Wim van Saarloos first vice president of new-style Royal Academy

15 March 2016

Wim van Saarloos will become vice president of the Academy on 1 September. A change in the Academy's regulations means that the vice president henceforth automatically succeeds the incumbent president. Another change is that the vice president, like the president, must be available three days a week. 

At the moment, Wim van Saarloos is helping to smooth the transition of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), a project he will transfer to his successor there in phases starting in September. On 1 January 2017, he will return to Leiden University as Professor of Theoretical Physics.

With both the president and vice president devoting three days a week to their administrative tasks, the Academy responds to the recommendations of the committee that evaluated it in 2014.  President José van Dijck had this to say about the appointment: ‘Wim van Saarloos is a celebrated scientist, but he is also an excellent administrator and a leader who knows how to unite. I am looking forward to working with him and the rest of the Board to achieve the aims of the strategic agenda that we have recently presented.’

Foto: Bram Saeys

In his present position of Transition programme director, Wim van Saarloos is helping the NWO alter its organisational structure. The NWO’s transition is one of the outcomes of the Dutch Government’s science policy document Vision for Science 2025. Op 1 January 2017, he will become an employee of Leiden University and step down from its supervisory board. Said Van Saarloos about his position at the Academy: ‘I consider it an honour and a privilege to be the first vice president in the new administrative set-up to work with and take the same unifying approach as José van Dijck for the betterment of the Academy, and to combine all this with a return to research and teaching at Leiden University.’


Four Academy Board members will be stepping down in the course of the present year, and three new members will be joining the Board. The retiring Board members are Pearl Dykstra, Albert van den Berg, Jan Willem Gunning (as of 1 June), and Ellen van Wolde (as of 1 October). They will be succeeded by Marc Groenhuijsen (1 June), Wim van Saarloos (1 September) and Maarten Prak (1 October). The official hand-over will take place during an Academy Afternoon Session on 30 May. 

Selection committee

A selection committee chaired by Keimpe Algra was unanimous in nominating Wim van Saarloos for the position of vice president. ‘Wim van Saarloos combines a broad interest in science with expertise in science and innovation policy, international experience, and skill in communication,’ said Algra. ‘He has an extensive network that not only covers the world of science but also trade and industry. That makes him the ideal person to be Academy vice president and then president.’

About Wim van Saarloos

Wim van Saarloos (born in 1955) studied Technical Physics at Delft University of Technology and received his PhD at Leiden University in 1982. He worked for AT&T Bell Laboratories in the USA until 1991. From 1991 to 2009, he was Professor of Theoretical Physics at Leiden University. In 1997, he became director of the university’s Lorentz Centre, a position he held until 2009. In 2010, Van Saarloos was appointed director of the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM) He has been helping to shape the NWO’s internal reorganisation since 1 June 2015 as Transition Director.

Wim van Saarloos has conducted ground-breaking research in theoretical physics, for example on the instability of wave fronts and granular materials. He has received national and international recognition for his scientific work, including his appointment as a fellow of the American Physical Society (2007) and his receipt of the Dutch Physica Prize (2008). He became a member of the Royal Academy in 2004.

About the Academy

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) is the forum, voice, and conscience of science and scholarship in the Netherlands. It derives its authority from the quality of its members. As an independent organisation, the Academy safeguards the quality and interests of science and scholarship and advises the Dutch government. It is responsible for fifteen internationally renowned institutes whose research and collections put them in the vanguard of Dutch science and scholarship.