TU Delft professors receive royal honour

TU Delft professors Arnold Heemink and Lina Sarro were recently honoured with an award called De Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw, or “Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion”.

This Dutch order of chivalry was founded in 1815 by King William I of The Netherlands. It was originally created to recognize people of all walks of life who made a contribution to society of a highly exceptional nature. Since 1980, the Order has been primarily used to recognise merit in the arts, sciences (research), technical innovation or innovative entrepreneurship.

Arnold Heemink
As professor of mathematical analysis and scale models at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EWI), Heemink was knighted based on his exceptional contribution to mathematics education at TU Delft. He did not set out to pursue an academic career so after finishing a master’s of applied mathematics at the University of Twente, he joined Rijkswaterstaat, part of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. While working as head of the mathematical modeling section, he completed his PhD in 1986. In 1990 he joined TU Delft as a part-time professor in the Department of Applied Mathematics and became full professor three years later.

His mathematical research is applicable in fields such as water and flood protection, oil flow measurement and the distribution of contaminants in groundwater. Heemink’s work has led to 130 scientific publications and mathematical models used by research institutions and industry alike. He was instrumental in bringing together the mathematics at the Delft Institute of Applied Mathematics (DIAM), was part of the foundation of EWI and was closely involved in the creation of the 3TU.AMI, the Applied Mathematics Institute of mathematics departments of the universities in Delft, Eindhoven and Twente.

According to Heemink, the best thing about his job is working with young and enthusiastic students. “PhD projects are very important for the scientific development of students,” he said. “It is great to take part in this development.” With regards to receiving the award,

Heemink humbly said, “I see it as a sign of recognition and I feel very honoured by this. Of course you can only get an award like this if you have very good colleagues in your own research group.”

Lina Sarro
A large body of groundbreaking scientific work in the field of sensors and microelectronics earned Sarro the prestigious knighthood. Originally from Italy, she attained her Laurea degree in physics at the University of Naples in 1980. She went on to do research in Italy and the USA on solar cells and thin-film photovoltaic cell fabrication. In 1983 she came to the university as a research assistant working on infrared sensors. After completing her PhD in 1987, Sarro joined the Delft Institute of Microsystems and Nanoelectronics (Dimes) leading research on micro and nano systems (MEMS and NEMS).

Currently the Head of the Electronic Components, Technology and Materials (ECTM) Laboratory and the Microelectronic Department Chair, Sarro said there were many reasons she chose a career in academia. One important reason was the ability to combine high level research in an international setting with the pleasure of working with and teaching students. With 500 scientific publications she is professionally accomplished, but she is also revered by her students and a champion of female scientists. In 2005 Sarro was the first woman appointed to the TU Delft Board of Professors.

When asked what she loves most about her job, Sarro said, “That it changes every day, that you are surrounded by young and motivated people, that you learn new things every day, that you operate globally, and that you hope to contribute to a better society and a better world.”

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