Considerans Gouden medaille 2019
Ilja has a unique profile in the area of soft matter and colloid chemistry. Particularly eye-catching is her work on so-called antifreeze proteins, which suppress the crystallization of water depending on their structure and function. This work has provided fundamental insights into the roles of these intriguing proteins in biological systems and has led to a broad range of application-oriented developments. Together with her extensive and dedicated expertise in X-ray techniques, this makes Ilja a heavily sought collaboration partner, and she has active collaborations across many disciplines.
After her cum laude master’s diploma and cum laude PhD, at Wageningen University, obtained in the group of Martien Cohen-Stuart in 2008, Ilja moved to the Aldolphe Merkle Institute, at de Université de Fribourg, Zwitserland. In 2011, she started as an independent scientist at the Eindhoven University of Technology, where she was promoted to full professor in 2018. Her research group Self-organizing Soft Matter is embedded in the department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry and the Institute for Complex Molecular Systems.
Ilja’s scientific development displays a true creativity, in which concepts from one field are applied in others, by which new cross-connections and developments become possible. Her creativity is also visible in her experimental approaches: she has a very strong expertise on multiple experimental techniques that she combines in creative ways resulting in previously unexplored new insights and theoretical understanding of physical concepts. This is also expressed in her project portfolio: besides a range of personal grants, such as Rubicon, Marie Curie, Vidi and ERC starting grant, there is a long list of EU projects and collaborations with industry.
Ilja has a pronounced national and international visibility, and she is seen as an international top player in her field. She is active in various international committees and conference organizations, including the IUPAC. Her national engagement is shown for example in her chairmanship of the NWO committee Chemistry of Materials. She has won various awards and prizes, including the Unilever Research prize, the DSM award, the Otto Kratky award, and the IUPAC award.
Besides all these scientific achievements, Ilja is a strong ambassador of chemistry in general. She is an involved organizer and panelist of many outreach and educational activities as well as science festivals, and writes pieces in a variety of magazines. And not to forget her editorship of the magazine ‘Superhero Science and Technology’!
In short, Ilja is a unique scientist with a very comprehensive and diverse resume. A truly well-deserved winner of the KNCV Gold Medal!
Chair of the KNCV Gold Medal 2019 Committee