November 24th was a special day for the 13 young scientists who were awarded the prestigious Unilever Research Prizes 2022 at a special ceremony in Hive. It was great to see the annual event take place in person again, following two years of virtual gatherings due to Covid.
The 13 graduates were nominated by their universities in the Netherlands for the annual prize, following their outstanding work. 2022 marks the 66th year of the Unilever Research Prizes event, an important collaboration between Unilever and the Dutch academic world.
Each of the award recipients graduated with very high honours and completed noteworthy research during their Master’s degrees on a wide variety of topics. Importantly, each research thesis also makes a positive contribution towards solving the sustainable development goals.
Have a look at all photos here.
Research topics undertaken include:
- Clean energy transition
- Advancing the successful treatment of cancer
- Methods to harness algae more efficiently for commercial use
- New ways to deliver drugs to patients safely and effectively
- Halting the decline of biodiversity in insect populations
- Emotion-focused parenting to sustain good mental health in adulthood
- Advancing the treatment of type 2 diabetes
- New ways to map vegetative structure to better understand the effects of climate change
- The role social media plays in social discourse on the most important issues of the day
- Using technology to secure a healthy food supply
- Advancing a new class of antibiotics
Each young scientist received their award, a cheque for €2,500 and a beautiful piece of artwork known as “Laurel”, which represents the laurel wreath, a symbol of triumph from Ancient Greek times.
Manfred Aben,Nutrition and Ice Cream R&D Head of Science & Technology and site leader for Hive, hosted the event. Both Manfred and Carla Hilhorst, Nutrition Chief R&D Officer at Unilever, presented the students with their awards.
Unilever’s Nutrition President, Hanneke Faber and Chief R&D Officer, Richard Slater also gave a short address via video link to congratulate the students on their incredible achievements.
In his opening speech, Manfred emphasised the critical role science plays in helping us to solve the world’s mounting global issues and commended the graduates for playing their part in this.
While we see many challenges today, we also see tremendous advancements and opportunities in areas like energy transition, new materials and a deeper understanding of health and wellbeing. We know that breakthroughs and advances in science and technology are the only way we can tackle these issues.
That’s why it’s so important to nurture young talent like you. That’s what today is all about. You can make a very real difference in the world as we strive to overcome these challenges. That is very special.
Four guest speakers also took to the podium. Professor Jos van Hillegersberg, Scientific Director at the Jheronimus Academy of Data Science and a Professor of Business Information Systems at the University of Twente, spoke about the importance of data sharing and the industry’s journey to a circular economy.
Our own Dr Alejandro Amezquita, Science & Technology Director of Future Biobased Ingredients at Unilever Nutrition and Ice Cream, spoke about the use of microorganisms as a source of low-carbon ingredients in food production.
Two of the award recipients also took to the stage to share details about their research findings. Roxy Yuyao Zhan, who studied at Tilburg University, examined the reciprocal relationship between social media use and well-being before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Roxy’s findingsrevealed changes from a negative reciprocal relationship between general social media use and well-being before the pandemic to a positive relationship during the pandemic at the within-individual level.
Kim van Rijbroek of Radboud University Nijmegen talked about her work usingsustainable chemistry to produce novel consumer goods from biomass, which might otherwise end up as a waste product. Kim developed these products from sugar beet pulp.
In concluding the full day’s events, Manfred once again commend the young scientists on their efforts and wished them the very best in their bright futures ahead and making a real difference to our world.