Rens Voesenek receives Royal Decoration

Photo: Menno Bausch
Chairman of Biology Council appointed Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion

Chairman of the Dutch Biology Council and professor of Plant Ecophysiology at Utrecht University, Rens Voesenek, was yesterday appointed Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion. He receives the award for his scientific achievements, his mentorship of many trainee biologists and his managerial qualities. The award was presented by the mayor of Oss, Mrs Wobine Buijs- Glaudemans, who came to Utrecht University for the occasion. In her speech, Buijs- Glaudemans emphasised his outstanding expertise, his commitment to science and wider society, and his talent for committing people to a higher goal.

Photo: Menno Bausch

Rens Voesenek made name for himself as a scientist with research on flood tolerance of plants. Among other things, his research led to the discovery that plant hormones play a decisive role in survival after flooding. A major methodological contribution has shown that ethylene gas trapped in submerged plant tissue provides an early “flood warning signal” to the plant. Crops can also be genetically modified to enable them to survive floods. His research on flood tolerance of plants has generated knowledge of great importance for future food production in the world. Food security in the future was a theme that Rens put on the map within Utrecht University in 2014, establishing a university-wide focus area “Future Food Utrecht” together with a number of other Utrecht scientists.

Rens Voesenek was vice dean of Education at Utrecht’s Faculty of Science from 2011 to 2014. Already at an early stage in his career, he was a very committed teacher and mentor. The good relationship with students, his catching way of teaching and his attention for the person behind the student prompted many to continue in biology, as a teacher, and/or as a researcher. He has also supervised dozens of PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. Almost all of these researchers have found work in industry or academia, some of them are now professors themselves.

Rens Voesenek stands out not only for his academic achievements, but also for his broad managerial involvement in the academic community, and the biology sector in particular, both nationally and internationally. With his vision, unbridled commitment and a strong sense of interrelationships, he has committed himself to the Department of Biology at Utrecht University’s Faculty of Science and to the field of biology in the Netherlands in general. Since 2018, he has successfully spearheaded the creation of a Sector Portrait of the biology in the Netherlands that provides an overview of academic research and education. Through his powers of persuasion and action, he succeeded in getting people in the right direction to draw up this portrait. Following this, Rens initiated the Dutch Biology Council, a national forum for the advocacy of scientific research and education in biology in the Netherlands. This Council drew up a Sector Plan for biology under Rens’ chairmanship (the first part of this sector plan was granted by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science at the end of 2022). In doing so, Rens Voesenek improved the national consultation structure within the biology discipline. With his unique personal and inclusive way of acting Rens has been able to focus the discussions always on the greater importance of cooperation within biology. Additionally, this field can lean on a great ambassador, who never gets tired of emphasizing persuasively the social importance of biology.