KNAW Royal Academy Professor Prize for Cees Dekker (Kavli/BN)


By: Communication TU Delft
The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has awarded this year’s Academy Professor Prize to Cees Dekker, professor of Molecular Biophysics at TU Delft.

Famed as the ‘lifetime achievement award’ of the academic field, two separate prizes are conferred each year: one to a scholar in the social sciences or humanities, and the other to a scientist in the natural, technical or life sciences. The award includes prize money of one million euros, to be used towards research at the recipient’s discretion. The second prize has been awarded to professor Birgit Meyer from Utrecht.

The Academy commends Dekker’s impressive career, including his work on carbon nanotubes in the 1990s – work the Academy lauds as iconic within the field of nanotechnology. “As early as the nineties, he achieved international recognition for his pioneering research into the characteristics and applications of carbon nanotubes.” Cees Dekker and his associates currently focus on the machinery of living cells: “His research demonstrated how individual DNA and protein molecules cooperate, for example to repair damage in the genetic code. He developed ‘nanopores’: holes so small that individual DNA molecules can be pulled through them in order to read the genetic code”, reports the Academy.

Prof. Cees Dekker (56) was pleasantly surprised with the news. “I’m most honoured to have been awarded this oeuvre prize, it’s a fantastic recognition of my academic career.” Dekker plans to use the prize money in his current research into synthetic biology. “In the coming years, this field of study will provide us with greater insight into the most fundamental issues related to determining the essence of life. Can we, for example, build a living, synthetic cell from individual components?”

Dekker was awarded the Spinoza Prize in 2003, the highest Dutch scientific accolade. In the same year, he became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. TU Delft appointed Dekker as distinguished professor in recognition of his extraordinary academic achievements. Alongside his position as professor, he is also Director of the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience Delft and a driving force behind ‘Frontiers of Nanoscience’, a major joint research programme of the universities of Delft and Leiden. It was partly due to Dekker’s initiative that the popular new Nanobiology undergraduate programme was introduced at TU Delft.