16 June 2017

Prof. Van Marken Lichtenbelt nominated for Huibregtsen Prize

Prof. Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt is one of six nominees for the Huibregtsen Prize 2017. The prize is awarded to a recent research project that is scientifically innovative and has clear societal value. Van Marken Lichtenbelt’s discovery of brown adipose tissue in adults in 2009 led to the research of ways to activate and increase brown adipose tissue. On 9 October 2017 foreman of the jury José van Dijck (president KNAW) will announce the winner of the Huibregsten Prize during the Night of Science & Society (Avond van Wetenschap & Maatschappij).

Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt is professor Ecological Energetics and Health at Maastricht University. He concluded that the temperature in our buildings should decrease, when several discoveries made it clear to him that the exposure to cold increases human energy consumption. At the same time, it decreases the energy consumption of our buildings. More variation in the indoor temperature improves our metabolism and results in healthier and more sustainable buildings. It is a revolutionary idea that parts with the worldwide convention to adjust the temperature to the average person each season.

The innovative research of Van Marken Lichtenbelt focuses on the heat production of humans and the application of this knowledge to buildings. While most research in thermoregulation focuses on extreme temperatures, the professor looked at mild variations in particular. This led to a series of discoveries regarding brown adipose tissue: healthy tissue that provides extra heat like a small radiator inside the human body.

Van Marken Lichtenbelt also links the physiological research to psychological variables; with this he proved, among other things, why women often feel cold in buildings in which the temperature is adjusted to the average male. The jury is very pleased with the quality and originality of this research and praises Van Marken Lichtenbelt for the interdisciplinary approach and the application, which improves buildings in terms of both health and sustainability.

The other five nominees are: Prof. Carlijn Bouten (TU Eindhoven), prof. Natali Helberger and prof. . Claes de Vreese (University of Amsterdam), prof. Kofi Makinwa (TU Delft), prof. Theunis Piersma (Univeristy of Groningen) and prof. Jolanda de Vries (Radboud University).