Informal first-person bio
I was born and raised in Belgium. Following an old-school Latin gymnasium education, I obtained my Licentiate [=combined B.Sc./M.Sc. degree] in Chemistry in 1987, my Ph.D. in early 1991, and my Habilitation/Higher Doctorate/Faculty Qualification in 1994, all from the University of Antwerp. In 1995 the National Science Foundation of Belgium granted me a permanent research position.
During 1992-3, I spent a postdoctoral stint in the USA, first with Timothy J. Lee and Peter R. Taylor at NASA Ames Research Center. When Peter accepted a faculty position at UCSD and San Diego Supercomputer Center, I followed him there. One Friday night in synagogue, I met a petite, ebullient, polyglot musician named Wendy Gardner, an "army brat" of Russian-Jewish origin to whom I am still happily married.
1995 was another fateful year for us. Our daughter Aviva was born, I obtained tenure as a research associate with the National Science Foundation of Belgium, and the late lamented Chava Lifshitz invited me for a sabbatical at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a Golda Meir Fellow. One thing led to another, and before long the Weizmann Institute offered me a faculty position.
After long reflection — and turning the sabbatical into an opportunity to see if we could handle the reality of life in Israel, as distinct from our romantic fantasy thereof — we decided to accept the offer and make our home here. Giving up tenure was a bit of a nail-biter, but in 2001 I earned it again, and promotion to full professor followed in 2005. At that point, I was honored to succeed crystallographer and pioneering supramolecular chemist Meir Lahav as the Baroness Thatcher Professor of Chemistry.
We spent July 2007-June 2008 in Chicagoland, as I was on sabbatical with Prof. George C. Schatz at Northwestern University. Upon my return, I served as Senior Advisor for IT affairs to the President of the Weizmann Institute, until I spent another stint abroad — this time around in Dallas, TX, where I was Distinguished University Research Professor at the UNT Center for Advanced Scientific Computing and Modeling. Since August 1, 2012, I have been back full-time at Weizmann.
Thus far, I have published some 280 papers, which have been cited about 18,000 times, with an h-index=73 at the time of writing. I am a foreign member of the Belgian Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences” (KVAB) and an IUPAC Fellow; other professional honors include the Dirac Medal of WATOC (2004), the Wolgin Prize for Scientific Excellence (2008), the Outstanding Young Scientist Award of the Israel Chemical Society (2000), and the 1997 Alumni Award (one prize in Chemistry every 5 years) of the Belgian-American Educational Foundation.
While my "official" mother tongue is Dutch, I am in greater command of English at this point (both spoken and written). I am fully fluent in Hebrew; while I read and understand French and German fully, my spoken French and especially German have gotten a bit rusty. Additionally, I can read Spanish and Italian well enough to understand work-related documents in these languages.
History, the written word, and above all music are my enduring passions outside science and my family.
A generation without history has no past, and no future. (Robert A. Heinlein)
The first principle [of science] is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool. (Richard P. Feynman)
After hearing Bach, people feel there may be meaning to life after all. (Helmut Walcha, blind organist)
Let knowledge grow from more to more
But more of reverence in us dwell
That mind and soul, according well
May make one music as before