Royal Academy selects 23 new members

28 April 2021

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has elected 23 new members, including three foreign 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 13 September 2021

New members

Thomas Bäck (1963)
Professor for Natural Computing, Leiden University
Thomas Bäck is the founder of evolutionary computation, a subfield of mathematics that draws inspiration from evolutionary biology to find the best solution to a given problem. Bäck’s numerous publications (400 since 1990) have had an enormous impact and cover subjects ranging from the theory of global optimisation techniques to their application in logistics, health care, industrial production and other fields. Bäck excels at building bridges. He works extensively with businesses and is a champion of education, having spent eight years as the Director of Education for Leiden’s Computer Science programme. Bäck is head of the Natural Computing Research Group and in this role is preparing approximately 20 young scientists for their future.

Gerard van den Berg (1962)
Professor of Health Econometrics, University of Groningen and University Medical Center Groningen
Gerard van den Berg works with large datasets to analyse the role of economic factors in different spheres of human existence. He has pioneered research into the long-term effects of economic conditions very early in life on health and economic productivity later, and into the connection between government policy, length of unemployment and wage levels. His work has inspired policy changes that have improved the lives of millions of unemployed people in Germany, Sweden and France. For example, on his advice, authorities revoked overly strict penalties on jobless persons who did not apply for a requisite number of job openings. After spending many years at various universities abroad, Van den Berg returned to Groningen last year.

Marc Bonten (1964)
Professor of Molecular Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, University Medical Center Utrecht
Marc Bonten has initiated various large-scale epidemiological studies on the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. His expertise ranges from clinical studies to the mathematical modelling of antibiotic resistance and emerging infectious diseases. His models were a powerful tool for better understanding and thus combatting the spread of infection with resistant bacteria in hospitals. As a result, Bonten became the face of antibiotic resistance in the Netherlands. He coordinates several international research consortia that rapidly analyse large patient cohorts and introduce innovative methods in clinical studies. The findings of these studies can be applied directly in the battle against resistant bacteria and the treatment of new infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Jan Willem Duyvendak (1959)
Director, Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS) and Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology, University of Amsterdam
Jan Willem Duyvendak is one of the most influential Dutch sociologists. He is a socially engaged researcher and a leading voice in current debates on citizenship, diversity and social policy. His input as a public intellectual to the academic and general debate on these issues is notable for its empirical depth and analytical rigour. Duyvendak’s articles appear in both accessible Dutch publications and leading international scholarly journals. In addition to his work as a researcher, Duyvendak has a proven track record in intellectual and managerial leadership at numerous organisations and as an editor for various magazines and publication series in his field of expertise.

Bernet Elzinga (1970)
Professor of Stress-related Psychopathology, Leiden University
Bernet Elzinga’s innovative work is deepening our understanding of one of the key causes of human suffering: early-life stress. She combines neurobiological, physiological and observational data to study the effect of stressful experiences on brain development and wellbeing in young people and adults. Elzinga has shown that stress can shape the developing brain, with significant long-term effects on the mental health of the person who has experienced it, but also on subsequent generations. Elzinga has co-initiated various family studies on stress and depression. She is also committed to turning research findings into effective stress-reduction interventions, for example for parents of depressed adolescents.

Deanne den Hartog (1969)
Professor of Organisational Behaviour, University of Amsterdam
Deanne den Hartog is a highly productive researcher who works at the interface of business studies, human resource management, leadership studies and organisational psychology. She chooses research topics that are high on the public agenda, such as the relationship between job satisfaction and performance, narcissistic leaders, and the importance of diversity in teams. Den Hartog approaches these topics from an interdisciplinary perspective and then incorporates her results into her teaching. Her work is notable for focusing in equal measure on both the positive and ‘dark’ influences of leadership in organisations. Her study of cross-cultural variation in leadership styles is considered a classic. Den Hartog is gaining prominence as a researcher, educator and speaker. For many, she serves as an inspiring role model.  

