Three candidates were shortlisted for the KNCV Van Arkel Prize over calendar years 2018 and 2019: Dr. Pepijn Moerman (nominated by Prof. Willem Kegel, UU), Dr. Alessandro Ianiro (nominated by Prof. Remco Tuinier and Dr. Catarina Esteves, TU/e), and Dr. Jessi van der Hoeven (nominated by Prof. Alfons van Blaaderen, UU). All three candidates for the prize performed excellent scientific research, wrote a finely crafted PhD thesis, and published their work in prestigious academic journals. All three candidates created novel soft matter in the chemical laboratory, investigated its physical properties, and developed deep insight into structure-function relationships. All three candidates are praiseworthy, but nevertheless, one stood out: Dr. Jessi van der Hoeven.
As a master’s student, Dr. Van der Hoeven obtained a personal PhD grant from the Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science. She had written an interdisciplinary research proposal and submitted it in competition with other students. She chose to bridge the disciplines of the two professors who became her PhD supervisors: Alfons van Blaaderen—professor in Soft Condensed Matter at the Physics department—and Petra de Jongh—professor in Catalysis and Energy Materials at the Chemistry department.
The thesis of Van der Hoeven is entitled: “Gold based Nanorods: Tuning the Structure for Catalysis and Sensing”. It starts with chemical synthesis of three types of well-defined metallic nanorods: first, nanorods of only one metal, second, nanorods with two separate metals, and third, nanorods that are alloys. These rods are then applied in heterogeneous catalysis, and the catalytic activity and selectivity are related to the rods’ composition and structure, as revealed by analyzing them at the atomic level. Finally, novel spherical assemblies of the rods are prepared via an emulsion method. The thus generated particles have many plasmonic hot spots, making them eminently suitable for surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy.
Dr. Jessi van der Hoeven is awarded the prize thanks to the exceptional quality, originality, focus, range, and depth of her work. Congratulations to her, to her supervisors, and to her loved ones. May she inspire many young scientists to try to emulate her achievements!