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Annual report 2010

The year 2010 was quite eventful for the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences. Relocation to the Science Park Amsterdam was a major milestone, as was the review of the HIMS research program by a panel of international experts. Shortly thereafter the directorship of HIMS changed. Even with all these changes HIMS staff was able to make 2010 a succesful year. Scientific output was high, both in quality and quantity, and a large number of new research projects were established.

Science Park 904, the new home of HIMS. Photograph: Pieter Kers

After long preparations HIMS moved mid 2010 from the 'Roeterseiland' location (downtown Amsterdam) to the Science Park Amsterdam in the Watergraafsmeer (east of the city center). Although the move was not entirely uneventful, it did go well thanks to the leadership of Professor Ad Oskam. The new state-of-the-art laboratories will enable HIMS to continue performing excellent molecular research in the decades to come.

Scientific Program Review

In september 2010 a panel of international experts evaluated the HIMS scientific program. Although the formal outcome was not communicated in 2010 it became clear that the results were very good.

On the occasion of the assessment of research quality a bibliometric analysis was performed over the period 1999-2008. All five HIMS research themes obtained individual scores well above the international standard. For HIMS as a whole the CPP/FCSm *) score was 1.81.

The HIMS Scientific Advisory Committee concluded that the younger staff members are reaching the high quality level of their predecessors and re-established the international position of the individual research groups. Scientifically HIMS is ready for the challenges of the coming decades.

*) The CPP/FCSm score reflects the impact of all articles, compared to the world citation average in the (sub) fields in which the institute is active.

Scientific Output

The output of HIMS was on a high level in 2010, comparable to 2009. HIMS published 7 papers (3 in 2009) in absolute top journals (impact factor > 15) and 11 papers (10 in 2009) in top journals (impact factor 10-15). The total number of refereed publications amounted to 178 (169 in 2009), including 3 patents (1 in 2009), reflecting the increased personnel input last year, while 14 PhD dissertations (16 in 2009) were produced.

To name a few highlights:

  • Science published the article ‘Operation mechanism of a molecular machine revealed using time-resolved vibrational spectroscopy’ by dr. Sander Woutersen and Professors Wybren Jan Buma and Fred Brouwer of the Molecular Photonics group.
  • Also in Science the research of Prof. Huib Bakker (Molecular Photonics group and FOM/AMOLF institute) on Cooperativity in ion hydration was published.
  • Nature Chemistry published two articles with research of the Homogeneous and Supramolecular Catalysis group of Prof. Joost Reek: Catalyst selection based on intermediate stability measured by mass spectrometry and Supramolecular catalysis beyond enzyme mimetics.
  • Prof. Gadi Rothenberg appeared in Nature Chemistry with his article Catalysis: The best of both worlds.
  • Dr. Jocelyne Vreede (Computational Chemistry) published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA): Predicting the reaction coordinates of millisecond light-induced conformational changes in photoactive yellow protein.

Awards and Academic Events

Invitation Science Park Nieuwe Ideeën Prijs 2010

Dr. Raveendran Shiju and Prof. Gadi Rothenberg (Homogeneous and Supramolecular Catalysis) received the ‘Nieuwe Ideeën Prijs 2010’ from the Science Park Amsterdam, for their invention of ‘A new catalyst for making nylons’.

Dr. Teunie van Herk of the Bio-Molecular Synthesis group (Prof. Ron Wever) received the Martinus van Marum Prijs of the Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen, for her thesis on ‘Bacterial class A acid phosphatases as versatile tools in organic synthesis’

Prof. Henk Hiemstra (Synthetic Organic Chemistry) was awarded the Novartis Lectureship in Central Europe (autumn 2010).

Dr. Jan van Maarseveen (Synthetic Organic Chemistry) received the 'Onderwijsbokaal' for best chemistry teacher in the academic year 2009-2010.

Dr. Bas de Bruin (Homogeneous and Supramolecular Catalysis) was awarded the DPI Invention Award of the Dutch Polymer Institute, for his patent application regarding Functionalized Materials by Catalyzed Carbene Copolymerization.

Dr. Jocelyne Vreede (Computational Chemistry) was awarded the Best Publication Prize 2010 of the WiF (Women in the FNWI) Network.

Ira Saul Lurie of the Macomolecular and Biosystems Analysis group (Prof. Peter Schoenmakers) received his doctoral degree for the thesis on ‘Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatography of Seized Drugs’, the first UvA thesis on a forensic subject.


Prof. Peter Timmerman (Synthetic Organic Chemistry) was invited to give a keynote lecture at the 1st International Conference on Molecular Recognition, Heraklion, Crete, Greece (June 2010)

Prof. Kees Elsevier (Organometallic chemistry and Catalysis) was invited to give a keynote lecture at the International Conference on Organometallic Chemistry in Taipei, Taiwan (July 2010).

