Inauguration new Royal Academy members

15 September 2020

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences has selected eighteen new members. The inauguration took place on September 14. Academy members, leading researchers from across all disciplines, are selected for their scientific and scholarly achievements. The Academy has about 550 members. Members are appointed for life.

The new members are:

Erik Bakkers (1972)
Professor of Advanced Nanomaterials and Devices, Eindhoven University of Technology

Erik Bakkers is at the forefront of R&D into new nanomaterials that do not occur in nature and can only be produced by manipulating nanoscale particles. He conducts basic research on crystal growth while keeping a sharp eye on real-world applications. For example, he is developing unique crystal growth methods in which he assembles atomically precise semiconductor nanowires with special properties. His material and structural combinations are the building blocks for new types of solar cells, light transmitters and quantum computer components.

Bas Bloem (1967)
Professor of Movement Disorder Neurology, Radboud University Medical Centre, Radboud University

Bas Bloem is an expert in neurological movement disorders, in particular Parkinson’s disease. He is also a healthcare innovator who focuses on integrating medical research and its clinical applications. An excellent example is the national network ParkinsonNet, set up by Bloem and human movement scientist Marten Munneke, in which more than three thousand specialist Parkinson’s caregivers in the Netherlands work together and with patients. ParkinsonNet has made it possible to test many different treatment methods and develop lifestyle guidelines, with patients playing an active role. This innovative approach has improved the quality of care while lowering costs and is being emulated worldwide.

Harry Buhrman (1966)
Professor of Algorithms and Complexity Theory, CWI, University of Amsterdam

Harry Buhrman is a pioneer in the promising field of quantum computing. Buhrman founded the quantum computing group at CWI (the national research institute for mathematics and computer science in the Netherlands) back in the nineties, making it one of the first groups worldwide and the first in the Netherlands working on quantum information processing. Buhrman operates at the interface of information science, mathematics and physics. A common theme in his work is the analysis of computing power and computer and communication network potential. He does this by designing new algorithms and communication protocols and by developing techniques demonstrating their efficiency. His work on quantum communication and quantum limitations is particularly renowned. Buhrman put the Netherlands on the map with respect to the development of quantum software. In addition to his research group, Buhrman also manages large research consortia and has inspired many young researchers.

Marjolein Dijkstra (1967)
Professor of Computer Simulations of Soft Condensed Matter, Utrecht University

Marjolein Dijkstra is interested in the theory of colloidal suspensions, for example milk, blood, paint and ink. They are solutions in which colloidal particles smaller than one hundredth of the diameter of a hair move about, often joined by other particle types such as ions and polymers. Dijkstra develops new computer simulation techniques for predicting the behaviour of these complex solutions in theory. Her work is not only groundbreaking science but also has practical relevance. Evidence can be found in the many public-private partnership programmes in which Dijkstra participates, including the Advanced Research Center for Soft Advanced Materials and the Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium. Her most recent research focuses on bringing passive nanomaterials to life.

Halleh Ghorashi (1962)
Professor of Diversity and Integration, VU University Amsterdam

Halleh Ghorashi is an authority on refugee and cultural diversity research. She is well known for her innovative approach to combining experimental qualitative methods, discourse analysis and narratives. Ghorashi has made important contributions to theories concerning the inclusion of immigrants in society, for example by revealing hidden structures of exclusion. She is a Crown-appointed member of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands, where she devotes herself to promoting the cause of refugees and diversity in the boardroom. Ghorashi founded the Refugee Academy to bring refugee-related research and practice closer together.

Olivier Hekster (1974)
Professor of Ancient History, Radboud University

Olivier Hekster has pioneered research into the representation of Roman emperors and perceptions of their power in first three centuries of the Modern Era. His work has pointed the field in a new direction in terms of both content and methodology. Hekster treats statues, inscriptions, coins, reliefs and historical texts as mass media. His research shows how the Roman emperors worked through a long, complex and experimental process to create an image of themselves in which they conveyed a specific message to select target groups. Hekster’s methods and insights are not only relevant to Classical Antiquity but also to the study of other ancient civilisations and the modern world.

