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5 July 2017

Nathalie Katsonis wins KNCV Gold Medal

Prof. dr. Nathalie Katsonis has been awarded the KNCV (Royal Dutch Chemical Society) Gold Medal 2017.

“Katsonis is an outstanding chemist with a clear vision in a challenging field of expertise”, says Hermen Overkleeft, chairman of the Gold Medal Committee. The medal - the most prestigious Dutch recognition for excellent chemical talent – will officially be awarded on December 6 during the chemical conference CHAINS in Veldhoven.

Nathalie Katsonis is an Associate Professor in chemistry at the University of Twente (MESA+), specialized in Bio-inspired and Smart Materials. Katsonis, who is born in Austria and is French and Greek, is a leading researcher in the field of molecular switches and molecular motors. After her PhD at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, she accepted a postdoctoral position at the University of Groningen under the supervision of Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa. After research positions in Leuven and Toulouse, the University of Twente invited Katsonis to set up her own research group in 2011. She received multiple prestigious grants, such as the Veni- and Vidi-grant, an ERC Starting Grant and an Aspasia Grant. Since the beginning of her career she has published 39 articles, of which several were featured in prestigious journals such as Nature, Nature Chemistry, Nature Communications and Angewandte Chemie.

Inspired by nature

The design of the molecular machines of Katsonis is inspired on biological processes, especially on mechanisms that originate from plants. For instance, her team works on materials that simulate the mechanical movements of plants. A distinctive example of her talent is her recent discovery of photo-sensitive molecular switches that – once embedded in liquid crystals and treated with light - gradually put more and more pressure on the system that the whole eventually bursts open. The resemblance with the way some seeds burst open is striking, but not coincidental: it is one of the natural processes that inspire Katsonis in her work.

Involved scientist

Next to her research, Katsonis is a very committed scientist that actively contributes to the development of research in the natural sciences in the Netherlands. She is active in the KNAW Jonge Academy and the ‘Raad voor Natuur- en Scheikunde’ (Counsel for Physics and Chemistry). In 2016 she won the prestigious Athena-award for excellent women in chemistry. Katsonis is also involved in good communication to the public, particularly about nanotechnology, to enhance the public support and enthusiasm for scientific research. “Nathalie is a beacon in chemistry, now and in the future”, says chair of the Gold Medal Committee Overkleeft.

The KNCV Gold Medal

The KNCV Gold Medal is awarded annually to researchers who have distinguished themselves in one field of the chemical sciences. For this award only researchers younger than 40 are considered  whom are expected to be dominant contributors in their areas of expertise. As of 1963 Dutch Chemical talent is recognized and honoured with the KNCV Gold Medal.

The official ceremony of this prestigious price takes place during CHAINS (CHemistry As INnovating Science,) a three day conference – from December 5 until December 7 - with an industrial and scientific scope.