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March 24th 2017

Biological molecules
In the article Rijs describes a new, innovative method for obtaining information about the three-dimensional structure of small biological molecules. Her method is the first to make use of far infrared light for this purpose.

Researchers use this light to cause a large part of the molecule to vibrate simultaneously. They subsequently measure the light spectrum of the vibrating molecule. The spectrum is a kind of 'fingerprint' containing information about the molecular structure. However, the information is hidden in the spectrum and the measurements still need to be translated into a clear structural image. For a long time physicists thought that it was difficult to perform this translation if the molecule was described using far infrared light, even though this light can reveal a lot of information. Rijs changed all of this: together with the French research group of Marie-Pierre Gaigeot (l’Université d’Evry) she used an unusual theoretical method to derive the structural information. Rijs carried out her work at the FELIX Laboratory of Radboud University.

Applied physics
The committee is impressed by how Anouk Rijs has independently, and in a relatively short period of time, realised a breakthrough in physics in the area of biomolecules research. The committee praises the quality and clarity of her article, and refers to her work as 'a good example of applied physics'.

Anouk Rijs gained her doctorate in 2003 from VU University and the University of Amsterdam and she subsequently worked as a postdoc at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Santa Barbara (UCSB). In 2007 she became a Veni researcher at the FOM Institute for Plasma Physics Rijnhuizen, where she received a tenured appointment in 2010. She has received many notable grants and prizes, including the 'Mildred Dresselhaus Award' of the Hamburg Centre for Ultrafast Imaging, a prize that the institute awards each year to two striking international female researchers. A guest professorship is also a part of that prize. Since 2012 Rijs has been assistant professor in the Molecular and Biophysics research group within the FELIX Laboratory of Radboud University.

Minerva Prize
The bi-annual Minerva Prize for the best physics publication from a woman as part of the FOm/f incentive programme. The aim of the prize is to draw attention to excellent female physicists and to give a boost to the careers of the prizewinners. The Minerva Prize includes a sum of 5,000 euros that the winner is free to spend as she wishes.

Award ceremony
Anouk Rijs will receive her prize on the evening of Tuesday, 19 January 2016 during the congress Physics@FOM. On Wednesday, 20 January Rijs will give a lecture about the research she describes in the prize-winning article.

Contact information
For further information about the research please contact Anouk Rijs, +31 24 365 39 40.
For further information about the Minerva Prize and the FOm/f incentive programme please contact Sandra de Keijzer, +31 30 600 12 17.

Gas-phase peptide structures unraveled by far-IR spectroscopy, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Vol 53, issue 14, 3663-3666, April 2014.

Further information
- Article (in Dutch only) over Anouk Rijs in the relations magazine FOM expres (2009)
- Press release about the article of Rijs (2014)