Frans van der Helm (1960)
Professor of Biomechatronics & Biorobotics, Delft University of Technology 

Frans van der Helm’s research links biomedical sciences and mechanical engineering. He integrates theories of neuromuscular control by the brain and through the spinal cord with highly advanced musculoskeletal models to understand the neural and biomechanical principles of human movement. The methods and models he has developed are applicable in a wide variety of fields, ranging from robotics and semi-autonomous cars to sports injury prevention, joint implants and surgical technology. Van der Helm is one of the leading figures and driving forces behind collaborative programmes linking clinical practice and technology, a field that is now booming. One example is the Medical Delta, a programme in which various parties, including university medical centres and Delft University of Technology, collaborate on technological solutions for sustainable healthcare.

Bart Jacobs (1963)
Professor of Security, Privacy and Identity, Radboud University

With a background in mathematics and philosophy, Bart Jacobs is making an important contribution to quantum logic, type theory and programming languages. He is renowned for the elegance of his theories and models. In addition to his academic work, Jacobs is also socially engaged. For example, he investigated the security of the Dutch public transport chip card, was a member of an advisory committee on the future of voting (electronic or otherwise), and developed a privacy-friendly technique for website visitor identification. Jacobs has specifically emphasised the ethical and legal aspects of his technological work in recent years.

Vincent Jaddoe (1974)
Professor of Paediatrics, in particular Paediatric Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical Centre, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Vincent Jaddoe is fascinated by foetal and infant development, from before gestation to early childhood, and the consequences for later health. He is particularly interested in the interplay of genetic and lifestyle factors in relation to conception and embryonic development and later cardiovascular and metabolic health. Jaddoe is Principal Investigator of the Generation R Study, which is tracking more than 10,000 children and their parents from the very earliest life stages to adulthood. The results of this large-scale study have already contributed to preventive strategies targeting future parents and young children.

Lotte Jensen (1972)
Professor of Dutch Cultural and Literary History, Radboud University

Lotte Jensen has done groundbreaking research into the origins of Dutch identity. She has redefined the relationship between Dutch literature and the process of identity formation in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. In her work, she combines approaches from cultural history, press history, Dutch literature and nationalism studies. She is currently exploring the relationship between national disasters and cultural identity in an international context and has shown that national disasters forge strong ties. Her many public appearances reveal her to be a nuanced and constructive speaker with an enormous talent for drawing illuminating parallels between the past and the present.

Sijbren Otto (1971)
Professor of Systems Chemistry, University of Groningen

Sijbren Otto is a pioneer of systems chemistry, a new discipline that studies networks of interacting molecules and their properties. He is searching for the chemical origins of life. For example, he succeeded in using ‘dead’ molecules produced in the lab to build self-replicating systems capable of undergoing a small-scale Darwinian evolution. During replication, mutations occur, and the environment determines which mutation wins the battle for a common resource. Otto and his group have also shown how self-replicating molecules alter material from their environment to make it a suitable medium for growth and further replication, the first step towards metabolism.

Ibo van de Poel (1966)
Professor of Ethics and Technology, Delft University of Technology

Ibo van de Poel helps engineers integrate such values as security, sustainability, privacy, wellbeing and fairness into their designs. He has described the phenomenon known as the ‘problem of ‘many hands’ in R&D networks, in which many people undertake individual actions but no one feels morally responsible for the end product. Van de Poel develops strategies for dealing with this problem. He also examines the ethical aspects of new technologies, such as biotechnology and nanotechnology, where conventional approaches to risk management cannot be applied because the risks are unknown or uncertain. Van de Poel regards such emerging technologies as social experiments and is attempting to define the conditions under which such experiments are morally acceptable.

Mirjam van Praag (1967)
Professor of Entrepreneurship, VU University Amsterdam

Mirjam van Praag has conducted prominent and pioneering research into the economic role and significance of entrepreneurship. She uses advanced econometric models to chart the start, duration and success of entrepreneurship. Van Praag also uses experiments and fieldwork to investigate the impact of various interventions on the behaviour of entrepreneurs. In her publications she highlights the importance of education for successful entrepreneurship. She has also shown that gender-balanced teams outperform gender-skewed ones. Van Praag is currently President of the Executive Board of VU University Amsterdam and remains active as a professor and PhD supervisor.

