Thijs van Putten is the winner of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) Thesis Prize 2012. He was presented with the award during the annual University Day on Saturday, 2 June. The winning thesis is about magnetars, neutron stars with enormous gravity and an extremely strong magnetic field.
Jury president and dean of the UvA’s Faculty of Science Bart Noordam praised the work of Van Putten, who incidentally corrected a number of errors in the work of established international scientists whilst conducting his research. Van Putten also receives a cash prize worth €3,000.
Van Putten, who studied Astronomy and Astrophysics and is now a PhD student at the UvA’s Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, found that magnetars can be seen as a unique laboratory for research into the fundamental properties of matter and electromagnetic characteristics.
Second and third prizes
The second prize worth €2,000 was awarded to Roel Mocking, who graduated in Medicine with a study of depression. Depression is a risk factor for heart and vascular diseases, and also often recurs. Prevention would be extremely beneficial. Mocking examined the biological mechanisms that determine vulnerability to recurrent depression.
The third prize of €1,000 was awarded jointly to two winners: Clotilde Caillault (Sociology) and Niki Frencken (International Law and European Law: Public International Law). Caillault examined how the attitude of police officers in France and the Netherlands towards ethnic minorities differs. Extensive fieldwork at police stations and in the back of police cars brought her to a balanced conclusion about the (alleged) discriminatory attitude of the police.
Frencken conducted research into the deterrent effect as a result of convictions by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, following the recent conviction of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga for recruiting and using child soldiers. Frencken was not present at the ceremony because she is conducting follow-up research in Uganda. However, she presented her research via a short film.
The nominees present — in total twelve of the 67 entries were nominated — were each granted one minute to present themselves to the visitors at the University Day prior to the presentation ceremony.
The awards ceremony, presented by Ivo Niehe and embellished with comedy by Emilio Guzman, was the final event of the eleventh University Day. The day began with a speech by departing Social Economic Council (SER) chairman and future University Professor Alexander Rinnooy Kan in the Aula. In the afternoon, dozens of lectures, debates and demonstrations were held in the Oudemanhuispoort for and by UvA academics and alumni. The day attracted over a thousand visitors.