Prof. dr. Bert van der Zwaan

Prof. dr. Bert van der Zwaan

UBD central

Since the beginning of his academic career in 1982 and after the successful completion of his dissertation, Bert van der Zwaan has worked at Utrecht University and Radboud University. He was also active in many positions outside the academic world. As a palaeontologist, (palaeo)ecology has his greatest research interest, although he already participated in interdisciplinary programmes early in his career.

This led to the start of an interdisciplinary research group that connected the (then) unknown field between Biology and Geology. Nowadays, Biogeology is a vibrant field of research in which considerable scientific progress has been made through collaboration between many disciplines.

Founder of the research group Biogeology

The research by Bert van der Zwaan and his group - consisting of geologists (palaeontologists and geochemists), microbiologists, ecologists, (palaeo)climatologists and modellers - is focused on the development of the modern global climate system and its co-developing ecosystems over the past 60 million years. The success of these and other research groups, recognized by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), led to the establishment of the Darwin Center for Biogeology. Bert van der Zwaan became the first scientific director of the centre.

Bert van der Zwaan has led a considerable number of scientific programmes. Some examples of these leadership positions are that he was the lead author of the government-funded Knowledge for Climate programme (€ 100 million), coordinated the Earth and Sustainability programme of Utrecht University and partners with over 1200 scientists, chaired the Utrecht Centre of Geosciences, and he was the coordinator and interim CEO of the EU/EIT Climate-Knowledge and Innovation Community. In the latter programme, he was the leader of a network of five of the best universities in Europe (Utrecht University, Imperial College, ETH, Paris Tech and Berlin/Potsdam PIK). The goal of the programme is to generate innovation by uniting research-education companies. Through this work, Bert van der Zwaan became very interested in the (regional) impact of universities on innovation.

In 2006, he became Dean of the Faculty of Geosciences. In 2011, Bert van der Zwaan was appointed as Rector Magnificus of Utrecht University. This was followed by an appointment as Chairman of the League of European Research Universities (LERU) in 2016. He fulfilled that role until his retirement as Rector Magnificus in 2018. Since his retirement, Bert van der Zwaan primarily occupies himself with sustainability issues, the developments within international higher education, including leadership issues, and advising the Dutch government as the chair of various advisory committees.