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Starting the new year together: these are the winners of faculty awards

A beautiful speech by vice-dean Bart de Smit, a mini-lecture on exoplanets and the presentation of three faculty awards. That's how we started the new year at the faculty. Together with colleagues and students, we raised our glasses to a new year full of great collaborations, science and education.

With our dean Jasper Knoester abroad, vice-dean Bart de Smit takes the floor for the New Year speech. Before starting the speech, he pays a short tribute to Harold Linnarz. Our professor of astronomy and director of education unexpectedly passed away on 31 December.

'I have been in my role as vice-dean for five years now,' says De Smit. 'And I think the way we work together in the faculty is better than ever. Although there are serious challenges ahead, we are well equipped to face them together.' One milestone he mentions is the strategic plan for the faculty that was finalised this year. 'I would like to elaborate on some of the projects we have started working on in recent times: interdisciplinarity and impact, social safety and, of course, the new building that will open this year.'

Inspiring Tuesday Talks on exoplanets

After De Smit's inspiring talk, it is time for a 'Tuesday Talks: Science Insights' by Yamila Miguel. This lecture series has revived a much-loved faculty tradition. Michel Mandjes got to kick off in December and today it was Miguel's turn.

The astronomer talks about her research on rocky exoplanets with the James Webb telescope in a fun and accessible way. The audience is enthusiastic and there are a lot of questions about the exoplanet. A fun discussion even ensues about the naming of the exoplanet: is it named after a Dutch person?

Creativity and dedication rewarded: Yamila Miguel is Teacher of the Year 2023

As Miguel leaves the stage, the tension in the audience begins to rise visibly. Everyone is curious to see the winners of the annual faculty awards. First, assessor Nalani Verwoord and Mark Tadema, director of study association Chemical Dispute Leiden, enter the stage for the presentation of the award for Lecturer of the Year 2023. From the thirteen nominations from the various study programme committees, the jury selected three lecturers with a chance of winning the title: Frans Rodenburg, Rudy van Vliet and the previously mentioned Yamila Miguel. All three nominees receive high praise for their work as teachers. Nalani further stressed that teaching is not a competition, but it is nice to reward good teaching.

Find all nominees for the Teacher of the Year Award here

Teacher of the Year 2023

The eventual winner stands out for creativity, dedication, a broad view outside one's own research field and commitment to state-of-the-art research. Tadema and Verwoord: 'This lecturer developed a new course for a relatively new field for which not even a standard book was available yet. Apart from her own course, the winner is also involved in admission committees for the master's programme and chairs the welfare committee. And that is why the jury chooses Yamila Miguel as Lecturer of the Year 2023.' Miguel gets to take the stage for the second time this afternoon takes the flowers and accompanying check with a broad smile.

Digital breakthrough: converting a mathematical theorem to computer language

Professor of Mathematics Ronald van Luijk gets to highlight the best undergraduate student of the year. As a member of the jury, he and a committee had the difficult task of choosing the winner of the Leiden Science Young Talent Award from seven nominations. Dominique Lawson, Romme van der Kemp, Willemijn van der Heijden and Darcy Reynolds, were selected as contenders. 'It was an incredibly difficult choice,' said Van Luijk. 'All these students are immensely talented and two of the nominees even graduated summa cum laude with averages above 9.'

Take a look at all the other nominees for the Leiden Science Young Talent Award here.

Leiden Science Young Talent Award

Partly for this reason, he also wants to give the runner-up an honourable mention. 'Darcy Reynolds has put in a fantastic performance that goes high above the level of an undergraduate. From her research, even a patent itself is emerging.' But computer science and mathematics student Dominique Lawson has also written a fantastic thesis and he ends up winning the award. During his graduate internship, he converted a mathematical theorem into computer language. 'This allows a computer to check whether the proof behind it is completely correct,' he explained earlier. This amazing achievement earns him the fine title of Leiden Science Young Talent 2023. 'We learned as much from him as we were able to teach him,' said his supervisor.

Grand honour for research into tiny nanoparticles

Who wrote the best dissertation of the year? That honour goes to environmental scientist Bregje Brinkman. She received the distinction cum laude for her dissertation on testing the safety of nanomaterials. Brinkman studied whether microbes protect us from nanoparticles, or whether they actually have a negative effect. Her supervisors especially praised the versatility of her research: from experiments in the lab to emergency modelling during the corona outbreak. 'In addition, Brinkman is independent, friendly and has already published a wonderful stack of papers.' A deserved winner.

Take a look at the other nominees of the C.J. Kok Jury Prize for the best dissertation here.

C.J. Kok Jury Award

To celebrate all these great awards and kick off the year together, there was a cosy drink afterwards. Students and staff exchanged stories over snacks and drinks. What a sparkling afternoon to start the new year together!

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