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2021 Dick Stufkens Prize awarded to Klaas van Leest

21 October 2021
The 2021 Dick Stufkens Prize for the best PhD thesis of the Holland Research School of Molecular Chemistry (HRSMC), of which VU Amsterdam is a member, has been awarded to Klaas van Leest for his dissertation 'Open-Shell Cobalt Complexes with Redox-Active Ligands; Electronic Structure and Nitrene Transfer Reactivity'. The prize, consisting of a certificate and €2,000, was presented virtually to Van Leest during the annual HRSMC symposium in Amsterdam on 18 November. Van Leest gave an online lecture on his award-winning research from Hong Kong.

Klaas van Leest studied chemistry in Amsterdam (VU /UvA) and, on 3 December 2020, obtained his doctorate, with honours, for his thesis describing his research on cobalt catalysts to achieve selective C‒N and S‒N bond formation via radical-type nitrene transfer. This research has provided a profound understanding into the underlying mechanisms of these catalysed conversions, which are of relevance to the synthesis of medicines and other bioactive molecules. Van Leest’s supervisor was Professor Bas de Bruin (University of Amsterdam) and his co-supervisor, Professor Jarl Ivar van der Vlugt (University of Oldenburg). He is currently works as a postdoctoral researcher at the group of Prof. Chi-Ming Che at the University of Hong Kong in the field of photoredox catalysis, for which he was awarded a Rubicon grant by the Dutch Research Council NWO. 

‘Quality and enormous productivity’
The members of the jury for the 2021 Dick Stufkens prize selected Klaas van Leest from a number of excellent candidates. Their decision was unanimous. They were impressed with the quality of his research and his enormous productivity. In addition to advancing understanding of the catalytic method that formed the main theme of his research, he also contributed to a series of studies on different metal catalysts for a wide range of catalytic processes. His doctoral research resulted in 9 scientific publications and, furthermore, he has another 22 first rate papers to his name. His work has already been cited more than 500 times. According to the jury, Van Leest demonstrates an unusual combination of very high productivity and the ability to carry out outstanding, interesting research on catalysis, while forging multiple collaborations, both inside and outside the HRSMC, to this end. 

About the Holland Research School of Molecular Chemistry (HRSMC)
The HRSMC was founded in 1994 and is accredited by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). It comprises research groups from the University of Amsterdam, VU Amsterdam, Leiden University and Radboud University Nijmegen who work together on the synthesis, spectroscopic characterization and theoretical and computational description of molecular systems. Besides enabling this collaboration, the school also provides a globally-acclaimed educational programme in molecular chemistry and physics for talented PhD and MSc students. The late Professor Dick Stufkens, Director of Research from 1997 to 2001, was one of the driving forces behind the HRSMC. His efforts contributed greatly to its international reputation.