Science & Society Seminar #4

with Ben L. Feringa


Online, March 29th @ 17:00 CET


The Association of ERC Grantees aims to defend excellent bottom-up fundamental research in Europe, to facilitate networking amongst ERC grantees, and to engage the public around the importance of scientific research for society.

With this in mind, we were delighted to host  Nobel Laureate and ERC Grantee Ben L. Feringa as our guest for the fourth event organised in our “Science & Society” Seminar series, the goal of which is to highlight, through personal stories and science, the role of fundamental research for a better society and for a better world.

Professor Feringa presented a lecture titled:

"The Joy of Discovery"



A recording is available here.

Ben L. Feringa obtained his PhD degree in 1974 at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands under the guidance of Professor Hans Wynberg. After working as a research scientist at Shell in the Netherlands and in the UK, he was appointed full professor at the University of Groningen in 1988. He was then named the Jacobus H. van 't Hoff Distinguished Professor of Molecular Sciences in 2004 at the same institution. Feringa’s research interests include stereochemistry, organic synthesis, asymmetric catalysis, molecular switches and motors, self-assembly, molecular nanosystems and photopharmacology. In the 1990s, Feringa’s work led to the construction of the first monodirectional light-driven molecular rotor, and later to the first nanocar — an actual four-wheeled molecular vehicle. His seminal contributions to the development of molecular machines were rewarded by numerous awards and grants over the years, including an ERC grant in 2008, and, of course, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which he was awarded in 2016 together with Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Sir Stoddart.

Ben Feringa holds a remarkable 30 patents and has published over 700 articles. A member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, he is also an elected Foreign Honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Foreign member of the Royal Society. In 2008, he was appointed a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion by Her Majesty the Queen Beatrix. Today, Ben Feringa remains closely associated with the European Research Council, as he was elected a member of the scientific council in 2019. 

In his lecture, titled “The Joy of Discovery”, Ben Feringa shares his experience as a scientist. Exploring beyond the current frontiers of chemical sciences there is a vast uncharted territory to experience the joy of discovery. Far beyond Nature’s design, the creative power of synthetic chemistry provides unlimited opportunities to realize our own molecular world as we experience every day with products ranging from drugs to displays that sustain modern society. In their practice of the art of building small, chemists have shown amazing success in the past decades. Moving from molecules to dynamic molecular systems the fundamental challenge is how to control and exploit motion at the nanoscale. In this presentation the focus is on Professor Feringa’s journey in the world of molecular switches and motors, the process of discovery and his personal experiences through his scientific career. In particular, he will address how fundamental questions and molecular beauty have guided him on this journey.

To discuss these issues, Professor Feringa was joined by Professor Silke Buelher-Paschen, (Condensed Matter Physics, Vienna Institute of Technology, AERG Board member) Professor Stefan Hecht (head of the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry and Functional Materials as well as the founding director of the Center for the Science of Materials Berlin at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany), and renowned science journalist Joep Engels.


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