Tans Medal for prof. Coen Hemker
Prof. Coen Hemker, professor of Biochemistry at Maastricht University, was awarded the highest distinction at UM, the Dr. J.G.H. Tans Medal, on Friday afternoon, 17 May. Professor Hemker is one of the founders of UM and was rector between 1982 and 1984. In UM’s early years, he played an important role in putting the university on the map, both nationally and internationally, as a research institution as well as for its innovative use of Problem-Based Learning. Within his field of thrombin generation, he is internationally recognised as a pioneer, as evidenced by the three Nature publications he has to his name.
Career in short
Coen Hemker obtained his PhD in biochemistry at the University of Amsterdam. He became professor of internal medicine in Leiden in 1968, after which he came to Maastricht in 1973 to help establish the new medical faculty. In 1975, he was named chair of the Biochemistry department in Maastricht. He has published more than 500 scientific articles and books as an author or co-author, has been a supervisor or co-supervisor of 70 PhD candidates, and has acquired dozens of patents. He also obtained the very first PhD degree at Maastricht University in 1976 and even awarded his own father with a PhD when he was at an advanced age.
Pioneer in thrombosis
Prof. Hemker is one of the world leaders in scientific research into blood clotting, or thrombosis. Blood clots because the enzyme thrombin is produced, and the amount of thrombin produced varies greatly from person to person. For example, someone who produces a large amount of thrombin has a greater chance of having a heart attack than someone who produces a small amount. Prof. Hemker is co-developer of a test that can be used to determine how much thrombin someone produces, so that the dose of anticoagulant administered can be personalised. He did this through the company that he founded, Synapse BV, with which he continued his research after his retirement in 1999.
Video about UM’s beginnings
Watch the interview with former rector Coen Hemker that was done in 2016 for the occasion of the 40th anniversary of UM.
Hemker Fund for innovative research
Prof. Hemker is also known for the Hemker Fund which, entirely in the spirit of its namesake, supports and encourages education and research in the field of haemostasis and thrombosis. It does this, among other things, through the establishment of a rotating chair, an international training programme and grants to further develop original and innovative research ideas in such a way that they are very likely to obtain funding. To this day, Coen Hemker himself is also known for his original ideas for scientific research and his ability to think outside the box.
Awards & distinctions
He is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as its Flemish, French and European counterparts. He was granted knighthood in France and named as ‘Officer of the French Legion of Honor’ in 1990 and 2011, respectively, and he was appointed ‘Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion’ in 2000.
It is a special achievement that Professor Hemker is still scientifically active 20 years after his official retirement date and has been one of the scientific figureheads of UM and its medical faculty for more than 40 years. In 2009, a UM lecture hall was named after him. And now, because of his exceptional scientific achievements and extraordinary commitment to Maastricht University, the Dr. J.G.H. Tans Medal is added to his list of accomplishments.
UM Rector Rianne Letschert presents the Tans Medal to professor Hemker