NWO has announced that TU Delft’s Nynke Dekker has been awarded an NWO Spinoza Prize. The Spinoza and Stevin Prizes are the most prestigious awards in Dutch science. Besides Nynke Dekker, prizes were also awarded to prof. dr. ir. Jan van Hest (TUE), prof. dr. Pauline Kleingeld (RUG) and prof. dr. Sjaak Neefjes (LUMC/UL). Prof. dr. Linda Steg (RUG) en prof. dr. Ton Schumacher (AVL/LUMC/UL) have been awarded a Stevinprize. Each of the laureates will receive 2.5 million euros to spend on scientific research and related activities.
The researchers receive these prizes for their outstanding, pioneering and inspiring work. Both prizes focus on the quality of the researcher: for the Spinoza Prize the emphasis is on the scientific work and fundamental questions, while the Stevin Prize primarily honours the social impact.
Prof. dr. Nynke Dekker
Nynke Dekker is Professor of Biological Physics at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience of TU Delft. She uses methods and techniques from physics to study the functioning of individual molecules and proteins, which are essential for cellular processes such as copying and translating DNA and repairing errors in RNA and DNA. For this research, she designs, develops and uses innovative nanotechnology tools.
Dekker is internationally renowned due to her pioneering research into individual DNA and RNA molecules and their interactions with proteins in bacteria, viruses and eukaryotes (organisms whose cells contain cell nuclei). For example, she described how virus proteins insert errors in the viral RNA in order for viruses to mutate and better survive in a changing environment – and how antiviral inhibitors disrupt these proteins. She also revealed how the copying of DNA in bacteria can be stopped, but that the translation of DNA into RNA continues even under difficult conditions. Furthermore, she described how chemotherapy molecules can cause changes in the activity of the protein topoisomerase.
Award ceremony in September 2020
This year’s NWO Spinoza Prize and Stevin Prize awards ceremony will take place on September 30th. During the award ceremony, the Spinoza and Stevin laureates provide insight into the content of their research and reveal how they intend to use the award.
Picture: NWO, fotografie: Studio Oostrum/Hollandse Hoogte