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Royal honour for physicist Jan van Ruitenbeek

On 26 April Professor of Experimental Physics Jan van Ruitenbeek was made a Knight in the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands. He received the decoration from mayor Emile Jaensch in Oegstgeest, where he lives. Van Ruitenbeek received the honour for his services to physics.

Jan van Ruitenbeek has worked at Leiden University since 1987, as a lecturer, senior lecturer and professor of experimental physics. He has been of particular service to nanophysics.

Jan van Ruitenbeek with his proud wife
Jan van Ruitenbeek with his proud wife

Groundbreaking break junction technique

In the 1990s Van Ruitenbeek developed the groundbreaking break junction technique that for a long after yielded unique insights into electrical conductivity through extremely small objects, such as molecules. Scientists around the world set to work with the technique, which was spectacular in its simplicity. The publication about it, with two colleagues, has had an unprecedented 1,300 citations. Van Ruitenbeek is one of the leading researchers in mesoscopic physics and nanophysics in quantum transport.

Chair of Physical Society

In the Netherlands Van Ruitenbeek made an impact as chair of the Netherlands Physical Society (NNV), an organisation that serves the interests of physics in secondary and higher education, and in physics research in the Netherlands. As chair, Van Ruitenbeek was one of the figureheads of Dutch physics, and his fame reached way beyond the Dutch border. Nobel Prize winner Peter Higgs expressed his admiration for Van Ruitenbeek in a handwritten letter. 

Van Ruitenbeek is the current chair of the Econophysics Foundation that he co-founded. Funds from this foundation go towards the Econophysics research programme at the Leiden Institute of Physics (LION). This has also led to a unique course in which theories and methods from physics are applied to issues in economics. 

Making the complex simple

Van Ruitenbeekā€™s PhD candidates praise his ability to reduce a complex phenomenon to a simple experiment that reveals the fundamental laws of physics. He also encourages them to do board work, at home and abroad, in order to be of service to the discipline of physics.


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