VUB hosts lecture by Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa

VUB hosts lecture by Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa

The Art of Building Small

On Tuesday 5 March, Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa will visit the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) in Jette. The visit is the initiative of the Nobel Prize Outreach organisation in Sweden. Feringa will give a lecture called The Art of Building Small, an accessible introduction to his research on molecular nanotechnology and molecular motors. This research opens the doors for revolutionary applications in sectors including medicine and pharmaceuticals. Journalists are welcome to attend the lecture or request an interview. Feringa is a renowned Dutch chemist affiliated with the University of Groningen. He, Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Fraser Stoddart were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2016 for their research on molecular nanomachines.

In The Art of Building Small, Feringa will immerse the audience in the world of molecular nanotechnology and molecular motors, and the practical applications that have the potential to transform medical science. In 2011, he was the first scientist in the world to synthesise molecular motors, enabling them to continue running under the influence of ultraviolet light. He and his research group developed a “nano-car with four-wheel drive”. In the future, this may enable revolutionary applications, such as transporting drugs through the bloodstream to a specific place in the body. This could be an anti-tumour drug that works on a tumour but leaves healthy tissues alone.

All VUB students and academics as well as UZ Brussel staff are invited to attend the lecture. It will be of particular interest to students of chemistry, engineering, bioengineering, biomedical sciences, pharmaceutical sciences and medicine. After the lecture, 15 students will be selected to meet Feringa and take part in a discussion with him.

A private meeting between Ben Feringa, VUB rector Jan Danckaert and 10 VUB professors from the above programmes will take place before the lecture.

The lecture is part of the wider programme of Nobel Prize Dialogue Brussels. The global Nobel Prize Dialogue is a forum for scientists and non-scientists to enhance dialogue between the scientific community and wider society. The 2024 Nobel Prize Dialogue Brussels is organised by Nobel Prize Outreach in Sweden in cooperation with the European Research Council.

Evening programme at Bozar

In the evening, Bozar will host the Nobel Prize Dialogue Brussels. Nobel laureates, leading thinkers, policymakers and researchers will come together to discuss the most pressing issues of our time. Subjects such as the power of stories in democracy, evidence-based worldviews, AI and other technologies will take centre stage. You are cordially invited to this event too.

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  • 13.00-13.10: Welcome by rector Jan Danckaert and the Nobel Outreach Office
  • 13.10-14.00: Lecture: The Art of Building Small by Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa
  • 14.00-14.15: Audience Q&A
  • 14.30-15.20: Round table discussion with students (by invitation)

The lecture will take place in English. Interviews with Ben Feringa can be carried out in Dutch.

Nathalie Vlaemynck

Broaden your horizons

This initiative is part of VUB’s public programme: a programme for everyone who thinks the world can be different and believes that scientific insights, critical thinking and dialogue are an important first step to making a difference to your environment and the world.

As an urban engaged university, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel aims to be a driver of change. Through our teaching and innovative research, we contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and make our mark on the future

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Nathalie Vlaemynck
Nathalie Vlaemynck Woordvoerder en algemeen perscontact


About Press - Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an internationally oriented university in Brussels, the heart of Europe. By providing excellent research and education on a human scale, VUB wants to make an active and committed contribution to a better society.

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The Vrije Universiteit Brussel assumes its scientific and social responsibility with love and decisiveness. That’s why VUB launched the platform De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig – The World Needs You, which brings together ideas, actions and projects based on six Ps. The first P stands for People, because that’s what it’s all about: giving people equal opportunities, prosperity, welfare, respect. Peace is about fighting injustice, big and small, in the world. Prosperity combats poverty and inequality. Planet stands for actions on biodiversity, climate, air quality, animal rights... With Partnership, VUB is looking for joint actions to make the world a better place. The sixth and last P is for Poincaré, the French philosopher Henri Poincaré, from whom VUB derives its motto that thinking should submit to nothing except the facts themselves. VUB is an ‘urban engaged university’, strongly anchored in Brussels and Europe and working according to the principles of free research.


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