During the Summer Ceremony on Friday 5 July 2019, the winner of the Wierenga-Rengerink dissertation prize was announced. The Wierenga-Rengerink Prize for the PhD student with the best dissertation in 2018 has been awarded to dr. Michael M. Lerch for his thesis Donor-Accepted Stenhouse Adducts. During the summer ceremony, Lerch received a prize of €7,500 to spend on his continued academic development.
Michael Lerch studied Interdisciplinary Sciences at ETH Zurich focusing on organic synthesis and cellular biology. Further, he was a visiting student researcher at the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology. Subsequently he has come to Groningen and completed his thesis Donor-Accepted Stenhouse Adducts under the supervision of Professors Ben Feringa and Wesley Browne (at the Stratingh Insitute for Chemistry).
His PhD thesis gives a better understanding of and makes use of a novel class of molecules: the so-called DASA’s (Donor−Acceptor Stenhouse Adducts.) These molecules function as molecular switches, their structure changes upon illumination. Molecular photo-switches have been a popular topic of research the last few decades, enabling applications in fields ranging from material sciences, supra-molecular chemistry, molecular machines, molecular logical units, switchable catalysis, chemical biology to biomedical sciences. The thesis provides essential fundamental understanding of DASA-structure-property relationships.
The thesis has a clear structure and presents detailed conclusions for each chapter. The results are presented in a convincing manner that is supported by the use of high-quality illustrations. Although the work is rich in detail, it is presented in such a way that the relevance and the implications are clear to non-experts.
The Wierenga-Rengerink prize has been awarded since 2015 to the PhD student who wrote the best RUG dissertation in that year. At the request of the Rector Magnificus, deans of all faculties have been invited to nominate dissertations assessed with Cum Laude. A jury consisting of Elmer Sterken and the former Rectors Bleumink, Bosscher, and Zwarts evaluated five nominations this year. Lerch's dissertation stood head and shoulders above it.
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