Erasmus University Rotterdam was not awarded the Spinoza Prize this year either: the last time the university got this prize was in 1998. The only university with a lower score is Maastricht University, as no researcher there has ever won the Spinoza Prize.
This year’s four winners work at only two universities: Radboud University in Nijmegen and the University of Groningen. The Spinoza Prize is known as the Dutch Nobel Prize.
The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) awards the prize to three or four Dutch scientists every year. Each winner also receives 2.5 million euros to spend on their research.
Wilhelm Huck (1970) is professor of Physical-Organic Chemistry at Radboud University and is doing research on living cells. Constructing a cell right from scratch is his dream, as nobody has ever been able to do this so far. According to NWO, this is one of the Holy Grails in his field.
His colleague at Radboud University Mihai Netea (1968) is professor of Internal Medicine. He is studying how the human immune system is able to identify hostile bacteria and fungal infections that enter the system as a result of blood poisoning, for instance. He is also investigating how our congenital immune system is ‘trained’ by diseases and other factors. Another interesting detail is that he also writes science fiction stories!
Attitudes to language and memory chips
Lodi Nauta (1966) is professor of History of Philosophy at the University of Groningen. He is examining parallels between people’s attitudes to language in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the 20th century. He is also studying the place occupied by humanism in western European philosophy.
And finally, Bart van Wees (1961) is professor of Applied Physics at the University of Groningen. He is working on a number of research projects, such as memory chips based on electromagnetic fields (‘spin’). Theoretically speaking, these chips can store twice as much data as ordinary computer chips.
Leiden still leads the field
Since 1995 Radboud University has been awarded the same number of Spinoza Prizes as the University of Amsterdam, and these two universities occupy joint third place. Utrecht University is still in second place and Leiden University remains the undisputed front runner.