The KNCV-Backer Prize is awarded annually to the best PhD thesis in the field of organic chemistry that was defended in The Netherlands. The Committee consisted of Tati Fernández-Ibáñez (Chair), Marthe Walvoort and Gert De Cremer; experts in a wide range of disciplines within the organic chemistry field.
In total, 29 theses were submitted this year. They were judged based on the scientific quality, the relevance of the research, the clarity and structure of the thesis and their contributions to the field of organic chemistry. The jury was impressed with the quality of the candidates. After some deliberations, the jury has decided to award the 2018 KNCV Backer prize to Michael M. Lerch for his PhD-thesis titled ‘DASA Donor-Acceptor Stenhouse Adducts’. The study was conducted at the University of Groningen under the guidance of Prof. Ben L. Feringa, Prof. Wesley. R. Browne and Dr. Wiktor C. Szyma n ski.
The thesis by Michael M. Lerch deals with the study of an emerging class of photoswitches, namely donor-acceptor Stenhouse adducts (DASAs). The study was done in a comprehensive manner, starting with the combination of azobenzene and DASA photoswitches into a single structure, in which both switches can be controlled in an orthogonal manner, to a thoroug study into the mechanism of DASA photoswitches that consists of a Z-E double bond isomeration, proton transfer and conrotatory electrocyclic rearrangement. The results presented in this thesis provide a fundamental understanding of DASA structure-property relationships, providing the pillars for future improvements of DASA switch that will have important applications in a wide range of disciplines.
Besides the outstanding quality of the research, the layout of the thesis and the apparent simplicity and clarity of the text convinced the jury to declare this thesis as the winner of the 2018 KNCV-Backer prize.
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