Kay Moisan wins Hugo de Vries Award

Key Moisan met de Hugo de Vries Prijs
© Kay Moisan

Kay Moisan wins Hugo de Vries Award


Kay Moisan has won the 2020 Hugo de Vries Award, for her PhD thesis on odours released by soil fungi and their effects on plants. The annual prize is awarded to the best thesis of the past twelve months in botany-related sciences in the Netherlands.

In her PhD thesis, Kay Moisan demonstrates that not only do plants perceive odours from soil microbes, they can also actively respond to them by changing the direction in which their roots grow. This 'sense of smell' helps plants protect themselves from insects and other herbivores.

Moisan defended this innovative thesis, based on research she did at NIOO, at Wageningen University last October. Before that, she experimented with state-of-the-art chromatography techniques, developed her own experimental set-ups and published portions of her research in leading journals such as Plant Cell & Environment.

Kay Moisan
Kay Moisan's winning thesis

Unusual year

On Twitter, Moisan responded to her award by saying she is "super thrilled", and by thanking her entire team including her co-supervisor Jos Raaijmakers and Viviane Cordovez, both from NIOO.What makes it even more special is that Moisan is the first woman to win the award since 2009, and that this is the first year in the award's history when two laureates have been selected: Sjon Hartman (Utrecht University) is the other winner of the 2020 Hugo de Vries Award.

The independent jury - made up of representatives of different disciplines and research institutes - cites the quality of the theses as the reason they could and would not pick a single winner this year.

Dutch Darwin

The Hugo de Vries Award is a shared initiative of the Royal Botanical Society of the Netherlands and the Hugo de Vries Foundation, and was established in 2000. The winner receives € 5000 and a certificate.

The award takes its name from one of the most internationally well-known Dutch biologists, the 'Dutch Darwin' Hugo de Vries (1848-1935).