Jack Pronk (1963)
Professor of Industrial Microbiology, Delft University of Technology

Jack Pronk studies the physiology of microorganisms and modifies them to make them more efficient and more widely applicable in industrial processes. He combines quantitative research on the metabolism of microorganisms with genetic modification and evolution in the lab. One important aim of Pronk’s research is to develop sustainable industrial processes. He was able to modify baker’s yeast so that it can produce bio-ethanol, a fuel used in the transport industry, from sugars derived from agricultural waste products. His group is also looking into ways of making microbes more robust so that industrial processes can be intensified and thus made more sustainable. Several of his discoveries are being applied on a large scale in industry.

Karin Roelofs (1972)
Professor of Experimental Psychopathology, Donders Institute, Radboud University

Karin Roelofs is an expert on stress and stress-related behaviour. She studies psychological and neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying social-motivational and stress-related behaviours. How do people make decisions when they are under stress? How do people regulate their emotions and what can help them if they have trouble doing so? These are questions that Roelofs studies in the lab using brain-imaging techniques, neural stimulation and hormone interventions. She has helped to shift the focus in her field from vulnerability and psychopathology to resilience and recovery capacity. Her research holds great promise for the early detection and treatment of affective disorders, and for counselling people with stressful occupations. For example, she is coordinating major studies into resilience in police officers.

Barbara Terhal (1969)
Professor of Quantum Computing, Delft University of Technology

Barbara Terhal is an authority on quantum information theory. In 1999 she was the first person in the Netherlands to get a PhD in quantum computing. In her dissertation, she introduced the concept of ‘entanglement witnesses’, which make it possible to differentiate between a state of quantum entanglement and a state of no entanglement. This concept now has widespread application in both theoretical and experimental research. Today, Terhal is an international expert on quantum error correction, a field of study crucial to building reliable quantum computers. Her search for quantum error correction has yielded many new insights along the way and led to a better understanding of what quantum computers can and cannot do.

Henk te Velde (1959)
Professor of Dutch History, Leiden University

Henk te Velde describes politics as a cultural phenomenon. He made a name for himself with his history of nationalism and leadership in the Netherlands. He showed that in around 1900, Dutch liberals embraced the nation state in response to growing political pluralism and that every era thereafter got the political leader it deserved. Te Velde’s later publications covered the history of politics and the monarchy in the Netherlands since 1815. More recently, he introduced new concepts that are not limited to the Netherlands, such as ‘political transfer’, political tradition, leadership styles and the importance of the rhetorical and theatrical aspects of politics in Britain and France. His ideas and methods have been well received by historians both in the Netherlands and abroad.

Maria Yazdanbakhsh (1959)
Professor of Cellular Immunology of Parasitic Infections, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden University

Maria Yazdanbakhsh studies the interaction between the human immune system and parasites. By combining challenging fieldwork in developing countries with advanced immunological techniques, she shows how pathogenic parasites can also have positive effects. Unlike people living in urban areas, for example, those living in rural communities are more exposed to microorganisms and parasites, causing a fundamental change in their immune system. As a result, vaccines may be less effective for them, but they are also less susceptible to chronic inflammatory diseases such as allergies, auto-immune diseases or type-2 diabetes. These findings are not only revealing but also open up opportunities to better understand diseases and manage them more effectively.

The new foreign members are:

Takuzo Aida (1956)
Professor of Chemical Bioengineering, University of Tokyo & RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science, Japan

The Academy has elected to make Takuzo Aida a foreign member. He is one of the most creative and influential chemists of our time, mainly because of his work on adaptive materials. He has developed self-healing glass, gels that ‘walk’ across surfaces, light-activated mini-motors and materials that generate electricity as soon as they move. His inventions are rooted in a deep understanding of molecular interactions and innovative management pathways. They can be applied in many areas, for example in medicine or for sustainability purposes.

Marcel van den Brink (1960)
Professor of Internal Medicine, Oncology and Immunology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA

Marcel van den Brink obtained his PhD from Leiden University, but now works in New York as a physician-researcher. Van den Brink specialises in immunotherapy strategies for cancer and in bone marrow transplants in the treatment of blood cancers in particular. Bone marrow transplant is a very radical form of treatment. The body must accept the new ‘foreign’ cells, completely rebuild its immune system, and fight off the cancer cells. Van den Brink has studied this complex process closely and made a large number of discoveries, such as the role of the thymus in restoring immune systems after bone marrow transplants, the pathophysiology of graft-versus-host disease (when donor cells in the bone marrow transplant attack the patient’s organs) and how microorganisms living in the intestine influence the success of bone marrow transplants. His work has led to new therapeutic strategies and better treatment options.