Photo of John Kennis
19972020

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Research

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

 

Education

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.

 

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