Professor Wolfgang Knoll honorary doctor of the University of Twente

Professor Knoll received the degree “doctor honoris causa” on October 25, 2011 during the 50 years celebrations, the 50th Dies Natalis, of the University of Twente, in the presence of her Majesty Queen Beatrix. Prof. Knoll’s honorary promotor, Prof. Julius Vancso, commented the work of the honorary doctor as “one of the most inspiring, most influential, most original and most productive oeuvres of the last decades in biophysics, bionanotechnology, and molecular sciences”. The full text of the considerans can be found below.


Professor Knoll,

It is with immense pleasure to present to you a doctorate honoris causa of the University of Twente. This doctorate, ladies and gentlemen, honors one of the most inspiring, most influential, most original and most productive oeuvres of the last decades in biophysics, bionanotechnology, and molecular sciences. Praising the merits of your work cannot be done in the few minutes I have, hence I just give a sampler of a few key milestones. In fact in today’s era of paradigm shifts, emergence of new disciplines such as bio-nanotechnology, and rise of multidisciplinary research, it is not easy to pinpoint a single discipline to which you should be placed. You call yourself a “generalist” and in a way this is a fitting definition to mirror the breadth of your achievements as a scientist and scholar, a science policy maker, a founder of a school in biointerfaces, and as the personal leader of the Knollies, the network of your students and coworkers who became mature under your leadership. Biointerfaces I should mention in particular as you have always been interested in deciphering the behaviour of the complex contacts between man-made and natural systems and paid attention to achieve the functionality of biology also in man-made systems. This requires specific techniques and approaches. You put light waves to work for you to provide information about the molecularly thin layers that connect the man-made and the natural worlds, invented and applied new physics, built new devices, and promoted their commercialization. You spared no effort to push the sensitivity of your analytical techniques towards the ultimate limit of sensing single biomolecules. When we first met 12 years ago, you were a Scientific Director of the world renowned Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, and I was a professor of the MESA+ Institute of Nanotechnology of the University of Twente, which in its discipline also belongs to the world leaders. During our long-standing collaborations in the past we often combined the science of a Max Planck Institute with the nanotechnology of MESA+. Our students benefitted from our regular joint group meetings which I consider as a role model to beat the bureaucracy and to do what we should do to push science to the edge and occasionally even beyond the edge. I am very proud of the book our respective groups published as a memento of these joint meetings, which was assembled by two of our coworkers who belong to the leaders of the next generation. You recently moved to Vienna to become the scientific director of the Austrian Institute of Technology AIT. This has not reduced the intensity of our contacts. Be it in Saosalito just overlooking the great city of San Francisco, in Switzerland just under the table of the Devil in Le Diablerets, or in Singapore in the garden bar of the Raffles Hotel, we always find each other for a scientific chat, for exchanging news and for forging plans for the future.

I trust that this honorary doctorate, beyond expressing our appreciation for your scientific oevre, will further help to strengthen the relationship between our corresponding Institutes, the AIT and MESA+, between our scientific teams, and will further strengthen our friendship. I would like to close by wishing you, and those who are close to you all the best from the bottom of my heart.