FOM Valorisation Prize
FOM established the Valorisation Prize to encourage knowledge utilisation of physics research. The prize is awarded each year to a Dutch researcher (or research group) within the field of physics who has successfully managed to make the results from his or her own research useful for society. The 2016 prize goes to Ekkes Brück, professor in the fundamental aspects of materials and energy at Delft University of Technology. The selection committee recognises that besides the high scientific quality of his work, he also has a clear vision regarding the applicability of that work and manages to convey this vision to the industry.
"If you want your research to be appreciated by more than just your direct peers, then you must sell your ideas," says Brück, who does ground-breaking, fundamental research into magnetocaloric materials. "The funny thing is that I initially investigated the materials with a very different purpose, which was to find good electronic properties for efficient data storage. However, we found strange properties in a certain group of materials that proved to be highly suitable for use in a heat pump. That is how I ended up on the path of magnetocaloric materials."
The jury report praises the persistence of the Delft professor in realising applications for these materials, including revolutionary cooling technologies, efficient heat pumps, and the generation of electricity from low caloric heat. "The entire industrial chain is important if you want to use new materials in a better final product. I found that really interesting," says Brück. He appreciates that FOM rewards valorisation efforts in this manner: "Of course I am pleased that I have received the Valorisation Prize, but I also think the prize itself is special. You don't often see such appreciation for the use of science."
FOM Valorisation Chapter Prize
FOM established the Valorisation Chapter Prize, worth € 5,000, to encourage PhD students to devote a chapter of their thesis to the valorisation aspects of their research. This year, the prize goes to Dr. Slava Medvedev, who received his doctorate cum laude from the University of Twente on 4 November 2015. Under the supervision of professor Fred Bijkerk, he investigated reflecting multilayer optics for EUV radiation. In his valorisation chapter, Medvedev describes feasible solutions for the purification of EUV light. According to the selection committee, he scores very well for realistic ideas and effort and he also has an eye for less obvious applications, such as the importance of research into solar activity to gain a better understanding of the climate.
In line with his clear ideas about valorisation, Medvedev has worked at the interface of science and industry since his PhD graduation. "I was surprised by the prize, because I did not even know that I had been nominated," he says. "However, I personally have a clear preference for practical science. Possible applications are an important driving force in my desire to perform scientific research."
FOM Physics Thesis Award
In 2010, FOM established the annual FOM Physics Thesis Award to encourage high-quality scientific research by young researchers. Winner Dr Julija Bagdonaitė wrote the best physics thesis of the year and is therefore awarded the prize worth 10,000 euros. Bagdonaitė received her doctorate cum laude from the VU University Amsterdam on 7 April 2015. Her supervisors were professor Wim Ubachs and professor Lex Kaper. She too was surprised by the prize. "I knew nothing about my nomination," says Bagdonaitė. "The way my supervisor always takes an extra step for his projects is fantastic."
For her thesis entitled 'Search for a variation of the proton-electron mass ratio from molecular hydrogen and methanol', Bagdonaitė used various techniques to investigate how constant the proton-electron mass ratio in the universe is. She demonstrated that this fundamental physical constant has already been constant for billions of years and that it does not vary in gravitational fields either. The selection committee praises the originality of the research in which Bagdonaitė combines a variety of techniques and concepts from astrophysics, fundamental physics and molecular physics. With the exception of the introductory chapter, all chapters are independent scientific articles, one of which was published in Science and three in Physical Review Letters.
Despite that high scientific quality, Bagdonaitė has left scientific research to work in the technology industry of Silicon Valley. She is currently working as a data analyst at Facebook. "I use applied machine learning to solve big data problems," she says. "In the technology sector, there is a lot of appreciation for people with a scientific background. Even if I don't return to science in the future, I hope that I will nevertheless be able to contribute to expanding our knowledge via innovations in this sector."