It is with great pleasure that the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry of ETH Zurich awards the 2014 Prelog Medal and Lectureship to Professor Dr. E. W. (Bert) Meijer in recognition of his outstanding research on supramolecular systems, with special emphasis on chirality, dendrimers, π-conjugated polymers, supramolecular hydrogen-bonded polymers, and their use in functional materials and biomedical applications.
Professor Meijer was born in April 1955 in Groningen and received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry in 1978 at the University of Groningen. From the same University, he obtained his PhD degree in 1982, under the supervision of Professor Hans Wynberg, investigating the chemiluminescence of 1,2-dioxetanes. He started his career at the Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven (1982-1989) were he was active as a research scientist in the field of functional organic materials, including conducting and semi-conducting polymers. From 1989 till 1992, he was Head of the Department "New Materials" at DSM Research in Geleen (the Netherlands). At DSM, he developed the synthesis of poly(propylene imine) (PPI) dendrimers, which were produced in large quantities and became commercially available.
In 1991, Bert Meijer started as a Full Professor of Organic Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology. In 1999, he was also appointed as a Professor in the newly established Department of Biomedical Engineering. Since 2004, he has been a Distinguished University Professor of Molecular Sciences at his University. In 2008, he became the Scientific Director of the newly founded Institute for Complex Molecular Systems. Since 1995, Bert Meijer is Adjunct Professor at the Radboud University Nijmegen, and since 2006 a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara. Two companies have started as spin-offs from his research: SyMO-Chem was founded in 2000 as a professional research contract company, while SupraPolix, founded in 2003, focuses on supramolecular polymers. Since 2006, he is the Chairman of the External Scientific Board of Royal DSM.
Bert Meijer is a leader in dendrimer chemistry. After moving to Eindhoven University of Technology, he demonstrated in 1994 for the first time the potential of PPI dendrimers as host containers, so-called dendritic boxes for small molecule guests, opening up the use of dendrimers as delivery systems. He also investigated dendritic supramolecular self-assembly, showing in 1995 that amphiphilic block-co-polymers incorporating polystyrene dendrimer blocks undergo generation-dependent aggregation. In 1997, he pioneered the field of supramolecular polymers in which the repeat units, self-complementary monomers, are not connected by covalent bonds, but rather through quadruple hydrogen bonding. This opened up major academic and industrial research on reversible, self-healing polymers. In 2012, he investigated pathway complexity in supramolecular polymerization processes. He reported in 2000 helical self-assembled polymers from cooperative stacking of hydrogen-bonded pairs. Self-assembly has dominated the subsequent years of research in the group, when he showed in 2003 that π-conjugated columnar stacks can be transferred from solution to surfaces, forming nanowires for supramolecular electronics. He conducted profound investigations on the mechanisms of chemical self-assembly and demonstrated in 2006 the importance of solvent-assisted nucleation pathways for the formation of self-assembled systems. In 2007, he also investigated the "Sergeants-and-Soldiers" principle for cooperative chiral self-assembly, when he found that an enantiopure discotic monomer at low concentration (the "Sergeant") induces and amplifies columnar assembly of achiral discotic monomers ("Soldiers") into helical discotic stacks of one preferred handedness. His work has led to near 600 publications and is highly cited. He holds many patents, such as on the preparation of PPI dendrimers.
In recognition of his innovative contributions to science, Bert Meijer received the Golden Medal of the Royal Dutch Chemical Society in 1993, the Arthur K. Doolittle Award of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 1995, and the Silver Medal of the MacroGroup UK of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2000. In 2001, he was awarded the prestigious SPINOZA-Award of the Dutch Science Foundation NWO. In 2006, he received the ACS Award in Polymer Chemistry. He is a member of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (since 1997) and was elected in 2003 as member of the Royal Netherland's Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). In 2010, he received an ERC Advanced Grant. He is the recipient of the Wheland Medal of the University of Chicago (2011) and the ACS Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in 2012. In 2013, he became the International Solvay Chair in Chemistry of the Solvay Institute in Brussels. In 2014, he was awarded the Academy Professor Prize by the KNAW. He was chosen in 2009 as the best teacher of the year at Eindhoven University of Technology. Bert Meijer is a member of many editorial advisory boards and serves as the Editor of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry.