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Tazuko van Berkel receives Ammodo Science Award

University lecturer Tazuko van Berkel is one of this year's laureates of the Ammodo Science Award. The award includes a sum of 350,000 euros that she can use as she wishes to explore new avenues in basic scientific research.

Van Berkel was nominated by Ineke Sluiter (UL), Nadine Akkerman (UL), Hester Bijl (UL), Gerry Wakker (RUG) and Mirjam van Praag (VU). 'I am impressed by the work the people who recommended me put into the nomination,' she says. 'In that respect, the nomination itself was already an incredible recognition and token of appreciation. In the future, I would like to follow their example: this kind of academic mentorship can really make a difference.'

Core of human existence

Van Berkel’s research is concerned with the self-image, humanity and worldview of the Ancient Greeks, often in relation to economics. For instance, how did the Greeks think about friendship and how did that change with the rise of the money economy? And is it true that the Greeks had an economy but no systematic economic theory? 'In my humble opinion, these are topics that go to the heart of human existence,' she explains. 'That makes my research fundamental, also because the main goal is knowledge and understanding itself. We do it primarily to know and understand more.'

First the money, then the plan

How the Ammodo grant will benefit her fundamental research, Van Berkel does not yet know exactly. 'The great thing about the Ammodo Foundation is that the laureates can decide for themselves what kind of research project they want to spend the prize money on and that you can think about it calmly. With a grant, you first make a plan and then, if you’re very lucky, you get funding. Here, it's the other way round: you still need a lot of luck, but the plan comes after the award.'

Van Berkel has a year to decide, in consultation with Ammodo and her institute, exactly what she will spend the money on. Until then, she has a number of plans she’s considering: 'I do have a few ideas: a new type of digital fragment edition that will help us understand better how philosophical soundbites went viral in antiquity; a project on ecocritical and ecological approaches to ancient Greek economic thought; a book describing a cultural history of numbers in Ancient Greece. Maybe it will be one of these three ideas, or it might also be something completely different.'

The Ammodo Science Award is presented to eight laureates every two years. Laureates receive €350,000 to spend as they see fit on a fundamental scientific research project.

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