Ron Heeren (1965)
Distinguished Professor of Molecular Imaging, Maastricht University
Ron Heeren is a pioneer in mass spectrometry, a technique for identifying isotopes and molecules. Thanks to methods he has developed, it is now possible to take a wide variety of samples and rapidly and precisely analyse and localise them down to the molecular level. Researchers can, for example, use a single hair to determine the chemicals to which a person has been exposed on a given day, view a single cancer cell, or analyse the pigment in an old painting. Heeren’s work is of immense importance to innovative, personalised patient care and molecular pathology. It comes as no surprise that he has nine patents to his name, several of which have already been used in commercial products.

Thea Hilhorst (1961)
Professor of Humanitarian Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Thea Hilhorst studies how humanitarian crises follow on from disasters and conflict, how they impact people, organisations, communities and societies, and what response they evoke. Hilhorst has visited hotbeds of conflict all over the world and developed methodologies to work participatively as a researcher in these highly politicised contexts. She excels as a researcher but is also committed to policymaking, practice and activism. She is regularly asked to advise international aid organisations. As a member of the Academy, she will use her expertise to give researchers in countries affected by humanitarian crises access to the international scientific community.

Pancras C.W. Hogendoorn (1960)
Professor of Pathology, Leiden University and Leiden University Medical Center
Pancras Hogendoorn is renowned for his pioneering research into molecular-genetic and clinical pathogenesis of human bone and soft-tissue tumours. His work has led to precision diagnostics and treatment for patients who previously had few therapeutic options. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised the significance of Hogendoorn’s work in 2002 by inviting him to join the working group that classifies bone and soft-tissue tumours, a role in which he has worked to improve research into and treatment of these rare tumours around the world. In addition to his research, Hogendoorn is also a prominent ambassador for science. For example, he is a co-founder of the Dutch National Research Agenda, the Chief Scientific Officer of the Life Sciences & Health Top Team (an alliance between science, industry and government), and the chairman of the League of the European Research Universities (LERU) Policy Group in Biomedicine.

Serge Hoogendoorn (1971)
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek Professor and Distinguished Professor of Smart Urban Mobility, Delft University of Technology
Serge Hoogendoorn analyses the individual and collective behaviour of cyclists, pedestrians and drivers of motorised vehicles, his aim being to prevent traffic congestion and traffic jams, to respond adequately to emergency situations, and to avert coronavirus-susceptible concentrations of people. His work has included innovative traffic control systems on Dutch motorways and a monitoring dashboard for SAIL (the Netherlands’ biggest public event) and the King’s Day mass celebrations in Amsterdam. Although not even 50 years of age, Hoogendoorn has a reputation and track record of publications, citations and research grants comparable to that of considerably older researchers. He fully deserves to be the first traffic and transport scientist to be admitted to the Academy.

Susanne Janssen (1963)
Professor of Sociology of Media and Culture, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Susanne Janssen is a leading researcher on media, culture and society with a significant track record in international comparative research and multidisciplinary cooperation. Her research covers diverse topics, such as the impact of globalisation and greater diversity on the arts and culture, the role of critics and other intermediaries in the appreciation of culture, trends in cultural journalism, socio-cultural differences in the way media are used and culture consumed, the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture, and the role of popular music in cultural memory and cultural identity. Janssen has headed several major international research projects and currently leads a consortium working on a research project funded under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. She is also a pioneer in education and internationalisation. As founding academic director of the Erasmus Research Centre for Media, Communication and Culture, she developed the successful International Bachelor’s in Communication and Media (IBCoM) and the Research Master’s in Sociology of Culture, Media and the Arts.

