Academy selects nineteen new members

24 April 2019

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has selected 19 new members. Academy members, leading researchers from across all the disciplines, are selected for their scientific and scholarly achievements. The Academy has about 550 members. Members are appointed for life. The new members will be installed on Monday 16 September.

The new members are:

Leonard van den Berg (1963)
Professor of Experimental Neurology, University Medical Centre Utrecht

The incurable disease ALS and other motor neuron disorders are central to the work of Leonard van den Berg. He and his research group conduct clinical trials and genetic and lifestyle research and use imaging techniques to investigate the precise causes of motor neuron degeneration and muscle paralysis. Van den Berg uses powerful bioinformatics to interpret large quantities of data. He has a further asset in cooperation. For example, he is founder and director of The Netherlands ALS Centre and heads several international research projects. His work raises the hope that we will eventually find a cure for ALS.

Harro Bouwmeester (1960)
Professor of Plant Hormone Biology, University of Amsterdam

Plant physiologist Harro Bouwmeester’s research focuses on how plants communicate with other organisms. He discovered that plant roots secrete strigolactone, a signalling agent that helps beneficial fungi find their way to their host plant. Parasitic plants use signalling agents in the same way, however, a discovery that has had important implications for agriculture. Bouwmeester is now studying how plant foes abuse signalling agents. He is using his knowledge of parasitic plants to help farmers in Africa combat the problems caused by Striga, a parasitic weed. Unusually, plants also use strigolactone as a hormone that regulates plant branching and root architecture. By combining several disciplines, Bouwmeester has succeeded in clarifying the biosynthetic pathways of this new class of plant hormone.

Jenny Dankelman (1961)
Professor of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Intervention Techniques, Delft University of Technology and Leiden University Medical Centre

Jenny Dankelman develops instruments for minimally invasive surgery. In the past, such instruments were used only in exploratory surgery. Now, however, surgeons can use them for keyhole surgery without needing to make major incisions. Dankelman and her group have developed an instrument that can find its way through branched arteries and a miniscule water-jet dissector capable of removing cartilage. Dankelman brings together researchers from the worlds of engineering and medicine, shares her knowledge with medical practitioners, and has dedicated herself to developing safe and low-cost medical instruments for poor countries.

Andrea Evers (1967)
Professor of Health Psychology, Leiden University

Andrea Evers has a specific interest in somatic complaints (e.g. pain and itch) and placebo effects. Her research integrates findings from the biomedical sciences, neuroscience, psychobiology and psychopathology. Evers and her group develop new app-based and online behavioural therapies. She has received various prestigious grants and awards, was a member of The Young Academy (2013-2018), and has inspired and trained many young researchers.

Ronald Hanson (1976)
Professor of Quantum Physics, Delft University of Technology, and Director of Research, QuTech

Ronald Hanson and a team of academic and industrial partners are working on a first: a quantum internet that cannot be hacked or intercepted and that is based on entangled quantum states that are spatially separate. Two breakthroughs by his own research group have made this possible. The first breakthrough was to achieve quantum entanglement between electron spins that were more than a kilometre’s distance from each other. The second involved controlling a local register of several qubits on a single chip. These breakthroughs were possible because Hanson’s group unites quantum optics, nanotechnology, condensed matter physics and quantum computer science. Hanson was a member of The Young Academy from 2010 to 2015.

Natali Helberger (1970)
Professor of Information Law with a special focus on the use of information, University of Amsterdam

Natali Helberger researches filter bubbles, smart TVs, personalised newsfeeds and privacy protection. She examines the emerging legal and political issues of our digital society. Helberger not only contributes to public and scholarly debate but also helps draft legislation. She advised the European Union on its new privacy regulation (the GDPR) and consults regularly with the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets and the Dutch Media Authority.

Jan van Hest (1968)
Professor of Bio-organic Chemistry, Eindhoven University of Technology

Jan van Hest develops advanced materials that are partly natural and partly synthetic. He created the first functioning imitation of a eukaryotic cell. He has recently been active in the emerging field of nanomedicine research. For example, he has developed nanocapsules containing enzymes that can be introduced into living cells to correct harmful processes. He has also constructed microreactors and nanoreactors that bring about reactions with enzymes. In all his work, Van Hest combines innovative synthetic strategies with a sharp focus on potential biomedical applications. Van Hest was a member of The Young Academy from 2005 to 2010.

