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‘Discoverer of the Year’, best dissertation and Education Award 2014

At the New Year’s reception of the Faculty of Science on 6 January, it was announced that Annelien Zweemer, Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research, has been awarded the ‘Discoverer of the Year 2014’ prize. Matteo Brogi, Leiden Observatory, wrote the best dissertation in 2014 and Dennis Claessen, Institute of Biology Leiden, has been declared ‘best teacher of 2014’.

Discoverer of the Year 2014: Annelien Zweemer

Annelien Zweemer won the award for her research on how small molecules affect receptors. The CCR2 receptor is a transmembrane protein that plays an important role in many immune-related diseases. Annelien Zweemer studied how small molecules can alter the functioning of this receptor, thus paving the way for pharmaceutical interventions. She made an important discovery: some molecules affect the receptor from the inside of the cell.

Read more about the research on the CCR2 receptor

Staff and students cast their votes for their favorite researcher of the year. Annelien received 23% of the votes. Sven Askes came second with 19% of the votes and Marcel Schaaf took third place with 16% of the votes.

Nominees: Annelien Zweemer (Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research), Sven Askes (Leiden Institute of Chemistry), Simon Portegies Zwart (Leiden Observatory), Alexey Boyarski (Leiden Institute of Physics), Charlene Kalle (Matematical Institute), Katy Wolstencroft (Leiden Institute for Advanced Computer Science ), Marcel Schaaf (Institute of Biology Leiden) and Esther van der Voet (Institute of Environmental Sciences).

C.J. Kok prize for the best dissertation in 2014: Matteo Brogi

Matteo wrote the best dissertation of the year with his ‘Atmospheres of hot alien worlds’. This thesis presents observations of exoplanets orbiting very close to their parent star, with a particular focus on a novel technique for characterizing their atmospheres. This is based on the use of high-resolution spectroscopy from the ground.

The first detection of the atmosphere of a non-transiting planet is presented, together with the determination of its mass and orbital inclination. Moreover, it is shown that high-dispersion spectroscopy is very effective in recognizing molecular species, measuring their relative abundances, and determining whether temperature increases or decreases with altitude in the observed planetary atmospheres. The method also led to the measurement of the rotational period of a transiting exoplanet, which was found to be tidally locked, in line with theoretical predictions. Finally, the evidence for the disintegration of a small, rocky planet candidate in the Kepler database is presented. This result was obtained by fitting the light curve of the object with a model of a trailing tail of dust.

Brogi obtained his PhD with distinction in June 2014.

Atmospheres of hot alien worlds (PDF of the thesis)

The committee of the C.J. Kok award consisted this year of Professors Marcellus Ubbink (chair), Carel ten Cate, Aart van der Vaart, Miranda van Eck and Paul van der Werf.

Nominees: Matteo Brogi (Leiden Observatory), Vinzenz Koning (Leiden Institute of Physics), Dirk Erhard (Mathematical Institute), Frank Takes (Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science), Lianne Willems (Leiden Institute of Chemistry), Roosmarijn de Cock (Leiden Academic Center for Drug Research), Chris Jacobs (Institute of Biology Leiden) and Stefano Cucurachi (Institute of Environmental Sciences).

Teacher of the year 2014: Dennis Claessen

Dennis Claessen has been awarded by the students of the faculty the Teacher of the Year 2014 prize for his active involvement of PhD candidates, students on an internship and students from the BSc and MSc programmes in his research as part of their degree programmes. Dennis also focuses on improving research and teaching methods using the most up-to-date technology and software. He is known for his active use of social media in his teaching and in his research.

Research and education are strongly interlinked within the faculty. Monodisciplinary training and multidisciplinary collaboration provide our students with the skills they need to become tomorrow’s scientists. It is for this reason that, alongside the C.J. Kok awards, the faculty also presents the annual ‘Teacher of the year’ award, an initiative of the students.

The jury, consisting of the presidents of the student associations and the assessor of the Faculty Board, this time assessed each of the teachers nominated on three criteria: quality, innovation and interdisciplinary education.

Nominees: Matthew Kenworthy (Astronomy), Vincenzo Vitelli (Physics) Owen Biesel (Mathematics), Walter Kosters (Computer Science), Jan Pieter Abrahams (Life Science & Technology), Lies Bouwman (Molecular Science & Technology) and Marjo de Grauw (Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences).


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