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VU Professor of Evolutionary Biology Toby Kiers receives Spinoza Prize

7 June 2023
Professor of Evolutionary Biology Toby Kiers has been awarded the NWO Spinoza Prize for her groundbreaking research on the symbiotic partnerships between fungi and plants. She is the youngest scientist to ever receive this award. The committee praises the evolutionary biologist for her scientific and societal contributions to nature conservation and the development of regenerative agriculture.

"With her unique pioneering contribution to the field, she has created worldwide attention for the research field. The social impact of her work is therefore enormous." the Spinoza Committee

In September of last year, Kiers was already named one of the 100 emerging leaders shaping the future of business, entertainment, sports, politics, health, science, and activism by TIME. This is a remarkable addition to an already impressive CV, which includes the NWO Stairway to Impact Award, a Gravity Project, a TED talk, a VICI grant, the VU-URC chair, and the Ammodo KNAW Award. Kiers is thrilled to add the Spinoza Prize to this list and has ambitious plans for it.

"This is incredible news. Fungi are in the spotlight. It is a bold recognition of the extraordinary collaborators I work with at VU and AMOLF. The prize will allows us to to push the frontiers of imaging inside fungal networks." Toby Kiers

Kiers, together with biophysicists at AMOLF, is working on building a robot that can visualize the fungal networks for detailed study. With the help of this robot, the complex flows of nutrients within the network can be tracked in the future, and the role of fungi in regulating carbon in the soil can be understood.

Toby Kiers
Toby Kiers has been a professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam since 2014. In her research, Kiers goes beyond the boundaries of her own field of study and integrates knowledge and theories from other disciplines, such as economics and physics. In addition to her research, Kiers places great value on the dissemination of knowledge. In 2021, she was one of the co-founders of the Society for the Protection of Underground Networks, an initiative that maps out the so-called mycorrhizal fungal communities on Earth and advocates for their protection, and she gives lectures around the world.

"We are incredibly proud of our colleague Toby Kiers, not only for her innovative and groundbreaking research, but also for her dedication and commitment to involving people in her research and emphasizing the importance of protecting underground ecosystems." Rector Magnificus Jeroen Geurts

NWO Spinoza Prize
The NWO Spinoza Prize is the highest distinction in Dutch science. NWO annually awards the Spinoza Prizes to two researchers working in the Netherlands who are among the best scientists in the world according to international standards. The NWO Spinoza laureates conduct excellent and pioneering research with great impact. They are an inspiration to young researchers. This year, the Spinoza Prize will be awarded on Wednesday, October 4th.