science or Nature. With more than 23,000 citations he ranks among the most productive and most cited sedimentary research scientists worldwide.
He is member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). In 2004, he received a Spinoza Grant (€ 1.5 million) from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). In 2008 he was awarded a € 2.5 million ‘Advanced grant’ from the European Research Council (ERC) reserved for ‘exceptional established research leaders [...] to pursue ground-breaking, high-risk projects’.