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About us Profile Prizes and awards NWO Spinoza Prize

Spinoza Prize

The NWO Spinoza Prize is one of the highest academic awards in the Netherlands. It is bestowed annually on in total four researchers who, in international terms, have reached the very top.

Pauline Kleingeld - Second UG-philosopher to win Spinoza Prize

Pauline Kleingeld (photo: Reyer Boxem)
Pauline Kleingeld (photo: Reyer Boxem)

Pauline Kleingeld (1962) is professor of Ethics and its history. In her younger years, Pauline Kleingeld was curious about the backgrounds of the many religious communities in her village. Now she is one of the world's foremost researchers of Kant's philosophy. She has published on topics such as the freedom of the will, the role of emotions, and cosmopolitanism in the past and present. Kleingeld has been able to build an important bridge between developments in the behavioural sciences and in ethics.
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Amina Helmi - Star of the Milky Way

Spinoza newspaper of the UG
Spinoza newspaper of the UG

Amina Helmi (1970) is Professor of Dynamics, Structure and Formation of the Milky Way. Helmi is searching for separate galaxies (‘fossils’) and is using the information from star fossils to reconstruct the formation of the Milky Way.She has been awarded the Spinoza Prize 2019, which is a provisional jewel in the crown of a highly successful academic career that has generated much global attention. In 2018, Helmi published an article in Nature proving that the Milky Way as we know it today had once merged with another large galaxy. Read more »

Take a look at the Spinoza newspaper of the UG with Amina Helmi.

Bart van Wees - Fascination for electrons

Bart van Wees, Professor of Physics of Nanodevices at the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials of the University of Groningen, is one of the four recipients of NWO Spinoza Prize 2016, the highest distinction in Dutch academia. His research stems from his curiosity about the behaviour of electrons inside new materials, but he has always had at least half an eye on practical applications.  Read more »

Lodi Nauta - First philosopher to receive Spinoza Prize

Professor Lodi Nauta is the first philosopher to receive the Spinoza Prize since its introduction in 1996, another reason to celebrate for the 2016 laureate. ‘I consider this to be not merely the recognition of my own work, but also of the importance of philosophy and its history.‘ Read more »

Cisca Wijmenga - Gluten and genes

Cisca Wijmenga is professor of Human Genetics at the University of Groningen’s Faculty of Medicine and the University Medical Center Groningen. She is one of the winners of the Spinoza Prize 2015. She received this prestigious research award mainly for her work on unravelling the genetic background to gluten intolerance (coeliac disease). Read more »

Theunis Piersma - Flexibility in flight

Theunis Piersma (1958) is professor in the Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences (GELIFES) of the University of Groningen. He was awarded the Spinoza Prize 2014 for his research in migratory birds. Piersma’s ambition is to first interpret migratory behaviour in terms of the interaction between hereditary information and contextual information (food availability, natural enemies and routines learned from parents and other birds of the same species). Read more »

Spinoza and Stevin Prizes and the UG

The Spinoza Prize was introduced by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, a national organization that funds and stimulates academic research in the Netherlands. As such, it invests hundreds of millions of euros in academic research each year in the form of indirect government funding. With the Spinoza Prize, NWO aims to increase the visibility of excellent academics.
A maximum of four prizes are awarded annually. The winning academics receive EUR 2.5 million for research, and are given complete freedom to choose their research subject and involve other, mostly young, researchers. Thus, the prize is part recognition for accomplished researchers and part stimulus to conduct further research.

Last year, UG Professor of Astronomy Amina Helmi was awarded the Spinoza Prize. The first Groningen researcher to be awarded the prize was George Sawatzky (Professor of Physics), in 1996. Four years later, Dirkje Postma (Professor of the Pathophysiology of Respiration) followed in his footsteps and another four years later, Ben Feringa (Professor of Organic Chemistry) received the coveted award. It then stayed quiet for a while, until the UG stepped back into the spotlight in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2014, Professor of Migratory Bird Ecology, Theunis Piersma, won the Spinoza Prize, followed by Professor of Human Genetics and current Rector, Cisca Wijmenga, in 2015. In 2016, Professor of the History of Philosophy, Lodi Nauta, and Professor of Technical Physics, Bart van Wees, celebrated winning their Spinoza Prizes together.

The Stevin Prize has only been awarded since 2018: Linda Steg is the first UG recipient.

Baruch Spinoza

The prize is named after Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677). Spinoza was an internationally renowned Dutch scientist and a clear example of freedom in research.

Last modified:22 June 2020 3.35 p.m.
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