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My research involves the physico-chemical mechanisms of reception, storage and processing of photic energy and information in biology, biomimetic systems and energy converting materials. To this end, I employ and further develop advanced time-resolved spectroscopic techniques such as transient absorption, time-resolved IR, 2-dimensional IR, stimulated Raman and multi-pulse spectroscopy.

I have developed a research program to understand the dynamic-structural basis of signal transduction at the molecular level, from initiation by a flash of light to propagation of information-encoding structural changes in the signaling proteins. I have focused on newly discovered photoreceptor proteins with a high potential for practical applications. An important objective is to arrive at a dynamic structural-mechanistic view of photoreceptor activation that can be utilized in developing optogenetic switches and sensors, to be used in cell biology, neuroscience and tissue imaging.

A major research line involves regulatory phenomena in photosynthetic light harvesting. To this end, I investigate natural and artificial light-harvesting and photoprotective systems, by which carotenoids and Chl or Chl mimics, or electron acceptors such as fullerenes, are covalently or noncovalently linked in well-defined geometries. In essence, the scientific questions condense to a molecular understanding of controlled energy and electron transfer flows in confined geometries of tetrapyrroles and carotenoids, and the role played by symmetry-forbidden excited states and intra- and intermolecular charge-transfer states.

To ensure a broad, multidisciplinary approach to the key biological and biophysical questions of the photoactive systems of interest, I have set up and cultivated a wide network of contacts and collaborations with molecular biologists, microbiologists, biochemists, organic chemists, structural biologists, theoreticians and other biophysicists



Doctoraal (eq. Msc): Physics, University of Amsterdam, 1992

PhD: Biophysics, Leiden University, 1997 cum laude

Prizes and Awards

Lecturer of the Morino Foundation for the Promotion of Molecular Sciences (Japan) 2012, 10 k€.

NWO-VICI fellow (CW) 2012, 1.5 M€. A VICI fellowship is a highly competitive award in a national competition, given to young researchers with an established track record (3 were awarded in Chemistry in 2012). It typically sets the fellow on a path to full professorship at a Dutch university.

NWO-VIDI fellow (ALW) 2004 – 2009, 600 k€. A VIDI fellowship is a highly competitive award in a national competition, given to young scientists to set up their own research line. It is typically a way to obtain a tenure-track position at a Dutch university

Human Frontier Science Program  Long-term fellow 1998-2000, Chemistry Department, University of California at Berkeley, 70k$.

NWO-Talent fellowship, declined because of coincident HFSP fellowship.

Cum laude distinction to Ph.D. degree (1997). Rarely given in The Netherlands, typically to top 5-10% of candidates.


Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where John Kennis is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • 24 Similar Profiles
Carotenoids Chemical Compounds
Excited states Chemical Compounds
Chromophores Chemical Compounds
Energy transfer Chemical Compounds
carotenoids Physics & Astronomy
Flavin-Adenine Dinucleotide Medicine & Life Sciences
Phototropins Chemical Compounds
Light Medicine & Life Sciences

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Research Output 1997 2019

  • 105 Article
  • 6 PhD Thesis - Research VU, graduation VU
  • 4 Conference contribution
  • 1 Chapter

Helical Contributions Mediate Light-Activated Conformational Change in the LOV2 Domain of Avena sativa Phototropin 1

Zayner, J. P., Mathes, T., Sosnick, T. R. & Kennis, J. T. M., 15 Jan 2019, In : ACS Omega. 4, 1, p. 1238-1243 6 p.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
Electric potential
Covalent bonds

Photoactivation Mechanism, Timing of Protein Secondary Structure Dynamics and Carotenoid Translocation in the Orange Carotenoid Protein

Konold, P. E., Van Stokkum, I. H. M., Muzzopappa, F., Wilson, A., Groot, M. L., Kirilovsky, D. & Kennis, J. T. M., 9 Jan 2019, In : Journal of the American Chemical Society. 141, 1, p. 520-530 11 p.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
Secondary Protein Structure
Structural dynamics

Photoreaction Dynamics of Red-Shifting Retinal Analogues Reconstituted in Proteorhodopsin

Hontani, Y., Ganapathy, S., Frehan, S., Kloz, M., De Grip, W. J. & Kennis, J. T. M., 16 May 2019, In : Journal of Physical Chemistry B. 123, 19, p. 4242-4250 9 p.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
Microbial Rhodopsins

Molecular Origin of Photoprotection in Cyanobacteria Probed by Watermarked Femtosecond Stimulated Raman Spectroscopy

Hontani, Y., Kloz, M., Polívka, T., Shukla, M. K., Sobotka, R. & Kennis, J. T. M., 5 Apr 2018, In : Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. 9, 7, p. 1788-1792 5 p.

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Open Access
Raman spectroscopy

Photoreaction dynamics of functional photoreceptor proteins

Hontani, Y., 2018, 200 p.

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD Thesis - Research VU, graduation VUAcademic

Open Access