Xander Tielens receives Spinoza prize
Xander Tielens, Professor of the Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Space, was presented with his Spinoza prize in the Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague on Friday 7 September.
Tielens examines the role of large molecules, PAK molecules in particular, and interstellar dust in the universe. His work combines astronomy with physics and chemistry.
As well as Tielens, three researchers from other universities also received a Spinoza prize, the Netherlands' highest award for scientific research, worth 2.5 million euro. Secretary of State for Education, Culture and Science, Halbe Zijlstra, presented the winners with their award. The winners also announced what they were planning to do with the prize money.
Tielens: 'I am planning to use the funds to investigate the evolution of PAK molecules in areas where stars and planets are formed. This evolution is influenced by UV rays from the new star and from the hot gas in the innermost regions. I also want to discover what their role is in the process of planet formation. Are the molecules passive observers or active participants? And, finally, I wans to find the answer to the question of whether PAK molecules and their subsidiaries contribute to the organic soup that makes up life. I am intending to have new observations made and to analyse and interpret the findings. But, above all, I want to carry out a number of experiments on the chemical processes to which PAKs can be exposed in space.'
When he received the news of this major award in June, Tielens confessed in the university newspaper Mare that he was hardly aware of the existence of the Spinoza prize: 'It was only once my children started to google it that I realised just how significant an award it is.'
In 2009, Tielens also received the prestigious Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC).
This is the third time that the Spinoza prize has gone to a scientist from the Leiden Observatory. Professors Marijn Franx and Ewine van Dishoeck were each awarded a Spinoza prize in 2010 and 2000 respectively. Leiden University has won by far the most Spinoza prizes: 16, with the University of Amsterdam (11) in second place.
Spinoza prize for Leiden astronomer Xander Tielens, news article 4 June 2012
- Fundamentals of Science is one of the research themes of Leiden University