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Dutch royal honours for Manchester Researchers

02 Dec 2010

University of Manchester Nobel Prize winners Professor Andre Geim and Professor Konstantin Novoselov have received knighthoods from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

Professor Andre Geim and Professor Konstantin Novoselov
Professor Andre Geim and Professor Konstantin Novoselov

They are now Knight Commanders in the Order of the Netherlands Lion – the country’s most prestigious award.

The academics, who won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of graphene, were handed the royal honour at a ceremony in Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

Professor Geim worked as an associate professor at The University of Nijmegen before 2001 and is a Dutch citizen.

Professor Novoselov received his PhD from Nijmegen in 2004. However it is very rare for a non-Dutch citizen, such as Professor Novoselov who is a dual Russian and British national, to be awarded the honour at such a high level.

The two professors, who work together at the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, discovered the world’s thinnest and strongest material by tearing off tiny molecules of carbon from graphite.

Graphene can be used in thousands of applications from ultrafast transistors to composite materials for aeroplanes to touch screens and to new generations of electric batteries.

Dutch State Secretary Halbe Zijlstra presented the professors with their medals at a ceremony in the Netherlands.

Addressing Professor Geim, he said: “ In scientific terms, you straddle different traditions. You were educated in Russia, you conducted considerable scientific work in the Netherlands, and you now work in Manchester, together with Konstantin Novoselov.

“You are living proof that science is an international field. In your career in science, you have moved around just as quickly as the electrons in graphene.

“The revolutionary scientific breakthroughs that have led to Nobel Prizes would, of course, not have been possible without academic freedom. Scientists must be given the freedom to come up with radical and unorthodox ideas.

“And we must accept the fact that research sometimes fails. Scientists must also be given the freedom to follow research to a dead end.

“Let me say it again: our country is extremely proud of you both. It is with enormous pleasure that I have the honour of informing you that Her Majesty, the Queen is pleased to bestow a Royal Honour on both of you and to induct you both as a Commander in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.”

Professor Geim said: “It is a wonderful feeling to receive the honour that is normally reserved for Dutch-born Nobel laureates. As a Dutch citizen it gives me a real sense of pride for the Netherlands that as a Russian born is treated equally.

“I look back at my time in the Netherlands with great fondness and I was able to do some important work while I was there.

“This honour is a testament to the power of science and to its importance in the world today,.”

Professor Novoselov added: “I enjoyed my years in the Netherlands, but, as I am not Dutch, I could never expect to receive such a very rare honour.

“I am shocked and delighted to have been recognized in this way. This is something I will treasure greatly.”

Notes for editors

Notes for Editors:

Further images of the two Professors are available on request from the press office.

For media enquiries contact:
Daniel Cochlin
Media Relations Officer
The University of Manchester
0161 275 8387
daniel.cochlin@manchester.ac.uk