12 September 2018

For scientific excellence and social impact

Beatrice de Graaf and Anna Akhmanova presented with the highest distinction in Dutch science

Alle laureaten van de Spinoza- en Stevinpremies 2018
The laureates of the festive presentation of the Spinoza and Stevin Prices by minister Ingrid van Engelshoven in Den Haag

Minister of Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven today presented Utrecht University cell biologist Anna Akhmanova and historian Beatrice de Graaf with the highest distinctions awarded in Dutch science. Akhmanova was presented with an NWO Spinoza Prize, and De Graaf received an NWO Stevin Prize. The prizes include a cash award of 2.5 million euros, which they can spend on scientific research and activities related to knowledge utilisation.

Both the Spinoza Prize and the Stevin Prize are awarded in recognition of the quality of the researcher. The emphasis of the Spinoza Prize lies on the researcher’s scientific achievements and fundamental research, while the Stevin Prize honours the researcher’s impact on society. NWO President Stan Gielen: “NWO stands for scientific excellence and social impact. In that light, curiosity-driven research and applied research both deserve equal recognition.”

Anna Akhmanova

Prof. Anna Akhmanova met het beeldje van de Spinozapremie
Prof. Anna Akhmanova with the Spinoza Prize

Prof. Anna Akhmanova (1967), Professor of Cellular Dynamics at Utrecht University, is one of the world’s leading experts in the field of the cell biology of the cytoskeleton. Akhmanova has made a number of ground-breaking discoveries that reveal exactly what the cytoskeleton’s function is and which mechanisms underlie these functions. Knowledge of how healthy cells function helps us to understand what goes wrong at the cellular level in diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and ALS.

The cytoskeleton resembles structures that people can make, such as buildings or networks of roads. But the cell doesn’t have a masterplan, as we do. So how does the cell do it? How does it ensure that the right molecule links up in exactly the right way?
Prof. Anna Akhmanova met het beeldje van de Spinozapremie
Prof. Beatrice de Graaf met het beeldje van de Stevinpremie
Prof. Beatrice de Graaf with the Stevin Prize

Prof. Beatrice de Graaf (1976) is Professor of History of International Relations & Global Governance at Utrecht University. She is considered a scientist who knows how to bring together science, politics, practice and society.

De Graaf likes to look beyond the confines of her discipline in the realisation that security and terror harbour strong psychological and social components. She is in high demand as a terrorism expert and advises various public and private organisations in the Netherlands and abroad.

I would like to use the prize to pursue two tracks that are both close to my heart. The first concerns ‘deep history’, which exposes the cart tracks under the asphalt of the present in terms of security, conflict and violence. The second is the fast track of direct application in schools, in talks with children, and in providing policymakers with advice and frameworks for action in the field of terrorism and radicalisation.
Prof. Beatrice de Graaf met het beeldje van de Stevinpremie