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Dana Rademaker excels and wins Unilever Research Prize

Dana Rademaker has won the Unilever Research Prize, which she received together with 2,500 euros at the Unilever’s Foods Innovation Centre on 12 December. She received the prize for her master’s thesis, which she wrote last year for the master’s programme Chemistry.

You received the prize for your master’s thesis, what exactly did you discover?

‘We can use oxygen and hydrogen to generate clean energy with a so-called hydrogen fuel cell. In these cells, hydrogen is oxidised and oxygen is reduced. The only problem is that such fuel cells are not yet profitable enough. During my research, therefore, I made two catalysts that should make the reduction of oxygen faster. To do so, I first looked at nature. The enzyme laccase has been found in plants, fungi and micro-organisms and is very effective in reducing oxygen. That’s why I made catalysts that resemble laccase. These catalysts are two complexes with three copper ions each in the active site, just like laccase. Although the complexes turned out not to be very good catalysts, we did find out which factors are important for the design of such a catalyst.’

‘This is a great reward for my hard work

What is it like for you to win this prize?

‘During my master’s I took a lot of interesting courses and did my best to get good results. I also worked hard during my master’s project and because I liked the research, that was no problem at all. The fact that I have now received the Unilever Research Prize feels like a great reward for my hard work. I feel very honoured.’

Dennis Hetterscheid was your supervisor during your master’s thesis, and now you are also going to do a PhD with him. I think it is safe to say that you two like working together?

‘Certainly! Dennis is a very good supervisor. I could always turn to him and he always makes time for the students who run projects in the group. Furthermore, as a student, you are really involved in the comings and goings of the research group, which gives you a good insight into such a group. In the end, I am so fascinated by the research there, that I am also going to do my PhD in his group.’

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