Prof. Peter Bolhuis was invited to give a plenary lecture on the Conference on Multiscale Molecular Modeling, Edinburgh, UK, (June 2010)

Dr. Jocelyne Vreede was invited for a plenary lecture at the Gordon Research Conference on Photosensory Receptors and Signal Transduction, Lucca, Italy (April 2010)


Prof. Joost Reek (Homogeneous and supramolecular catalysis) presented a NEMO lecture with the title 'Hoe wordt vuurwerk gemaakt?’ for an audience of young children.

Dr. Sander Woutersen (Molecular Photonics) explained in the broadcast program Noorderlicht of the VPRO the possible uses of molecular machines.

Dr. Bas de Bruin (Homogeneous and Supramolecular Catalysis) was present at the NEMO Klokhuis vragendag with his presentation “Hoe werkt de motor van een auto?“.


In order to protect our intellectual property, HIMS follows an active patenting policy, on most occasions directly with our industrial partners. The institute has applied for several patents, while some new projects are promising. Patent Applications of 2010 are:

  • Jellema, E. , Jongerius, A.L. Fransen, N.G.M. de Bruin (Catalysis), B. DPI-UvA patent application: DPI10005 EP-P0 Functionalized materials by catalyzed carbene copolymerization
  • Marras, F, Wang J., Coppens, M-O, Reek JNH (catalysis), EP14732, Mesoporous diphosphine-transition metal complexes for hydroformylation
  • P. Timmerman, L. E. M. Smeenk, N. Dailly, J. H. van Maarseveen (Bio-Molecular Synthesis), EP 10188743.8, Improvements on CLIPS-technology

In the future out-licensed patents could be important for HIMS as source of income.


HIMS finished the year 2010 with a small negative financial result of -0.15 M€ (+0.05 M€ in 2009). This result is satisfactory, knowing that HIMS is confronted with a budget reduction of the structural university budgets (1e geldstroom) of 10% (1 M€) for the years 2009-2012. As part of the HIMS cost reduction plan Chemie Financieel Duurzaam the röntgen diffraction (RD) activities were ended at 31-12-2010.

The year 2010 again turned out to be very successful in terms of external fund raising; a total of 5,00 M€ was acquired from important old and new subsidiaries. In the coming years increased revenues are expected from the realization of more PhD theses and funding through the Sectorplan Natuurkunde & Scheikunde (SNS).

A selection of projects acquired in 2010:

  • Prof. Joost Reek (Catalysis) and Prof. Huib Bakker (Molecular Photonics/FOM-Amolf) both received a NWO-top GRANT of 0.78 mln €
  • Dr. Bas de Bruin (Catalysis) and Prof.dr. Fred Brouwer (Molecular Photonics) both received a NWO-Echo grant of 0.26 mln €
  • The Netherlands Forensic Insitute (NFI) supplied Prof. Peter Schoenmakers (Macromolecular and Biomaterials Analysis) with a budget of 0.27 mln € for a research project on forensic explosives
  • The groups of Prof. Joost Reek (catalysis) and Prof. Fred Brouwer (Molecular Photonics) received together a budget of 0.95 mln € from the related FES and FOM programmes Towards Biosolar for research on photocatalytic water splitting (hydrogen production)
  • The groups of Prof. Peter Bolhuis (Computational Chemistry) and Profs Peter Schoenmakers and Hans Gerd Janssen (Macromolecular and Biomaterials Analysis) received together a budget of 0.89 mln € from the FES programme NanoNext for research in the fields of food and nutrition and micro/nano-fluidics.
  • Dr. David Dubbeldam (Computational Chemistry) received a (0.8 M€) NWO-CW VIDI subsidy for the design of nanoporous materials with the computer
  • Dr. Hong Zhang(Molecular Photonics) received an IOP grant of almost 1.5 M€ for a collaborative project of HIMS with AMC and LUMC for research on cancer diagnosis and treatment.


As a direct consequence of the budgetary reductions no new scientific staff appointments in fixed positions through direct funding (1e geldstroom) could be realized in 2010, with the exception of the appointment of the new HIMS director Prof.dr. A. (Aart) Kleijn. HIMS was, however, assigned 4 new staff positions (0.58 mln €/year; total investment 2.9 mln €) from the Sectorplan Natuurkunde & Scheikunde (SNS). These appointments can be realized as from 01-01-2011.

In 2010, after many years of decrease, the total number of scientific staff numbers (170.8 fte) stabilized more or less on the level of 2009 (178.6 fte). The number of externally funded PhD students and Postdocs in 2010 (112.4 fte), was slightly lower than in 2009 (122.9 fte), but appreciably higher than in the forgoing years. Since the number of 37 vacancies at 31-12-2010 was exceptionally high (including vacancies for various staff positions), a further increase in external research funding (and scientific staff members) is expected in 2011.

After 12 years the directorship of HIMS changed. Dr. Rob Zsom stepped back in October 2010 to be succeeded by Prof. Aart Kleijn. HIMS expressed its gratitude in 2011 at a big farewell party. Rob remains active in HIMS.