5 November 2019

Utrecht researchers win first KNAW Early Career Awards

Hydrologist Niko Wanders and information scientist Dong Nguyen have been awarded the Early Career Award of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). This award is given to researchers at the start of their career who have the potential to develop innovative and original research ideas in greater depth. The KNAW Early Career Awards were announced for the first time this year.

Dong Nguyen

Dong Nguyen carries out research at the interface between automatic language processing and computational social sciences. Her research involves looking at how computers can use neural algorithms to learn about the social aspects of language use. Together with a political scientist, she is working on a long-term project about fake news in online news items.

Dong Nguyen
Dong Nguyen

Even before she had obtained her doctorate, Nguyen was awarded the prestigious Alan Turing Fellowship, allowing her to conduct independent research for a period of three to five years. She used this grant to carry out over two years of research at the Alan Turing Institute, the British national institute for data science and artificial intelligence, and was also affiliated with the University of Edinburgh.

Nguyen's research has already featured in the media on various occasions, including in the New York Times, in Dutch newspapers De Volkskrant and NRC and on Radio 538

Niko Wanders

Niko Wanders researches forecasts of large-scale floods and droughts. He looks at the interaction between extreme drought or precipitation, climate change and the way people use water. He was a fixture in the press during 2018's unusually dry summer, making him the 'face' of scientific explanations for the drought.

Dr. ir. Niko Wanders
Niko Wanders

Beyond his research, Wanders has another important role in the scientific community. He is the main initiator and organiser of the Dutch Drought Network, which provides citizens with information on drought research and provides advice on policy measures. Furthermore, Wanders is an advisor to the Delta Commissioner on ways to ensure that the Netherlands is future-proof against the inevitable consequences of climate change. 

Wanders is also active at the international level. For example, he used the Rubicon grant to spend two years working as a postgraduate at Princeton University, where he is still a visiting researcher. Wanders is highly sought after for media appearances and often seeks them out himself as well. In 2018, he was awarded the UU Publi Prize for his impressive media appearances and his willingness to engage with the press.

In this video, Niko Wanders explains how drought works - and what we can do about it

Early Career Awards

Each year, the KNAW awards a maximum of twelve Early Career Awards spread across four domains, including Natural and Engineering Sciences. Winners receive a monetary prize of 15,000 euros and a work of art. The awards ceremony will take place in early 2020 at a festive event organised by the KNAW.