Inger Leemans (1971)
Professor of Cultural History, VU Amsterdam, Principal Investigator NL-Lab, Academy Humanities Cluster
Inger Leemans examines historical themes that cut across the individual, the cultural and the social. Her focus is the early modern period (1500 to 1850). She has studied pornography and the radical Enlightenment, emotions in an economic context (e.g. on the stock market), and the unexplored history of smell, among other things. Leemans is not afraid to make original choices, both in her research subjects and in her methods. She is one of the pioneers of the digital humanities, embraces expert knowledge from many different disciplines, and combines micronarratives and macronarratives. Leemans uses history to reflect on contemporary norms. Her spirit of openness also allows her to discuss sensitive issues.

Jana Roithová (1974)
Professor of Spectroscopy and Catalysis, Radboud University
Jana Roithová studies as yet undescribed chemical reactions in an attempt to discover the underlying general principles of chemical reactivity. Her work lays the foundations for progress in chemistry and paves the way for constructing new complex molecules and materials. Roithová is renowned for developing new mass spectroscopic techniques to study chemical reactions in the gas phase. She combines her observations with analyses and computational models. In addition to her research, Roithová is a dedicated educator and a much sought-after speaker at conferences and universities. She also advises the government in both the Netherlands and her native Czech Republic on science policy.

Ton Schumacher (1965)
Principal Investigator, Netherlands Cancer Institute, and Professor by Special Appointment, Leiden University Medical Center
Ton Schumacher’s research findings have been of critical importance in cancer immunotherapy. For example, he has advanced our understanding of how T cells that reside in tumours can be switched on more efficiently and how patient-specific proteins on tumour cells contribute to successful immunotherapy. Schumacher is recognised internationally for his technological innovations. He has a talent for making the basic research findings arising from these innovations suitable for clinical development. Schumacher’s extraordinary combination of academic excellence and entrepreneurship is an asset for the Academy.

Eline Slagboom (1960)
Professor of Molecular Epidemiology, Leiden University Medical Center
Why are some 90-year-olds still happily riding their bicycles while other people suffer multiple disorders as early as their 70s? Eline Slagboom has devoted her career to studying the genetic factors that stimulate healthy ageing and the biomarkers in blood that reveal biological age and are related to metabolism, inflammation, and the body’s bacterial composition. Slagboom conducted much of this research as Principal Investigator of the unique Leiden Longevity Study, which she also set up. She has broadened her approach in recent years as a board member of Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI-NL), in which she has initiated national studies on biomarkers and linked them to lifestyle interventions. She and her team have also examined the long-term effects of environmental factors before birth. Over the past thirty years, Slagboom has left a unique mark on research into ageing. Her success at exploring new avenues has put her at the top of her game.

Ignas Snellen (1970)
Professor of Observational Astrophysics, Leiden University
Ignas Snellen is a pioneer in the study of extrasolar planets or exoplanets, i.e. planets that orbit a star other than the sun. The study of exoplanets is a new and rapidly growing field. Snellen’s extraordinary dedication and clever techniques have allowed him to detect extremely faint signals from exoplanets from the Earth, something that most astronomers did not believe possible. Snellen is responsible for numerous breakthroughs. For example, he was the first to measure the length of a day on an exoplanet. One exciting long-term goal in his field is to discover signs of life on an exoplanet. Perhaps Snellen will add this to his list of firsts someday.  

Rineke Verbrugge (1965)
Professor in Logic and Cognition, University of Groningen
Rineke Verbrugge was trained in the logic and foundations of mathematics and made substantial contributions to provability and epistemic logic. She then broadened her scope to apply herself with great success to the logic of interactive systems, such as groups of people working together. Her work is pre-eminently interdisciplinary thanks to the creativity with which she combines mathematical logic, artificial intelligence and cognitive science. Verbrugge devotes many of her publications to intelligent interaction. She has developed a well-known game that combines logic, game theory and cognitive psychology. She has also built the first formal teamwork model in which information flows, collective intentions and joint planning are linked.

