Prestigious KNAW Academy Professor Prize for prof. dr. Dorret Boomsma

Date published: April 24th, 2014

Prestigious KNAW Academy Professor Prize for prof. dr. Dorret Boomsma

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) has just announced that one of the two the prestigious Academy Professor Prizes will be awarded to EMGO+ researcher prof. dr. Dorret Boomsma (VU FPP Biological Psychology). The other Prize is for prof. dr. Egbert Meijer (TU/e, Organic Chemistry). Both scientists receive EUR 1 million to spend on a scientific goal of their own choice.

Outstanding work on the Netherlands Twin Registry

Prof. dr. D.I. Boomsma (56) is widely acclaimed for her outstanding work on the Netherlands Twin Registry (NTR) – a world leading database of over 75,000 twins and family members in The Netherlands that she set up in 1987. Twin studies provide a way to understand how genotype affects an observable characteristic. Identical twins carry the same alleles for 100% of their genes whereas fraternal twins will carry different alleles at 50% of the genes for which their parents had different genotypes. If some characteristic that is observed in one identical twin is always observed in the other one, but this does not hold for fraternal twins, then one can conclude that heredity plays an important role in causing the condition. Her research has primarily focused on better understanding the influence of heredity on various physical and mental diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, pediatric bipolar disorder, and depression. This work has been reported in over 450 published papers and one book and has led to many awards for Boomsma (e.g. the NWO Spinoza Prize (2001), the International Twin Society James Shield Award (2002), the Dr. Hendrik Muller Prize for Behavioural and Social Sciences (2009), the KNAW Merian Prize (2011, elected as Member Academia Europaea (2012), and the BGA Dobzhansky Award for lifetime achievement in Behavior Genetics (2013)).

Impressive collection of data and biological material

Boomsma has been a pioneer in collecting a broad spectrum of data (e.g. medical histories, IQ tests, MRI scans) and biological material (e.g. DNA and RNA samples, blood and urine samples) from thousands of twins and analyzing them to determine the role of genetics in characteristics such as adult height, brain volume, intelligence, migraine headaches, anxiety, drug addiction, and love of coffee. Her results span a wide range of behavioral characteristics, including discovery of the surprisingly large genetic component to feelings of loneliness, the fact that first borns have higher IQs than their younger siblings, and the increased influence of genetics on body weight as children grow older.

Lifetime achievement award

The Academy confers two separate prizes a year, each worth EUR 1 million. One prize is awarded to a researcher in the social sciences or humanities, and the other to a researcher in the natural, technical or life sciences. The Prize honors the oeuvre of outstanding researchers between 54 and 59 years of age for exceptional achievement throughout the course of their careers. Only researchers who work as a professor at a Dutch university are eligible for the Prize. The Prize is intended as a lifetime achievement award.

Nominations and awards ceremony

Nominations are accepted from the vice-chancellors of Dutch universities, the board of the Dutch Network of Women Professors, the council of directors of the Academy’s research institutes, and the General Director of the NWO. Up to 1 October 2013, each of the above individuals/bodies could nominate two candidates, one in the humanities or social sciences and the other in the natural, technical or life sciences. An international jury assesses the nominations. The awards ceremony will take place on June 26 2014, at the Trippenhuis in Amsterdam.

More info about the Prize on the KNAW website >>

More info about the Netherlands Twin Registry >>



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