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Professor Daan Frenkel receives Lorentz Medal

Honorary Trinity Fellow Professor Daan Frenkel has been awarded the Lorentz Medal by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences for his pioneering and innovative work in theoretical physics.

The Academy cites Professor Frenkel’s role in ‘the quiet revolution’ of using computer simulations to map molecular systems.

The Emeritus Professor at the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry specialises in explaining the phenomena related to changes of state in soft matter such as polymers, colloids and gels. These techniques can be used to help understand the behaviour of cell membranes, in order to advance medical science.

The Master of Trinity, Dame Sally Davies, said:

I am delighted by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences’ recognition of Daan Frenkel’s painstaking work over decades. The Lorentz Medal is a prestigious award and it is richly deserved by Professor Frenkel.

Professor Frenkel, who received the Institute of Physics’ Sam Edwards Medal and Prize in October, said the Lorentz Medal was unexpected.

‘The Lorentz Medal usually goes to outstanding theoretical physicists, but I am not a theoretical physicist. However, my field of Computer Simulations has been important for theoretical physics (and conversely). So I view this as a recognition of my field of research,’ he said.

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences’ citation says:

The use of computer simulations to map molecular systems may be a no-brainer today, but it was not self-evident a few decades ago. One of the driving forces behind a ‘quiet revolution’, Frenkel pioneered the use of creative computer simulations to mimic chemical and physical processes. Frenkel’s research forms the basis of a large number of theoretical and experimental studies on the behaviour of suspensions: liquids containing insoluble spherical, rod-shaped and plate-shaped particles.

Frenkel is considered one of the most creative and versatile computer physicists in the world, preferring to simplify rather than complicate his models. In many of his scientific breakthroughs, Frenkel used surprisingly simple code, according to his peers.

Frenkel’s research is not limited to theoretical physics. It has also resulted in innovative insights in related fields including chemistry, biology and crystallography. Frenkel was recently involved in a publication that – based on his earlier work – proposes a new method for detecting the DNA of different pathogens.

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