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Peter Dedecker wins first prize in DSM Science & Technology Awards (North) 2009

Heerlen, NL, 10 Jun 2009 14:15 CEST

Belgian researcher Peter Dedecker has won the first prize in the DSM Science & Technology Awards (North) 2009.

An international judging committee, chaired by DSM Chief Technology Officer Dr Jos Put, selected Peter Dedecker, who received his doctorate from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) for his PhD thesis entitled ’The Photophysics of the Photoswitchable Fluorescent Protein Dronpa and its Applications in Diffraction-unlimited Fluorescence Microscopy’.

Dr Dedecker has succeeded in developing new high-resolution fluorescence microscopy imaging techniques which allow the resolution of details much smaller than the wavelength of light. For many decades this was considered to be impossible. The new techniques open up new possibilities for fluorescence microscopy with a diffraction-unlimited resolution, with comparatively 'gentle' experimental procedures suitable for biological samples. The research will provide the basis for fundamental insight into the way molecules work in a cell, thus enhancing our understanding of how viruses work or, for example, how drug delivery systems could be optimized. Peter Dedecker was presented with the award by Mr Jan Zuidam, deputy chairman of DSM’s Managing Board. As the winner of the first prize he will also receive a cash prize of EUR 10,000.

The winner of the second prize, Wim Noorduin of Radboud University Nijmegen (Netherlands), will receive a cash prize of EUR 5,000, and the winner of the third prize, Anne Köhnen of the University of Cologne (Germany), will receive a cash prize of EUR 2,500. The other six finalists will each receive a cash prize of EUR 1,250.

The DSM Science & Technology Awards (North) form part of the DSM Innovation Awards Program sponsored by the DSM Innovation Center. They are awarded for outstanding PhD research by doctoral students from the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern Germany.

This year’s awards presentation event was held at Bilderberg Kasteel Vaalsbroek in Vaals (Netherlands). Commenting on the PhD research carried out by the awards candidates, Mr Zuidam said: "The world’s attention is currently focused on the economic downturn. But we should not forget that even after we have overcome this recession, global challenges such as climate change, hunger and access to clean water will continue to demand our attention. Fundamental academic research and application oriented industrial research will both play an important and mutually complementary role in developing the advanced technological capabilities needed to address these challenges. So we really need pioneering research by talented and enthusiastic scientists like the winners of today’s awards."

Report of the judging committee

In its report about the winner of the first prize, the judging committee said it was impressed by the clever way in which Peter Dedecker had combined his new high-resolution fluorescence microscopy imaging techniques with the use of a new class of photoswitchable fluorophores, such as the fluorescent protein Dronpa. The combination of photoswitching and super resolution is expected to extend fluorescence microscopy to the nanoscale, which will have a profound impact in both life sciences and materials sciences. The judging committee commended the high quality of the work of all the other finalists.

The winners of the first, second and third prizes

Peter Dedecker conducted his research at the Department of Chemistry at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) under the supervision of Professor J. Hofkens.

Wim Noorduin conducted his research at the Department of Solid State Chemistry at Radboud University Nijmegen (Netherlands) under the supervision of Professor E. Vlieg.

Anne Köhnen conducted her research at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cologne (Germany) under the supervision of Professor K. Meerholz.

Other winners

The other six prize-winners are:

  • Wim De Malsche: Department of Chemical Engineering, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium)
  • Viktoria Gessner: Department of Chemistry, Technische Universität Dortmund (Germany)
  • Robert Kourist: Department of Biotechnology and Enzyme Catalysis, Greifswald University (Germany)
  • Edsger Smits: Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen (Netherlands)
  • Pieter Vandezande: Department of Microbial and Molecular Systems, Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium)
  • Ilja Voets: Laboratory of Physical Chemistry and Colloid Science, Wageningen University (Netherlands)

Two parallel awards schemes

The DSM Science & Technology Awards (North) were presented for the twenty-fourth time this year. Over the years the awards have gained a high reputation in academic circles and the contest is a major event on the international calendar. In 2007, DSM introduced a parallel contest with an identical awards scheme – DSM Science & Technology Awards (South) – for PhD researchers from universities in Switzerland, Austria, Northeastern France and Southern Germany.