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Utrecht University Professor receives royal decoration

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Utrecht University Faculty Professor and head of the Biology department Rens Voesenek has been appointed Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion. The researcher receives the award for his work on the flood biology of plants, his administrative qualities and his contributions to education. Voesenek is praised for his perseverance and his ability to bring together scientists and societal partners.

Voesenek, who lives in Oss, was handed the award by the mayor of that municipality, Wobine Buijs-Glaudemans. During the presentation yesterday in the Botanic Gardens in Utrecht, Buijs-Glaudemans emphasized Voesenek’s societal engagement, his ability to commit people to a higher purpose and his creativity and high level of expertise.

Flooding tolerance in plants
Voesenek has led the Utrecht-based Plant-Environment Signaling (formerly Plant Ecophysiology) research group for more than 20 years. The work of Voesenek and his group led to important insights about how plants cope with stressful conditions, particularly floods.

Not only did the researcher and his team shed light on how flooded plants change, but also on the mechanisms within the plants that lead to these changes. While doing so, Voesenek also made important methodological contributions, such as his innovative use of photoacoustic methods to measure plant hormone concentrations. Results from Voesenek’s research contribute to the development of plant species that can cope with current climate changes.

Administration and education
In addition to his scientific contributions, Voesenek is praised for his administrative qualities. In this regard, he is characterized as a leader who stands firmly by his people and who dares to be at the forefront of his field.

Since 2017, the researcher is serving his second period as head of the Biology department of the Faculty of Science. He became chairman of the Dutch Biology Council in 2021, an umbrella organization that advocates for the broad interests of (academic) biology in the Netherlands.

Voesenek was vice dean of the Faculty of Science from 2011 to 2014, where he was responsible for the education of all students at the faculty. He also mentored a large number of young scientists, including 35 PhD candidates.

Food Security
From 2014 to 2019, Voesenek was chair of Future Food Utrecht, at that time one of the focus areas of Utrecht University. In this role, Voesenek was able to put the topic of food security on the university’s agenda. The researcher managed to bring together scientists from different backgrounds to tackle this complex issue from multiple perspectives. He also succeeded in involving societal and industrial parties. Future Food Utrecht is now an official hub between science and society within the Pathways to Sustainability strategic theme of Utrecht University.