Universiteit Leiden

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‘Freedom makes me a better chemist’

Professor of Catalysis and Surface Chemistry Marc Koper has been appointed as member of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (KNAW). 'Very honourable, I see this as a confirmation of my work,’ says Koper.

Appreciation from the Netherlands

'The phone rang; it was Wim van Saarloos, vice president of the KNAW,’ says Koper. ‘I know him well from when he was a Professor when I started here in Leiden. It makes it even more special when someone like him tells you that you are appointed as KNAW member,’ says Koper. Previously, Koper received recognition from abroad. ‘My field of study has not always been visible in the Netherlands, but this is changing now that sustainability is becoming a hot topic. It is nice to see that my work is also being appreciated here.'

The puzzle of the scientist

Koper is a scientist pur sang, someone for whom the scientific puzzle is the most interesting. How does something work? And how can you figure this out? ‘As an electrochemist, I’m not really focused on the application. The applications in renewable energy storage  interest me as a person, but not necessarily as a scientist,’ Koper explains. Above all, he wants to better understand his field of study. ‘Gaining  knowledge in my field is not only useful for future applications, but also for teaching and for the general development of a discipline.’

Influence as KNAW member

As a member of the KNAW, Koper hopes to contribute to the freedom in science. ‘I find it important that there is a place in society where people can do their research freely. I understand the need for valorisation, but I have noticed that freedom makes me a better electrochemist. The knowledge and experience that I gain during fundamental research, result in better collaborations in more applied research,’ Koper explains. Being a member of the KNAW is not only beneficial for Koper himself, but also for his research institute. ‘I will be aware of policy changes and other news somewhat earlier, so we can respond better to these changes as an institute.'          


Before the appreciation of the KNAW, Koper already received a number of international awards . For instance, he received the Brian Conway Prize 2016 for his outstanding contributions in the field of physical electrochemistry. In addition, this year he received the Faraday Medal 2017 for the combination of fundamental and applied electrochemical research.

The Academy has approximately 550 members. They belong either to the Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences and Law Domain, the Humanities Domain, the Medical, Biomedical and Health Sciences Domain or the Natural Sciences and Engineering Domain. Members are appointed for life.