Miguel John Versluys (1971)
Professor of Classical and Mediterranean Archaeology, Leiden University
Miguel John Versluys is an innovative leading Dutch archaeologist. The focus of his research is the ancient Hellenistic-Roman world, more specifically the tension between local traditions and expectations on the one hand and the cultural and economic dynamics of globalisation on the other. He combines a variety of methodologies and techniques derived from the social sciences & humanities as well as the natural sciences. Versluys injected new energy into his field when he introduced the concept of the ‘objectscape’, which refers to the material and stylistic properties of a repertoire of objects in a given period and geographical range. Versluys does not confine himself to the academic world but enjoys working with cultural organisations and museums.

Dolf Weijers (1976)
Professor of Biochemistry, Wageningen University
How do cells manage to work together to form a functioning multicellular organism? This is the sort of fundamental question that Dolf Weijers investigates with the aid of plant embryos. By combining biochemistry, genetic cell biology and evolutionary biology, he has unravelled important molecular mechanisms and gene regulatory networks that explain cell behaviour. Weijers is that rare combination of dedicated researcher and popular teacher. He is also committed to improving the quality of the research landscape. For example, he set up the Wageningen Science Café and the Wageningen Young Academy, and is an active member of national and international governing boards.

Guido van der Werf (1972)
Professor of Global Carbon Cycle and Land Use Change, VU Amsterdam
Guido van der Werf is an authority on natural fires. He has shown that such fires are not local and temporary events, but a phenomenon that occurs almost everywhere in the world and all year round, with a major impact on people, nature and the climate. Using satellite photos, drones and smart analysis methods, Van der Werf has revealed that, worldwide, an area the size of Europe goes up in flames every year, with all sorts of vegetation catching fire. He was the first to use satellite data to quantify the carbon dioxide emissions of these fires. Van der Werf’s research is of huge importance to society and has been quoted extensively, for example in the reports published by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Foreign members

Conny Aerts (1966)
Professor of Astronomy, University of Leuven, and Chair of Asteroseismology, Radboud University
Conny Aerts studies the internal structure of stars by examining oscillations on their surface. Her pioneering work has led to better modelling of the internal structure and evolution of stars. She is a driving force behind the deployment of space satellites to study stars, which has produced a wealth of new information on their mass, size, chemical composition and age. In addition to her successful research, Aerts wrote the ultimate textbook on asteroseismology, works tirelessly for gender equality in science, and educates the general public about astronomy as a devoted science communicator.

Jolanda Jetten (1970)
ARC Laureate Fellowship and Professor of Social Psychology, University of Queensland, Australia
Jolanda Jetten studied in Nijmegen and Amsterdam and moved to Queensland, Australia in 1997. She relocated to the University of Exeter in the UK from 2001 to 2007 but then returned to the University of Queensland in Brisbane. Throughout this time, she and her colleagues made significant contributions to social psychology and, more recently, to health psychology. Her work is both theoretically innovative and empirically robust and addresses such pressing social issues as social exclusion, social health, and pro-social behaviour. In 2020, she published a book on the psychological aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Jetten is a highly influential researcher. She often gives public lectures and is a scientific advisor to the Australian government, past president of the Society of Australasian Social Psychologists (SASP), and current president of the Australasian Society for Philosophy and Psychology (ASPP).

Vishva Dixit (1956)
Vice President of Discovery Research, Genentech Inc.
Vishva Dixit is a molecular biologist and biochemist and a pioneer in research on cell death and inflammation signalling. In 1997, Dixit swapped his professorship at the University of Michigan Medical School for a position at Genentech, a San Francisco-based company that bridges the gap between academic and industrial research. He is responsible for numerous scientific breakthroughs involving the discovery and characterisation of regulators of cell death. He proposed challenging new ideas on this subject and then employed an elegant combination of tools taken from biochemistry, genetics and immunology to deliver the experimental evidence. Dixit’s work on the biology of cancer cells has significantly improved our understanding of the origins of this dreaded disease.