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Alireza Mashaghi Tabari is Discoverer of the Year 2017

With a large majority of votes, drug researcher Alireza Mashaghi Tabari was chosen Discoverer of the Year 2017 of the Faculty of Science. This was announced by Rector Carel Stolker during the faculty’s New Year's reception on 9 January. Computer scientist Kristian Rietveld became Teacher of the Year and mathematician Stéphanie van der Pas received the jury prize for the best dissertation.

Record number of votes

No fewer than 3,966 colleagues, students, alumni and external parties cast their vote for the C.J. Kok Public Award,  the official name of the Discoverer of the Year Award. Both Mashaghi and the runner-up, physicist Scott Waitukaitis, and the number three, biologist Xiaorong Zhang, conducted fierce electoral campaigns, as evidenced by the distribution of the votes coming from their home countries. An Iranian news agency even published a press release about Mashaghi's candidacy. Never before in the 15-year history of this election have so many votes been cast. The size of the different institutes was taken into consideration in the final outcome. 

Alireza Mashaghi Tabari receives the C.J. Kok Award for Discoverer of the Year from Rector magnificus Carel Stolker

Proteins that help other proteins to fold

Mashaghi studies proteins that help other proteins to fold, using advanced techniques at the level of single molecules. Detailed knowledge of these chaperone proteins is needed to better understand diseases that result from mistakes in protein folding, like Alzheimer’s disease. Eventually, this may help scientists to design new drugs that target the chaperones, or that can act as synthetic chaperones.

Top awards and new courses

All three faculty prize winners received 2,500 euros. The prize ceremonies were part of the annual Faculty of Science New Year's reception on Tuesday, 9 January. Dean Geert de Snoo kicked off the meeting in a full college hall. In a nutshell, he discussed the year 2017, during which researchers from the faculty were awarded a Spinoza prize, ERC Advanced and Starting Grants and several Vidi and Veni grants. Also, progress was made in the educational programme of the faculty, with ongoing preparations for the new interfacultary bachelor Urban Studies, starting in 2018. Also, the new international bachelor's in Bioscience and, together with the Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs, the master's programme in Governance and Sustainability (both starting in 2019) are in full preparation.

Two cities, three campuses

After the welcoming, a musical intermezzo followed by Three/Third XL, of which assessor Bernice Dekker is one of the lead singers. Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker continued the programme. He emphasized the identity of Leiden University: one university, two cities, and three campuses. The university in Leiden and The Hague is thriving at three locations, he explained: the city centre of Leiden, Campus The Hague, and the Bio Science Park. In particular the location in The Hague, in which the Faculty of Science is also increasingly participating, is currently growing rapidly.

Stéphanie van der Pas is handed the C.J. Kok Jury Award for best PhD thesis in 2017 by rector Carel Stolker

Filtering out and estimating effects that contribute

After his speech, Stolker proceeded to the C.J. Kok Award ceremony. Mathematician Stéphanie van der Pas was handed the Jury Award for the best doctoral thesis of 2017. Her dissertation has already been the basis for seven published or accepted articles, where two are average in the field of mathematics. According to the nomination, this abundance was brought about by her extraordinary excellence and goal orientation. Van der Pas's thesis concerns, among other things, the estimation of parameters under sparsity constraints. These are models in which many actors may contribute to the modeled effect, but only a few actors actually contribute to that effect. By incorporating this information into the method, noise and other random fluctuations can be filtered out, Van der Pas proves. In addition to this so-called horseshoe method, she deals with three very different, very diverse subjects in her thesis.

Kristian Rietveld receives the Faculty of Science Teacher of the Year Award from assessor Bernice Dekker

Passionate and enthusiastic

Assessor Bernice Dekker presented computer scientist Kristian Rietveld with the 2017 Teacher of the Year Award for the courses Programming techniques, Computer architecture and Operating systems of the bachelor of Computer Science. Rietveld has devoted himself to the development and implementation of new courses and teaches them passionately and with great enthusiasm. According to the programme committee of Computer Sciences, Rietveld has a positive effect on the bachelor's students’ educational experience and he is successful in teaching students to acquire the relevant skills independently. With the prize money, Rietveld plans to purchase a circuit board with a chip, for use in his lessons on Computer architecture. Besides Rietveld, chemist Sylvestre Bonnet and biologist Michiel Hooykaas formed the top 3 of the jury.

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