Stichting Edmond Hustinx
Edmond Hustinx foundation

Prizes > Peter Debye prize

After the founding of the university in Maastricht, to which Edmond Hustinx, as board member and financial supporter of the Scientific Education foundation in Limburg, made an essential contribution, a prize for science was set up called the Peter Debye prize. This ten thousand euro prize was in the period of 1977–2004 awarded every two or three years, in memory of the Maastricht born and bred physicist and Nobel Prize winner Peter Debye (1884–1966). In 2008, the board of the foundation has decided to develop a new set-up for the prize.

The Peter Debye prize was established to underscore the significance of original research in the natural sciences.The candidate preferably not only works in a specialized professional field but creates a link between different professional fields. The prize has the nature of an encouragement for someone who still has an important part of his or her career ahead of them. The Debye prize 2015 is awarded on March 24th 2015 (birthday of Peter Debye) in the town hall of Maastricht to prof. Norbert Scherer of Chicago University. Members of the jury for the Peter Debye prize 2015 are the professors Jacques Joosten (chairman), Gerard van Koten and Rutger van Santen.

Professor Norbert F. Scherer of the University of Chicago has been awarded the Peter Debye Prize 2015 in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the fields of chemistry, nanomaterials, optics and spectroscopy. As one of the world’s leading cross-disciplinary scientists working at the intersection of chemistry and physics and combining theoretical and experimental research, Professor Scherer was the jury’s choice as the recipient of the award instituted in memory of the Nobel laureate whose work was characterized by a similar approach.
The award jury, comprising Dr. Jacques Joosten (Dutch Polymer Institute, chair), Prof. Gerard van Koten (Utrecht University) and Prof. Rutger van Santen (Eindhoven University of Technology), unanimously selected Prof. Scherer from among the nominations received. The jury judged the nominations on quality of scientific work, originality, innovativeness and cross-disciplinary approach.
In its report, the award jury commends Prof. Scherer’s work on processes that take place at the microscopic (particle) level, in particular the influence of light on the behavior of soft matter systems and the properties of optical matter. Dr. Joosten adds: “The scientific community owes a huge debt of gratitude to creative cross-disciplinary scientists like Norbert Scherer, whose work has enabled major advances in the development of optical trapping systems for the characterization and photonic synthesis of nanostructured materials.” These systems and materials on which Prof. Scherer’s research has focused not only lay the foundation for further advances in fundamental science, but are also envisaged for use in a number of possible applications in the field of information and communications technology. Professor Scherer received the award – which carries a cash prize of EUR 10,000 – from Mr. Onno Hoes, Mayor of Maastricht, at a special presentation ceremony held at the Town Hall of Maastricht (Netherlands) on March 24.

Scientific Career
Norbert Scherer (54) was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and obtained a BS degree in chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a PhD in chemical physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 1989. His thesis work, under the direction of Prof. Ahmed H. Zewail, resulted in the dissertation entitled Time Resolved Studies of Molecular Reaction Dynamics and Development of Experimental Methodology. This work was the foundation of “Femtochemistry” for which Zewail received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1999. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Graham Fleming at the University of Chicago, and in 1992 became an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1997 he was appointed Professor in the Department of Chemistry and the James Franck Institute at the University of Chicago and in 1998 he also became Professor and founding co-Director of the Institute for Biophysical Dynamics at the same university. He still holds these positions today. Professor Scherer has received numerous accolades, including a 2006 John S. Guggenheim Fellowship, and was elected as a Fellow of the Optical Society of America in 2015. Norbert Scherer has authored and co-authored a large number of scientific papers and is a highly sought after invited speaker at scientific meetings. His research group at the University of Chicago addresses a broad range of questions in three areas: function and transport in cellular biophysics, dynamics and excitations in driven nonequilibrium fluids, and optical trapping to assemble nano-plasmonic materials and optical matter.
Asked for his reaction on receiving the award, Prof. Scherer said: “Wow! This is amazing. I had no idea that I was even nominated for this distinguished prize. I present the ideas that Peter Debye discovered - heat capacity of solids, vibrations and the Debye-Waller factor, the concept of molecular dipoles, the Debye screening length, etc. - in almost every class that I teach. Moreover, his ideas are deeply embedded in my research. In particular, my group’s research on optical matter is a direct extension of the concept of a dipole moment to interacting nanoparticles on mesoscopic scales. What an honor it is to be acknowledged in this way.”

The Prize
The Peter Debye Prize was introduced in 1977 by the Edmond Hustinx Foundation, which had been established a decade earlier by the self-made inventor, chemist and industrialist Edmond Hustinx with the aim of promoting the arts and sciences in Maastricht. The prize commemorates the Maastricht born Nobel laureate Peter Debye (1884-1966) and is granted periodically. It is a mid-career achievement award that recognizes exceptional contributions to cross-disciplinary science and is intended to inspire other scientists working at the interface of chemistry and physics.

In the coming years, the Hustinx Foundation will work to raise the award’s international profile and its reputation in the global scientific community, while continuing to uphold its unique Peter Debye related scope, namely to recognize exceptional scientific achievements at the intersection of chemistry and physics and combining theoretical and experimental work.

To be considered as predecessor to this prize is the Edmond Hustinx prize for chemistry.

€ 10,000

Norbert Scherer
Alfons van Blaaderen, Universiteit Utrecht, 2011
Allan Bradley, Molecular and Human Genetics, Cambridge, 2004
Tom Mitchell, Computer science, Pittsburgh, 2002
Roeland Nusse, Stanford USA, 2000
L. Rappaport, K. Schwartz and B. Swynghedauw, Paris, France: Molecular biology of cardiovascular diseases, 1994
J. Hardy, London, United Kingdom: Aging of the brain, 1992
M. Dauncey and A. Prentice, Cambridge, United Kingdom: Nutrition/energy exchange, 1989
T. Godfraind, Brussels, Belgium: Cardiovascular diseases, 1987
M. Chamberlain, Leeds, United Kingdom: Rehabilitation, 1984
M. Greaves, London, United Kingdom: Immunology and/or oncology, 1982
S. Moncada en J. Vane, London, United Kingdom: Cardiovascular diseases and immunology, 1980
A. Querido, Amsterdam, Netherlands: Integral medicine, 1977

Predecessor Edmond Hustinxprijs for Chemistry:
Robert A. Egli and Karl Heinz Szekielda, Swiss and Germany: New applications in chemistry with aid of the Hustinx-flask.