Dutch Research Council: six winners of Spinoza and Stevin Prizes

The professor of Ethics Pauline Kleingeld from Groningen is the only humanities scholar among the laureates. Photo: NWO, Studio Oostrum/Hollandse Hoogte:

The Spinoza Prizes are considered the Dutch version of the Nobel Prizes. Professors Nynke Dekker, Jan van Hest, Pauline Kleingeld and Sjaak Neefjes are being awarded these prizes for their pioneering work in science. Professors Linda Steg and Ton Schumacher are being awarded the Stevin Prize for the social impact of their research.

Professor of Biological Physics Nynke Dekker (1971) of TU Delft has done ground-breaking work in her field. Among other things, she has demonstrated how chemo therapies can kill cancer cells on the molecular level, according to the Dutch Research Council. Moreover, she is developing all kinds of nanotechnology tools for her research into DNA and RNA molecules and their interaction with enzymes for example.

Van Hest
Jan van Hest (1968) is Professor of Bio-organic Chemistry at Eindhoven University of Technology. He is developing new materials and accelerating chemical processes by combining artificially produced molecules with biological components. One of the ways in which the materials he is developing can be used is the transport of medicines through the body. He is also producing nano reactors that can cause reactions with enzymes in living cells.

Professor of Chemical Immunology Sjaak Neefjes (1959) of Leiden University is known as a multidisciplinary jack-of-all-trades. He combines insights from chemistry, cell biology, immunology and biochemistry to study processes in a single cell. According to the Dutch Research Council, this has resulted in trailblazing discoveries about the functioning of the immune system that will aid in the fight against cancer, infectious diseases and auto-immune diseases.

The only humanities scholar among the four Spinoza laureates is Professor of Philosophy (Ethics and its History) Pauline Kleingeld (1962) of the University of Groningen. The Dutch Research Council lauds her interpretation of Kant’s ethics and political philosophy that offers fresh perspectives on moral universalism, autonomy, free will and cosmopolitism. She also takes a critical look at Kant’s racist and sexist prejudices. “Her original approach and ideas make her a leading international Kant expert who is also building key bridges to contemporary philosophical discussions and behavioural sciences research.”

Ton Schumacher (1965) is being awarded the Stevin Prize for his research into immune therapy against cancer. He is group leader of Molecular Oncology & Immunology at The Netherlands Cancer Institute and the Oncode Institute. He is also Professor of Immune Technology at Leiden University. Schumacher played a key role in the rapid development of his discipline, both through his scientific developments and his ability to translate them into practical applications for treating patients.

The other Stevin Prize goes to Linda Steg (1965), Professor of Environmental Psychology at the University of Groningen. She is viewed as a pioneer within her young discipline. She conducts research into factors that stimulate environmentally friendly behaviour. An important outcome of her research is that people act not only on the basis of ‘rational’ facts and arguments or cost-benefit analyses, but that moral considerations and concerns for the environment also play a role.

Including these new laureates, the Netherlands now has 97 Spinoza Laureates and 6 Stevin Laureates. The prizes will be awarded on Wednesday 30 September, when the laurates will also speak about how they will use their prize money.