Henkjan Honing (1959)
Professor of Music Cognition, University of Amsterdam

Henkjan Honing studies what musicality is or can be and to what extent human beings share musicality with other animals. His aim is to define the cognitive and biological mechanisms that underpin musicality. In addition to a research agenda (The Origins of Musicality, 2018, MIT Press), Honing has published several books for the general public, including the English-language publications Musical Cognition and The Evolving Animal Orchestra. Honing’s books and lectures are popular with a broad audience and are well received by scientists and the general public.

Marian Klamer (1965)
Professor of Austronesian and Papuan Linguistics, Leiden University

Marian Klamer is a linguist who studies how languages influence one another. She specialises in the native languages of eastern Indonesia. The hundreds of different languages spoken in this region display both similarities and crucial differences. Klamer was the first to document and describe many of these languages. Along with her fellow researchers, she created a public database of information on over 140 minority languages that are threatened with extinction.

Marion Koopmans (1956)
Professor of Virology, Erasmus Medical Centre

Marion Koopmans has made a major contribution to the fight against outbreaks of such diseases as Ebola, Zika and Corona viruses. She is a world leader in research on the spread of viruses and sees that the results of her research are applied in the field. She uses information on the genetic variability between viruses to map infection pathways. She is the initiator of the worldwide NoroNet network for research into noroviruses, which are notorious causal agents of gastric flu. As an adviser for the Health Council of the Netherlands and the World Health Organisation, she plays an important role in the fight against infectious diseases. In 2018, she received the NWO Stevin Prize (2.5 million euros), one of the most prestigious distinctions in Dutch science.

Xandra Kramer (1971)
Professor of Private Law, Erasmus University, and part-time Professor of Private International Law, Utrecht University

Xandra Kramer conducts pioneering research on civil procedure in cross-border disputes. Among other things, she is involved in developing a European justice system that is readily accessible to all. She advises the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security and the Dutch Council for the Judiciary. She is also a deputy judge for the District Court of Rotterdam.

Giselinde Kuipers (1971)
Professor of Cultural Sociology, University of Amsterdam

Giselinde Kuipers is an authority on the sociology of humour and beauty. She is a prominent researcher in cultural and comparative historical sociology with a good eye for appealing but unusual topics in social science research. Among other things, Kuipers has shown that standards of feminine beauty do not vary much from one European country to the next. Perceptions of physical beauty depend mainly on educational level, age and degree of urbanisation. Kuipers has frequently warned that beauty is not a good gauge of reliability.

Klaas Landsman (1963)
Professor of Mathematical Physics, Radboud University

Klaas Landsman connects fundamental physics, mathematics, philosophy, and history. He explores such themes as chance, probability and the relationship between quantum mechanics and classical physics. He has written standard scientific reference works, invented a new algebra, and tackled the problem of Schrödinger’s cat head on. He has also published popular science books such as Requiem voor Newton [Requiem for Newton] (2005) and Naar alle ONwaarschijnlijkheid [In all UNlikelihood] (2018). He co-founded a movement advocating the introduction of different levels of mathematics in secondary schools.

Leo Lucassen (1959)
Research Director, International Institute of Social History (IISH), and part-time Professor of Social and Economic History, Leiden University

Leo Lucassen is an internationally renowned researcher in the field of migration history. He studies the global migrations of the past millennium, interactions between migrants and existing populations, and migration policies. His research thus bridges the gap between historical research and the social sciences. He regularly engages in public debate, for example as a guest on the Dutch political interview programme Buitenhof, as a contributor to Dutch national newspapers, and as an active Tweeter. Lucassen and his brother Jan (honorary IISH fellow and Academy member) co-authored the book Vijf eeuwen migratie [Five centuries of migration] (2018).

Valentina Mazzucato (1965)
Professor of Globalisation and Development, Maastricht University

Valentina Mazzucato studies migrant flows. She and her research group were the first to study migrants as well as the families they leave behind, showing that migrants initially receive money and goods from their home country and only later send money and goods back. As a result, migrants and the families they have left behind often maintain close ties. Working with Ghanaian migrants, Mazzucato staged a play about her research that was performed for Dutch and Ghanaian policymakers, teachers and migrants and provided the basis for a round-table discussion.

