Five Royal Honours at TU Delft

News - 28 April 2022 - Webredactie Communication

Professor Kornelis Blok, Professor of Energy Systems Analysis at the Faculty of Technology, Management and Policy (TPM), was made a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion in Houten. 

Professor Blok has dedicated his career to solving energy and climate issues and realising a sustainable energy supply. Before becoming Professor of Energy Systems Analysis at TU Delft in 2015, he was a Professor of Renewable Energy at Utrecht University for many years. In 1984, he co-founded and later became scientific director of Ecofys, a company he helped build into a leading international consultancy in the field of energy and climate. With Ecofys, he won the 2008 Erasmus Innovation Award for the most innovative company in the Netherlands.

Blok plays an important role in the development of national and international climate policy. He was lead author of several reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which form the basis for the UN climate negotiations. The IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He is also chairman of the Netherlands Energy Research Alliance (NERA), and chairman of the scientific advisory board of independent information centre Milieu Centraal. As director of the Delft Energy Initiative, and previously of the TU Delft Urban Energy Institute, he is closely involved in linking education and research and in disseminating research results to society. This year, as chairman of the TU Delft lustrum committee, he is also committed to ‘speeding up the energy transition’, the theme of the celebrations.

Blok studied physics at Utrecht University, where he obtained his doctorate in 1991 for research into reducing CO2 emissions. A focal points of his research is energy saving, which he named as the ‘neglected side of the energy system’ during his inaugural speech in 2015. His academic body of work includes many scientific publications, including two peer-reviewed articles in Nature Climate Change. In addition to his impactful professional contributions to science and society, he is also a very active and committed member of his local (church) community.


Professor Jaap Harlaar, Professor of Clinical Biomechanics at the Faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering (3mE), was made a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion in Haarlem.

How to improve the mobility of people with musculoskeletal disorders, that is the focus of Professor Jaap Harlaar's research. In the 1990s, he set up the VUmc movement laboratory for this purpose, then a unique lab, where human movement is being studied with the aid of e.g. gait analysis and musculoskeletal models. Trained as a biomedical electrical engineer, he works closely together with clinicians such as (paediatric) rehabilitation specialists to improve the mobility of people with gait problems. As Medical Delta professor, he now has appointments at TU Delft, LUMC and Erasmus MC. This collaboration enables him to share knowledge with researchers in other disciplines in search of a better treatment for osteoarthritis, among other things.

In 2014, Harlaar co-founded the Bachelor's programme in Clinical Technology, a collaboration between TU Delft and the medical faculties of the Erasmus and Leiden Universities, as well as the Master's programme in Technical Medicine in 2017; he is programme director of both. In these programmes, students learn to bridge the gap between the technical and the medical world – much as Harlaar himself has been doing for many years.

During the first wave of the pandemic, when his 25 Master's students were unable to do a hospital internship, Harlaar launched a project where they designed an emergency breathing device for Covid-19 patients. Although the devices weren’t needed in the end, this OperationAIR was a great success, not in the least because it taught students to cooperate in the way Harlaar does. ‘You don't achieve impactful innovations in isolation’, he would later say.

Harlaar studied electrical engineering at the University of Twente and graduated in biomedical engineering. In 1998, he received his doctorate from the VU University Amsterdam for research into technology for assessing motor functions to support medical decision-making. He remained at the VU, where he became Professor of Clinical Movement Analysis in 2012. He has been professor of clinical biomechanics at TU Delft since 2017.  


Professor Paulien Herder, Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences (AS), was made a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion in Nootdorp.

Professor Paulien Herder is an excellent connector. A chemical engineer by education, she worked for many years at the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management (TPM). She developed an integrated approach by combining her field of expertise, engineering systems sciences, with the social and behavioural sciences. She devoted herself wholeheartedly to the energy transition, e.g. as chairman of the Delft Energy Initiative, the platform that brings together all TU Delft's energy education and research. Supported by her students, she received the 2017 Professor of Excellence award (in Dutch: Leermeesterprijs), the TU Delft prize for professors who succeed in combining excellent education and research more than anyone else.

