Utrecht University: Sjef Smeekens receives Royal decoration

Former Vice Dean and Professor of Molecular Plant Physiology Sjef Smeekens has been appointed Officer in the Order of Oranje-Nassau. He receives the award for his internationally distinguished research career, dedication to education, numerous leading positions and contributions to social debates on biotechnology.

On behalf of the King of the Netherlands, the award was presented today by the mayor of Zeist, Koos Janssen. In his speech, the mayor praised Smeekens’ extensive achievements for science and society.

Prof. Sjef Smeekens established his reputation as a scientist with research into the important role of sugars as signaling molecules. He was one of the first researchers indicating that sugars not only serve as a source of energy, but also play a crucial role as a signaling agent in the growth, development and reproduction of plants. Understanding these functions has proven to be important for growing plants on an industrial scale, an area in which the Netherlands is a market leader.

Prof. Smeekens is praised both nationally and internationally for his efforts in building bridges between science and society.
Societal debate
Smeekens is praised both nationally and internationally for his efforts in building bridges between science and society. In societal debates, he actively informs about new developments and opportunities in biotechnology. For example, Smeekens illustrates advances in new genetic techniques for creating crops that are flexible and adaptable to challenges associated with climate change and population growth.

Professor and Vice Dean
Smeekens received his doctorate cum laude from Utrecht University in 1986. Since then, he remained affiliated with Utrecht University, first as associate professor, then as professor of Molecular Plant Physiology. In 2014, he joined the board of the Faculty of Science as Vice Dean. Four years later he temporarily acted as the faculty’s Dean, until the current Dean, Isabel Arends, took office.

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