KNAW Early Career Award for twelve young researchers

10 November 2020

Twelve young researchers, three from each of Academy's four domains, are to receive a KNAW Early Career Award. The award, consisting of €15,000 and a work of art, is intended for researchers in the Netherlands who are at the start of their careers and have original and innovative research ideas. The KNAW Early Career Award is being presented this year for the second time. 



Shari Boodts (1986)

Senior Researcher, Institute for Historical, Literary, and Cultural Studies (HLCS), Radboud University Nijmegen

Shari Boodts’s scholarship is enterprising and original. Her research into the sermons of Church Fathers from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages is unprecedented. Boodts has set up her own research group and combines time periods that are normally studied separately. Moreover, she is able to make out-of-the-ordinary subject matter appealing to a broad international audience. For example, she publishes articles on, which has more than 250,000 followers. 

Hanno Sauer (1983)

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University

Sauer is an innovative researcher who works at the interface of ethics and practical philosophy. His work combines both basic and applied research. His articles on philosophy, ethics, moral psychology and meta-ethics appear in leading journals and his books on the same topics are published by internationally prestigious publishing houses, including Cambridge University Press and MIT Press. 

meLê yamomo (1980)

Assistant Professor of Theatre, Performance, and Sound Studies, University of Amsterdam

As a specialist in Sound Studies and colonial music history in Southeast Asia, yamomo has developed his own refreshing and interdisciplinary line of research in a short span of time. For example, he has used the very first sound recordings from Southeast Asia to analyse colonisation, decolonisation and globalisation in that region. yamomo's research is recognised both in the Netherlands and internationally. His own compositions can be heard on podcasts and in the electronic music project Echoing Europa – Postcolonial Reverberations in Berlin. 

Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences and Law

Roseriet Beijers (1984)

Assistant Professor, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, and Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Medical Center
What impact do early life experiences have on child development? That is the question that Roseriet Beijers addresses in her research. She combines insights from developmental psychology, biology and occupational psychology, disciplines that usually do not interact very often. For example, Beijers is examining the effect of stress in mothers who return to work after maternity leave and on conception during the coronavirus pandemic. Beijers, whose Master's degree and PhD were both awarded cum laude, is also committed to applying research findings in practice, among other things by organising symposia for healthcare professionals.

Vigjilenca Abazi (1988)

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Maastricht University

Vigjilenca Abazi’s innovative examination of confidentiality, privacy and transparency explores the relatively new topic of whistle-blowing. Her interdisciplinary research, which combines law, political science and political theory, considers how the public can be empowered by extending legal protection to whistle-blowers. In this first in-depth study of whistle-blowing, she has revealed the legal complexity of the European Union. Abazi also plays an important role in garnering appreciation for education and research outside academia, not only by giving international lectures and workshops but also by dedicating herself to making education accessible to girls and women and to emphasising the importance of academic excellence. 

Maurits Meijers (1988)

Assistant Professor of Comparative Politics, Department of Political Science, Radboud University Nijmegen

How is the Covid-19 pandemic impacting European solidarity? This is one of the latest questions that Maurits Meijers is exploring in his research on political representation and democracy in a time of populism and Euroscepticism. Meijers examines how shifts in political parties' policy positions affect their credibility. As an advocate of international research cooperation and scholarly dialogue, he has organised a symposium on the challenges of political representation in the European Union. Meijers is the editor of several journals and writes blogs for Dutch and international websites. He also engages in the public debate on political representation by publishing opinion pieces and appearing in the media. 

Natural Sciences and Engineering

Ylona van Dinther (1984)

Assistant Professor, Tectonics Group, Department of Earth Sciences, Utrecht University

Ylona van Dinther conducts groundbreaking research that has forged new directions in geophysics. She and her group at ETH Zurich developed and applied new numerical models that examine both the slow tectonic processes in the earth's crust and abrupt earthquake events, as well as the relationship between the two. The models also help contribute to explain and quantify the risks of natural and induced seismicity and tsunamis. Her lectures on how to combine ‘an academic career and a family’ have made her a role model for young researchers. 

