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Royal decoration for Petra Rudolf

26 April 2013
Petra Rudolf

On Friday 26 April 2013 Prof. P. Rudolf will receive a royal decoration. She will be appointed Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau.

The Mayor of Groningen, Dr J.P. Rehwinkel, will present the decoration to Prof. Rudolf at 9.30 a.m. in the City Hall at the Grote Markt in Groningen.

Prof. P. Rudolf

Prof. P. (Petra) Rudolf (Munich, 1957) has been Professor of Experimental Solid State Physics at the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials of the University of Groningen since March 2003. She is head of the Surfaces and Thin Films group.

Rudolf’s research focuses on special forms of carbon and their interaction with metals, in addition to her spectacular work with electronics and machines on molecular scale. Rudolf and her research group were one of the winners of the Descartes Prize – the most important European Union research prize – for their contribution to the SynNanoMotor consortium, a collaborative partnership of researchers from countries including France, Italy and Scotland. Together the research teams built one of the world’s first synthetic nanomachines (a millionth of a millimetre in size) and a synthetic molecular motor that is powerful enough to transport a miniscule droplet of liquid slightly more than one millimetre, even uphill on a 12-degree slope. The principle they discovered has many potential applications. For example, molecular motor systems can be used to pump extremely small amounts of liquid through the tubes of extremely tiny analysis equipment. There is great interest from the healthcare sector in particular, for applications such as local treatment of tumour cells. Rudolf is the first female physicist in the Netherlands to be elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, on the basis of her excellent research. This is an honour that is bestowed upon only the most eminent physicists.

In addition to all this, Rudolf holds many administrative positions. She has been chairperson of the Board of the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, which her efforts helped to have recognized several times as a top research school during this period, and she is a member of the University’s Committee for Academic Practice. She is also a member of the Governing Board of FOM (the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter) which, together with the NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), is the main funding body for physics in the Netherlands. Professor Rudolf has also chaired and been a member of many national and international juries and panels for awarding science grants.

She is recognized worldwide not only as a prolific scholar who produces leading and original research, but certainly also for her tireless efforts to promote women in the field of physics. She is the chair of FOm/f (a network for female physicists), and in that capacity she devotes herself with great enthusiasm and commitment to encouraging women to take up careers in physics and to retaining talented female physicists. Among other things, the FOm/f committee awards the Minerva Prize every two years for the best scientific publication by a female physicist in the Netherlands. Whenever she is invited to give a science lecture, Rudolf also offers to give an additional lecture on ‘Women in Physics - Why So Few?’ or ‘Women in Physics from the Middle Ages to the End of the 19th Century’. She has been involved in courses for female PhD students and in the NIMF, the network for women who work or study in computer science, mathematics, physics or closely related fields. She also organizes a monthly lunch for all the female physicists at the University of Groningen. She has become the source of support – informally, or formally as a mentor – for almost all young female scientists she works with. She also succeeded in convincing the University of Groningen of the need to set up a special childcare programme geared to ad-hoc situations (a sick child, parents needing to travel to conferences or take part in international projects) that makes it much easier for women to travel in order to further their career and remain competitive.

Rudolf’s efforts to bring physics to a wider audience, in particular school pupils, are equally wide-ranging. She is a member of the board of the Royal Physics Society Groningen (Koninklijk Natuurkundig Genootschap Groningen), the aim of which is to interest a wide audience in the natural sciences by organizing lectures and other instructive meetings, and promote the publication of work on subjects in the natural sciences for the benefit of society. Since 2008 she has been the chairperson of the National Physics Olympiad Foundation (Stichting Nationale Natuurkunde Olympiade), which is responsible for organizing the annual National Physics Olympiad for schools in the Netherlands, and for selecting, training and sending Dutch participants to compete in the International Physics Olympiad. Each year, one national and three regional Technology Tournaments are held for thousands of primary school pupils. This originated from the activities that were held in the Year of Physics. Rudolf has been a committed member of the jury since the introduction of the regional tournaments. In her view, being a member of a jury is not only a matter of judging, it is also a way of encouraging students to pursue their interest in the natural sciences.

Petra Rudolf will be appointed Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau.

Note for the editor

Further information can be obtained via the Communication Office of the University of Groningen, tel. +31 (0)50363 4444, e-mail: communicatie

Last modified:06 September 2021 1.41 p.m.
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