Tom van der Poll (1961)
Professor of Medicine with a special interest in internal medicine and infectious diseases, Amsterdam UMC

Tom van der Poll specialises in sepsis. A violent reaction to infection, sepsis puts around ten thousand people in the Netherlands in intensive care every year, a quarter of whom die as a result. Treatment is complicated by the many causes of sepsis, ranging from pneumonia to an intestinal puncture, and by the varying responses of the immune system. After twenty years of unsuccessful research, Tom van der Poll and his colleagues have advocated investigating whether sepsis patients can be divided into different subgroups, the ultimate aim being to arrive at a specific treatment for each type of sepsis. Based on the composition of all 22,000 RNA molecules in patient blood cells, Van der Poll is now studying whether changes have taken place in certain pathways of the immune response system in specific sepsis patient subgroups. Theoretically, this would make it possible to develop a specific course of immunotherapy for each subgroup.

Daniëlle Posthuma (1972)
Professor of Complex Trait Genetics, VU Amsterdam and Amsterdam UMC

Daniëlle Posthuma studies the genetic basis of brain functions, such as intelligence, and the causes of such neurological disorders as autism, insomnia and Alzheimer’s disease. Her research involving sixty thousand adults and twenty thousand children revealed 52 ‘intelligence genes’, forty of which had not previously been identified. She also coordinated the most comprehensive meta-analysis thus far of the relative importance of genes and environment on certain human traits, based on virtually all 2,748 twin studies published in the past fifty years and involving a total of more than 14 million twin pairs. Her interdisciplinary team consists of mathematicians, economists, bioinformatists, psychologists and stem cell biologists. Posthuma was a member of The Young Academy from 2005 to 2010.

Ewout Steyerberg (1967)
Professor of Clinical Biostatistics and Medical Decision Making, Leiden University Medical Centre

With medical science increasingly having access to big data, Ewout Steyerberg’s clinical prediction research is crucial. His 2009 textbook Clinical Prediction Models was an enormous boon to researchers. Steyerberg has developed advanced regression models and other statistical prediction techniques. The purpose of his research is to support better decision-making in health care. His methods have become the worldwide standard in many clinical areas. Steyerberg also designs and analyses randomised clinical trials and cost-effectiveness, decision analysis and quality of care research.

Ralph Wijers (1964)
Professor of High-Energy Astrophysics, University of Amsterdam

Ralph Wijers has pioneered theoretical models meant to solve the mystery of gamma-ray bursts, ultra-high-energy explosions that are the brightest electromagnetic events known to occur in the universe. Following the first recorded visible-light afterglow of a gamma-ray burst, he was the lead investigator in research showing that an ultra-high-energy blast-wave model could be used to explain the afterglow. This resolved a long-standing puzzle by confirming that gamma-ray bursts originate far beyond, and not within, the Milky Way. Wijers is also an expert on neutron stars and black holes. He was and is closely involved in the development of the LOFAR telescope. He focuses on innovations in ultra-fast signal processing and radio monitoring that make it possible to study high-energy astronomical phenomena, such as the mysterious fast radio bursts first detected in 2007.

New foreign members:

Kiran Klaus Patel (1971)
Professor of European and Global History, Maastricht University

Kiran Klaus Patel studies the history of the twentieth century from an international-comparative perspective. He is an influential contributor to academic and social debates. For example, in his book The new deal: A global history, he demonstrated that the USA’s social policy of the 1930s was not unique but in fact based in part on the welfare policy of Nazi Germany. His work on the history of European integration highlights the meaning and significance of European values in today’s world. Patel is a highly sought-after speaker known for his elegant contributions to debates at international conferences.

George Davey Smith (1959)
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

Epidemiologist George Davey Smith has been able to bring the relationship between cause and effect in public health into sharper focus than ever before. For example, he showed the adverse effects of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular diseases. He pioneered Mendelian randomisation, a method that uses genetic variation to identify causal relationships and that is now used in many different disciplines. His article explaining how the funnel plot can be used to detect bias in meta-analyses – now a standard technique – has been cited more than 21,000 times. Davey-Smith has made numerous contributions to research on the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of health care and health policy. He has also shown that socio-economic circumstances have a huge impact on health and are the cause of major health inequalities.

Trevor John Hastie (1953)
Professor of Statistics and Professor of Biomedical Data Science, Stanford University, United States

Trevor Hastie’s many books and articles are compulsory reading for apprentice data scientists. Hastie was one of the first to grasp the potential of computers for data analysis. He played a key role in the application of modern, computer-intensive statistical methods and it is thanks to him that researchers are increasingly able to tackle ever more complex data issues. For example, he helped to design R, the most widely used free software environment for statistical computing and graphics and the academic gold standard for data analysis in numerous domains. His name is associated with innovative machine learning methods, including ‘generalised additive models’, ‘elastic net’, ‘graphical LASSO’ and ‘principal curves’.