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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.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy


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