Who is Marina van Damme?

The Marina van Damme Grant is made possible thanks to Dr. ir. Marina van Damme. Marina obtained her Master’s degree at TU Delft in 1953 and she was the first female student to obtain her PhD at the former Technical University College Twente in 1965.

After her graduation in 1953, an impressive career in science and industry followed.  After five instructive years at the Central Laboratory of TNO in Delft, she moved to the Koninklijke Nederlandse Zoutindustrie (KNZ) (now part of Akzo Nobel). First as research staff and later as head of the laboratory and deputy director of KNZ. During this period she also became the first woman to obtain a PhD at the University of Twente.

Around the age of forty, she decided it was time for something completely different. She left research behind; she wanted to focus on business development. It was a leap in the dark for Van Damme but she soon climbed the career ladder once again.

'The fact that at the time my husband gave precedence to my career and not his, and supported me every step of the way, was extremely important to me.'

She became director of Chemical Strategy at Akzo in 1977 via many other roles. She advises the Executive Board on strategic and operational plans and investment projects and acquisitions. She is a member of the Supervisory Board of TNO and ABN AMRO, is active in the entrepreneur organisation VNO and is a member of study groups in Brussels and considers technology policy at the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

'I have had an amazing career, which I also want for other female graduates. I want to offer them the opportunity to take another step outside their particular university, to explore their field in more detail or become more international. As a result they increase their chances of having an interesting career", says Marina Van Damme, who welcomes the prize winners under the apple tree on her farm every summer. "It creates a network of women that can share their experiences and help each other. This reveals that the scholarship does indeed give their career a boost.'

Van Damme decided to give others a helping hand and in 2004, she and the Delft University Fund presented the first Marina van Damme Grant.