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Prof. Ben L. Feringa PhD

Foto Ben Feringa

Prof. Ben L. Feringa PhD
Jacobus van‘t Hoff Distinguished Professor of Molecular Sciences

Ben Feringa, the second of ten siblings, spent his youth on the family’s farm, which is directly on the border with Germany, in Barger-Compascuum (Dr). Together with his wife Betty Bootsma, he has three daughters and lives in Paterswolde near Groningen.

Feringa received his MSc degree in Chemistry with distinction from the University of Groningen in 1974. He subsequently obtained a PhD degree at the same university in 1978 under the guidance of Prof. Hans Wijnberg, with the thesis titled “Asymmetric oxidation of phenols. Atropisomerism and optical activity“. Following a period at the Shell Research Center in Amsterdam and the Shell Biosciences Center in the United Kingdom, he was appointed as lecturer at the University of Groningen in 1984 and Full Professor, succeeding Prof Wijnberg, in 1988. He appointed the Jacobus H. van’t Hoff Distinguished Professor of Molecular Sciences in 2004 and Academy Professor of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008. He was elected Foreign Honory member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and became member and vice-president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences. Ben Feringa served as chair of the Chemical Division of the Netherlands Science Foundation NWO-CW and member of the Council of the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK).  In 2008 he was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands and in 2016 promoted to Commander in the order of the Dutch Lion. Feringa’s research has been recognized with a number of awards including the Koerber European Science Award (2003), the Spinoza Award (2004), the Prelog gold medal (2005), the Norrish Award of the ACS (2007), the Paracelsus medal (2008), the Chirality medal (2009),the RSC Organic Stereochemistry Award (2011), Humboldt award (2012), the Nagoya gold medal (2013), ACS Cope Scholar Award 2015, Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize (2015), the August-Wilhelm-von-Hoffman Medal (2016) and the Tetrahedron Prize 2017. It was announced on 5 October 2016 that Ben Feringa will jointly receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, together with Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Jean-Pierre Sauvage, for their work on molecular machines.

Under his supervision more than 110 PhD thesis were completed and over 30 of his former group members have academic positions worldwide.

Part of his research  career was focused on homogenous catalysis and oxidation catalysis, and especially on stereochemistry with major contributions in the field of enantioselective catalysis, including monophos ligand used in asymmetric hydrogenation, asymmetric conjugate additions of organometallic reagents, including the highly reactive organolithium reagents and organic photochemistry and stereochemistry. Based on the design of the first chiral overcrowded alkenes (1977), chiroptical molecular switches were introduced that allowed large amplitudinal motion with unidirectional control (1991). This enabled amplification of chirality in mesoscopic systems (1996), photo- and electro-chromic devices for optoelectronics, responsive gels and polymers, a light-switchable protein channels for nanoscale drug delivery systems and multistage anion sensing. Recently photopharmacology was introduced as a novel approach in nanomedicine using photoresponsive drugs toward anticancer agents, antibiotic treatment and resistance and biofilm formation.

The research on chiroptical switches resulted in the discovery of the world’s first unidirectional molecular rotary motor (1999) and this invention, together with the pioneering studies by Sauvage and Stoddart on mechanically interlocked molecules, has been laying the ground-work for a crucial part of future molecular nanotechnology i.e. nanomachines and nanorobots powered by molecular motors.  Important achievements were the demonstration that molecular motors can be interfaced to the macro-world by surface assembly (2005), dynamically change surface properties, can perform work and induce motion at distinct length scales, exert macroscopic effects (2006) and drive molecular systems out-of-equilibrium. Recently a molecular ‘nanocar’ was constructed (2011) showing directional motion along a nanostructured surface. The development of multistage chiral catalysts (2011) moved the design and application of molecular motors to a whole new level of sophistication. The fundamental breakthroughs in molecular dynamic systems were broadcasted and highlighted in international daily newspapers & magazines worldwide.