Science - May 16, 2018

Han Zuilhof appointed Fellow of Royal Society of Chemistry

Linda van der Nat

Professor Han Zuilhof, chair holder at the Organic Chemistry group, is the first Wageninger to be appointed Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, which he was for his ‘outstanding contribution to the advancement of the chemical sciences’.

© Sven Menschel

The professor is a ‘happy Wageninger’. Last Monday, he heard he had been recommended and subsequently appointed as Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). ‘It is great, and the recommendation was a complete surprise.’

The RSC is a learned society in the United Kingdom which aims to advance the chemical sciences. When one makes an outstanding contribution to this advancement or has distinguished oneself in the service of a chemical organisation, one is eligible for the fellowship.

For Zuilhof, the appointment is a form of recognition for the work carried out in his lab. ‘For twenty years, I have been leading a unique team, which currently consists of about fifty people. In this group, each person has their own talents, which are as diverse as they are great – apparently, it is my merit to have gathered these people into a team that has been able to beget results.’

One of the projects of Zuilhof’s group is the creation of organic layers that have the thickness of exactly one molecule and which are set on inorganic surfaces, the analysis of these layers and the development of their applications. Zuilhof’s team also works on a substance that perfectly fits on the pathogen causing cholera, which helps in the search for and development of an effective medicine against this disease. Zuilhof: ‘Many diseases cannot be measured in their initial phase, although we would like to be able to. One of our aims is to detect diseases earlier and with higher sensitivity.’

Apparently, it is my merit to have gathered these people into a team that has been able to beget results.
Han Zuilhof

The characteristic – and in his eyes typical for Wageningen – aspect of his team is that there is a huge drive to know everything down to the smallest details, Zuilhof says with some pride. ‘We want to know what happens exactly, not approximately. It might take a bit longer to get somewhere with that approach, but once you get there, the knowledge is as sound as it gets.’

Zuilhof is also the senior editor of the scientific journal Langmuir and distinguished perennial guest professor in China. He is the first Wageninger to be appointed Fellow. ‘Hans Lyklema was appointed Honorary Fellow a few years before he passed away, but I have been appointed as a “still active” chemist. That is amazing.’

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