The EU’s new evidence ambassadors

10 Nov 2015 | News
Here are short profiles of the seven leading scientists named to the European Commission’s new Scientific Advice Mechanism

Rolf Dieter-Heuer - Departing director-general of CERN

Dieter-Heuer is nearing the end of his term in CERN as its 15th director; from 1 January, Fabiola Gianotti, an Italian particle physicist, will take on the role. As well as serving on the new panel, announced today by the EU Commission, Heuer will become the director of the German Physical Society.

He’s leaving CERN on a white horse, having steered the institute through the most successful period in its history. On the morning of July 4, 2012, in front of the world’s physicists and media, he said, “I think we have it,” declaring an end to the 50 year chase for the Higgs boson, the missing piece of the standard model of particle physics which explains why elementary particles have mass.

From 2004 to 2008, Heuer was research director for particle and astro-particle physics at Germany’s DESY laboratory. He is designated President of the Council of SESAME (Synchrotron-Light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) in Jordan, a project dear to the heart of EU Research Commissioner Carlos Moedas.

He is also a member of several Academies of Sciences in Europe, in particular of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.

Cédric Villani - Director of the Henri Poincaré Institute in Paris

Villani, a household name in France, is recognised as a brilliant mathematician. After winning the Fermat and Henri Poincaré prizes in 2009, he was awarded the prestigious Fields Medal – dubbed the ‘Nobel Prize for Mathematics’ – in 2010 for his research on optimal transport and kinetic theory.

With his signature style – comprising a three-piece suit, velvet cravat, pocket watch and brooch – he will be hard to miss in the Berlaymont.

Julia Slingo - Chief scientist with the UK’s Met Office

As chief scientist at the Met Office since 2009, Slingo oversees the work of around 500 scientists. Before joining the Met she was the director of climate research in the Natural Environment Research Council. In 2006 she founded the Walker Institute for Climate System Research at Reading, aimed at addressing the cross disciplinary challenges of climate change and its impacts. She was also the first female president of the UK’s Royal Meteorological Society.

Henrik Wegener - Executive vice president, chief academic officer and provost of the Technical University of Denmark (DTU)

Wegener was director of DTU’s National Food Institute from 2006-2011 and before that head of the department of epidemiology and risk assessment at National Food and Veterinary Research Institute from 2004-2006. 

From 1994-1999, he was director of the Danish Zoonosis Centre, and from 1999-2004 professor of zoonosis epidemiology at Danish Veterinary Institute. He was also stationed at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva from 1999-2000.

Wegener has received several awards, including the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics International Leadership Award in 2003.

Elvira Fortunato- Professor in the materials science department of the Faculty of Science and Technology at NOVA University in Lisbon    

Fortunato is also a fellow of the Portuguese Engineering Academy since 2009, the director of the Institute of Nanomaterials, Nanofabrication and Nanomodeling at the Centre for Materials Research (better known as CENIMAT), and a European Research Council (ERC) grant holder.

She was also a member of the Portuguese National Scientific and Technological Council between 2012 and 2015 and a member of the advisory board of the Commission’s DG CONNECT from 2014-15.

Janusz Bujnicki - Head of the laboratory of bioinformatics and protein engineering at Warsaw’s International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology

As well as winning an ERC grant, in 2013 Bujnicki became the first science laureate of the “Poles with Verve”, a national competition ran by the government.

His research combines bioinformatics, structural biology and synthetic biology. His scientific achievements include the development of methods for computational modeling of protein and RNA 3D structures, discovery and characterisation of enzymes involved in RNA metabolism, and engineering of proteins with new functions.

Bujnicki has been involved in various scientific organisations and advisory bodies, including the Polish Young Academy, civic movement Citizens of Science, Life, Environmental and Geo Sciences panel of the Science Europe organisation, and Scientific Policy Committee – an advisory body of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education in Poland. He is also an executive editor of the scientific journal Nucleic Acids Research.

Pearl Dykstra - Professor of sociology at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam

Before taking her post in Rotterdam, Dykstra was chair in kinship demography at Utrecht University from 2002-2009 and a senior scientist at the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute in The Hague from 1990-2009. She won an ERC grant in 2012.

According to her bio, her publications focus on intergenerational solidarity, aging societies, family change, ageing and the life course, and late-life well-being. She is an elected member of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, and its vice-president since 2011, elected member of the Dutch Social Sciences Council, and elected fellow of The Gerontological Society of America.


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