KVCV member Veronique Van Speybroeck, professor and head of the Centre for Molecular Modelling at Ghent University, will be awarded the 2024 Francqui Prize for Exact Sciences for her pioneering computational work to understand and predict the behaviour and properties of catalysts at the nanoscale.

Van Speybroeck mainly focuses on modelling nanoporous materials and developing methods to get a grip on complex chemical conversions in such materials. She always strives to make the simulations as close to realistic conditions as possible. The larger context of her work lies in heterogeneous catalysis and the design of sustainable industrial processes.

In the UGent press release, jury president Ben Feringa states that Van Speybroeck’s pioneering work enables chemists to explain complex catalytic processes. ‘Her fundamental work is a gamechanger and opens the door to future technologies for a sustainable industry,’ Feringa said.

Over the fence

The multidisciplinary nature of her research, which brings together physics, biotechnology, materials science and chemistry, is very appealing to Van Speybroeck. ‘I find it interesting to look over the fence and learn from people outside my own domain,’ she says in a press release. ‘By being open to things you don’t know, and collaborating with people from different backgrounds, we can look at and solve the most complex problems from diverse perspectives. When we don’t think in boxes, wonderful science is possible.’

The Francqui Prize, worth €250,000, is Belgium’s most prestigious science award. The prize is awarded annually to a scientist, alternately from the exact, human and biological/medical sciences. Previous laureates include well-known names, including Nobel laureates Ilya Prigogine, Cristian de Duve and François Englert. The official, royal award ceremony will take place at a time to be determined.