Michiel Veldhuis (1985)

Assistant Professor, Institute for Environmental Sciences, Leiden University

Pure curiosity is what drives ecologist Michiel Veldhuis to pursue certain lines of research regardless of current trends. Veldhuis studies ecosystems in relation to climate change. He also investigates the increasing pressure of population growth in the Serengeti and other African savannas. Veldhuis makes frequent appearances in international media to raise broad public awareness of the effects of global climate change. He also coaches young researchers, who deliver exceptional work under his supervision.

Michael Walter (1985)

Assistant Professor, Korteweg-de Vries Instituut & Institute of Physics, University of Amsterdam, and Senior Researcher, QuSoft Research Center for Quantum Software

Michael Walter’s research connects quantum computers to black holes to examine their behaviour. His work at the interface of mathematics, physics and computer science places him at the forefront of international projects. Laboratories in the Netherlands and abroad apply his research results in their quantum computers. In addition to his research, Walter has developed innovative courses for students and pupils, written several software packages and organises frequent seminars and workshops. 

Medical, Biomedical and Health Sciences

Hieab Adams (1990)

Assistant Professor and Resident, Department of Clinical Genetics, Erasmus Medical Center

Why do we see variations in neurodegeneration between different population groups? This is the question that Adams aims to answer with his research. He studies the genetic factors involved in neurodevelopment and neurodeterioration. What is notable about Adam's research is his multidisciplinary approach: he is adept at laboratory work as well as population screenings and patient-centred research. He has also acted to make medical research more inclusive by involving under-represented population groups in his studies, not only through the UNITED consortium, which he founded, but also by organising symposia and media debates. 

Tineke Lenstra (1984)

Junior Group Leader, Netherlands Cancer Institute (NKI) and Oncode Institute

Molecular biologist Tineke Lenstra and her group investigate gene regulation to explain differences between individual cells. Such differences may be caused by the way in which a cell’s genetic information is transcribed. The technology that Lenstra has developed to examine this is highly innovative; she uses microscopy to study gene transcription in living cells, including yeast as a model organism. This new technique makes rapid genetic manipulation possible, allowing her to investigate gene regulation. Industry has been following her work with great interest. 

Jorik Nonnekes (1985)

Consultant Physiatrist (specialist in Rehabilitation Medicine), Radboud University Medical Center and Sint Maartenskliniek

Jorik Nonnekes is interested in the diagnosis and treatment of complex neurological gait impairments.0}By working closely with patients, he arrives at innovative and practical solutions. For example, he developed the hypothesis that the 'freezing' of gait – a symptom of Parkinson's Disease – could be caused by a drug that is in fact meant to reduce this problem. Nonnekes applies the findings of his research in the training of physicians and paramedics through ParkinsonNet, so that patients and care-givers can benefit directly from his work. His is in the process of developing vibrating socks that may help to improve the gait of Parkinson’s sufferers. 

KNAW Early Career Award

The winners have been selected in the four Academy domains: humanities; behavioural sciences, social sciences and law; natural sciences and engineering; and medical, biomedical and health sciences. There are three winners in each domain. The KNAW Early Career Award consists of the sum of €15,000, made available from the Academy Fund. The winners are free to spend this sum on their research careers as they see fit. 

Work of art

In addition, all winners receive the art object Extended Jewellery by Laura Klinkenberg (1992). It is a brass screw with a twist, representing the ‘twist’ needed in both research and art to come up with new ideas and symbolising the contrariness of research. Extended Jewellery won the art competition associated with the KNAW Early Career Award, with the artist receiving the €7,500 prize. Laura Klinkenberg studied jewellery design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and has her own company, Ritual Design.

Awards ceremony

The KNAW Early Career Awards will be presented on 15 February 2021.