Wim van Saarloos New Director of FOM Foundation


The FOM Executive Board has appointed Professor Wim van Saarloos (1955) Director of FOM Foundation, effective 1 November 2009. He succeeds Dr Hans Chang. Van Saarloos is currently Professor of Theoretical Physics at Leiden University and Director of the Lorentz Center, which he also established and for which he received a Royal Award in 2008.

He has extensive administrative experience and a good network of contacts within and outside physics. The Director of FOM also acts as Director of the NWO Subfield of Physics.

Van Saarloos’ combined experience as a scientist and administrator, which gained him the confidence of the Dutch physics community, will serve him well in his new role. He has a clear vision on the balance and necessary interaction between fundamental and applied research. In developing the Lorentz Center, he also demonstrated vision and persuasiveness, and he built up a network outside physics.

Van Saarloos explains: "I’ve been committed to science and physics in the broad sense for quite some time now and I’m really looking forward to continuing my work at this level and so help set the direction of physics research in the Netherlands. I’m very pleased with the road FOM has taken the past few years, with an increased focus on valorisation and industry contacts in addition to fundamental research (under the watchword of 'Physics for Science & Physics for Society'). It’s a line that I’ll continue to pursue. Fundamental and applied research are not that far apart as people often think."


Van Saarloos graduated cum laude from Delft University of Technology with a degree in Technical Physics. After receiving his doctorate, cum laude, from Leiden University, he went on to live in the USA for eight years, where, after a postdoc, he gained a staff position in the Department for Materials Research at AT&T Bell Laboratories. He returned to Leiden in 1991, where he was appointed Professor of Condensed Matter Theory. In that role, he built up an internationally recognised research group in the field of soft condensed matter and led, among other things, a range of FOM programmes.

In 1997, he initiated the Leiden-based Lorentz Center, which, over the past 12 years, under his direction, has grown to become a leading international centre for workshops in the sciences and which serves as an example to other countries and other disciplines. Van Saarloos also contributes to the field of physics in a broad sense, drawing on extensive administrative experience on a range of committees and advisory bodies including the FOM Governing Board, the Mid-Term Review Committee for Technical Physics, and as chair of the Committee who has written the Physics Action Plan, the precursor to the Physics Sector Plan. He continues his involvement with the Sector Plan as a member of the Breimer Committee.

Van Saarloos has been a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) since 2004. In 2005, he joined the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities and in 2007 he became a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He has received a number of awards for his achievements, such as the Physics Prize and a Royal Knighthood in the Order of the Dutch Lion (2008) for his contributions to the Lorentz Center. Van Saarloos is married and has three daughters.