Ewine van Dishoeck appointed Academy Professor
The Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW) has awarded an Academy Professorship to Ewine van Dishoeck, Professor of Molecular Astrophysics at Leiden University.
World's most widely-cited astrophysicist
Ewine van Dishoeck (1955) has been Professor of Molecular Astrophysics at Leiden University since 1995, and spearheads the Fundamentals of Science research area. She is also Academic Director of the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (Dutch acronym: NOVA), and furthermore leads the WISH (“Water In Star-forming regions with Herschel”) project. Van Dishoeck is the most widely-cited astrophysicist in the world. She has received many major awards, including the Spinoza Prize in 2000. On hearing of the Academy Professorship, her reaction was: ‘This is marvellous news; I am a bit dazed by it! With the Spinoza Prize and an ERC (European Research Council) Advanced Grant I have the feeling that I’ve won the “Triple Crown” [this term from the sporting world denotes the victor of three major or prestigious events: ed.]’
Van Dishoeck is an internationally renowned researcher, who has made major contributions to the present-day form of the relatively young discipline of astrochemistry. She plays a leading role in organising international gatherings, and conveys her complex subject to a wider public with great enthusiasm.
Research into star formation
Ewine van Dishoeck studies chemical processes in the universe. The space between stars is not completely void, but is filled with rarified, ice-cold gas clouds, such as the darker areas in the Orion nebula. She studies the molecules that are to be found there: both familiar ones such as hydrogen and carbon monoxide, as well as exotic molecular combinations that are seldom if ever to be found on Earth.
Van Dishoeck is particularly interested in the formation of stars from the remains of collapsing galaxies, and in how planets are formed in the gas clouds around very young stars. For this research her resources include the Very Large Telescope of the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), 5,000 metres high in Chile. At present she is using the Herschel Telescope to investigate water in the universe, and the role it plays in the formation of stars.
About the prize
The KNAW Academy Professorship is intended as a lifetime achievement award for researchers who have demonstrated that they are among the absolute top of their scientific field. The award comes with a grant of €1m to be invested in further scientific work. Each year two awards are made: one in the natural, technical or medical sciences; and one in the social sciences or humanities. This year the latter award has been made to Peter Hagourt, Professor of Cognitive Neurosciences at the Radboud University in Nijmegen.