As professor of Physical Chemistry, Woutersen will use the latest spectroscopic methods to focus on issues at the interface of chemistry and physics. In this way he will fulfil a bridging function between the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) and the Soft Matter group of the Institute of Physics (IoP), both in research and in education. The chair will be part of the HIMS’ Molecular Photonics group.
In Physical Chemistry, scientists try to explain and predict the physical and chemical properties of materials based on the structure of the molecules that make up those materials. The various areas of work within physical chemistry are not only fundamental but also of societal relevance. Examples of this importance include the interaction between light and molecules (which is relevant to artificial photosynthesis and light-sensitive ‘smart materials’), molecular self-assembly (important with regard to the development of amyloid-related diseases such as Alzheimer's), and 'soft matter' (important for developments in the material- and food-sciences).
Unravelling molecular structures
An important aspect of physical chemistry is research into the structure of molecules that make up materials. Woutersen will focus primarily on unravelling dynamic molecular structures, molecular self-assembly and soft matter at the molecular level.
In recent years, Woutersen has mainly focused on the mechanisms behind protein folding and the formation of amyloids, catalysis, proton transport, and the movement of molecular machines. For example, he was involved in the experiment in which the transition between two different liquid states of supercooled water was observed. This confirmed - after twenty-five years - the theory that liquid water at extremely low temperature and high pressure has two forms. The results were published in Science last year.
Physical chemistry is also an essential part of the chemistry curriculum at the UvA. Among other things, Woutersen gives lectures to chemistry students in the courses ‘Physics for Chemists’ and ‘Artificial Photosynthesis & Solar Fuels’. He teaches physics students in subjects such as ‘Biophysics’ and ‘Fluids & Soft Condensed Matter’.
About Sander Woutersen
Woutersen has worked at the UvA's Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences since 2006, since 2009 as an associate professor. In addition, he has been professor by special appointment of Molecular Spectroscopy at the UvA since 2014. Before coming to the UvA, Woutersen worked in various positions at research institute AMOLF, including as a project manager. He was also a postdoc at the Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscopy in Berlin.