In 2019, Herder made the switch to the Process & Energy department at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Maritime Engineering and Materials Science (3mE). There she became programme leader for e-Refinery, the interfaculty programme that develops technology and systems for the production of raw materials and fuels based on renewable energy. She is also active in the energy domain outside TU Delft. She is Captain of Science within the TopTeam Energy, a role in which she tries to accelerate the innovation process of the energy transition by bringing knowledge institutes together. Between 2019 and 2021, she also sat on the board of the NWO's Applied and Technical Sciences domain; here, too, she was an advocate of interdisciplinary cooperation and the connection between science and industry.

Paulien Herder graduated in Chemical Technology from TU Delft in 1994. In 1999 she received a doctorate for her thesis ‘Process Design in a Changing Environment’ at the TPM faculty. After her PhD, she did further research on the design of large-scale complex systems. She was also closely involved in the international research consortium Next Generation Infrastructures. Since 2009, she has been Professor of Engineering Systems Design in Energy & Industry. After several years at the helm of e-Refinery, she became Dean of the AS Faculty in 2021.


Professor Catholijn Jonker, Professor of Interactive Intelligence at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS) was made a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion in Leidschendam.

Professor Catholijn Jonker is an internationally renowned expert and pioneer in the field of embedding artificial intelligence (AI) in the social environment. Jonker's mission is to create synergy between humans and technology. She recognised the possibilities of combining artificial and human intelligence back in the days when AI was still only used for automation. As she herself describes it, a computer can act as a sheepdog that strengthens the sheep-keeping qualities of humans. In 2007, she received a prestigious Vici grant to develop this idea in order to support human negotiations. The resulting negotiation tool, Pocket Negotiator, is being brought to the market by spin-off company WeGain. Central to this, as in all of Jonker's research, is that the tool must lead to fair and just results.

The idea that humans and AI should complement each other is also central to the Zwaartekracht programme ‘Hybrid Intelligence: Augmenting human intellect’, of which Jonker was a co-applicant in 2019. With a contribution of 19 million euros from the Ministry of OCW, Jonker and colleagues from inside and outside of TU Delft are working on intelligent systems that collaborate with humans. As one of the founders of the Delft Design for Values institute, Jonker is also involved in another Zwaartekracht programme: ‘Ethics of socially disruptive technologies’. Because artificial intelligence and its deployment raises moral questions, the answers to which must be part of the development process.

Catholijn Jonker studied Computer Science at Utrecht University, where she obtained a doctorate for her research on ‘Constraints and negations in logic programming’ in 1994. She continued her scientific career at the VU University Amsterdam and was subsequently appointed Professor of Artificial Intelligence/Cognitive Science at Radboud University in 2004. In 2006 she came to TU Delft, where she became Professor of Interactive Intelligence. Since 2017, she has combined this position with a position as Professor of Explainable Artificial Intelligence at Leiden University.


Professor Rob Mudde, Vice-Rector Magnificus/Vice-President Education on the Executive Board, was made a Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion in Delft.

Professor Mudde has devoted himself to education and students at TU Delft for more than thirty years. As Professor of multiphase flow at the Faculty of Applied Sciences (AS), Mudde was also the Faculty's Director of Education for ten years. As Distinguished Professor in Science Education, he led TU Delft’s Teaching Academy and Teaching Lab, the educational community devoted to educational innovation. He also played an important role in the development of the educational vision that is part of the university's strategy. Now a member of the Executive Board, Mudde still strives for educational reform, so that TU Delft can continue to train engineers for the future.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the subject of educational reform was temporarily side-lined. Mudde   led the process of converting campus education to online education to safeguard continuity. In addition, he devoted himself wholeheartedly to the welfare of students, a subject that had always been close to his heart. Mudde always tries to encourage students to find their own way within education. While he is keen for TU Delft to maintain its global position as an excellent university, he warns against the permanent pressure to perform that is put on young people. Students should focus on realising their personal ambitions, rather than abstract excellence goals.

Rob Mudde studied physics at Leiden University, where he obtained his doctorate in 1989. Since then he has been attached to TU Delft, where he became professor of multiphase flow in 2001. In 2018, he was appointed to the Executive Board as Vice Rector Magnificus/Vice President Education and Vice President. Before that, he was, among other things, interim chair of the Department of Imaging Physics at the Faculty of AS. In all these capacities, one thing has always been abundantly clear: Mudde has a great affinity with the Delft engineer.

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