Keynote speakers

During CHAINS 2018, several keynote lectures are organised. The keynote lectures are scheduled on 3 and 5 December.

Keynote speakers on 3 December:
Kevin Verstrepen

Kevin Verstrepen is professor in Genetics and Genomics at Leuven University and Group Leader in Systems Biology at VIB (Flanders Institute for Biotechnology). He serves as the director of the VIB Center for Microbiology, director of the Leuven Institute for Beer Research and as Honorary Professor at Nottingham University. 

Verstrepen studied biological engineering at the Leuven University (KU Leuven) in Belgium. For his MSc thesis, Verstrepen joined Isak Pretorius' group at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. After his doctoral research at Leuven University, Verstrepen joined the lab of genetics pioneer Gerald Fink at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, USA. After spending two years at MIT, Verstrepen joined Harvard University as a Harvard Fellow and group leader. Verstrepen's team unraveled molecular mechanisms underlying rapid evolution and adaptation. In 2009, Verstrepen returned to Belgium where his team continues to investigate eukaryotic genetics and epigenetics using brewer's yeast as a model system. Verstrepen established the pilot brewery which is a joint initiative of the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology and the KU Leuven Faculty of Bioscience Engineering.

Verstrepen was awarded grants from the ERC (starting grant in 2009, consolidator grant in 2016) and the Human Frontier Science Program (in 2007 and in 2014). He also received an EMBO YIP fellowship and won several awards, including Harvard's Derek Bok award for best teacher, the Golden Chalk award for best teacher in bio-engineering at KU Leuven, and the triennial Leo Errera Award for Biology of the Belgian Academy for Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he received an honorary professorship from Nottingham University.  In 2017, he was selected as one of the "Leuven 100" by Word Magazine.

Kenichiro Itami

Kenichiro Itami is full professor at Nagoya University in Japan. He also has been Director of the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM) since 2012, and Research Director of the JST-ERATO Itami Molecular Nanocarbon Project since 2013.

Itami was born in 1971 and raised in Tokyo. He studied chemistry at Kyoto University, Japan, and completed his Ph.D. in 1998 with Prof. Yoshihiko Ito. He became an Assistant Professor at Kyoto University and then moved to Nagoya University as an Associate Professor in 2005, and was promoted to Full Professor in 2008.

His research focuses on the development of innovative functional molecules with significant structures and properties, and the development of rapid molecule-assembly methods using unique catalysts. He has pioneered molecular nanocarbon science by the bottom-up synthesis of structurally uniform nanocarbons of fundamental and practical importance. Itami has received numerous awards and honors including The Guthikonda Lecturer, Stanford University (2018), The Roland K. Pettit Centennial Lecturer, University of Texas, Austin (2018), CSJ Award for Creative Work, The Chemical Society of Japan (2018), Highly Cited Researchers, Clarivate Analytics (2017), ICI Distinguished Lecturer, University of Calgary (2017), The Chunichi Cultural Award

Anna Akhmanova

Anna Akhmanova is professor of Cell Biology at Utrecht University. She studies cytoskeletal organisation and trafficking processes, which contribute to cell polarisation, differentiation, vertebrate development and human disease. Her aim is to understand at a systems level how different aspects of cell architecture are coordinated.

Akhmanova studied biochemistry and molecular biology at the Moscow State University. She received her PhD in 1997 at the University of Nijmegen. She worked as a post-doctoral  researcher at the Department of Microbiology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Nijmegen and at the Department of Cell Biology at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. From 2001 till 2011 she had her own research group at the Department of Cell Biology at the Erasmus Medical Center.

The main focus of the studies in Akhmanova lab in Utrecht is the microtubule cytoskeleton. She studies the structure and function of proteins which interact with the two ends of microtubules, the plus- and the minus-end. In another line of study, she investigates molecular mechanisms of microtubule-based vesicle transport. This research relies on combining high-resolution live cell imaging and quantitative analysis of cytoskeletal dynamics, measurement of protein dynamics using advanced microscopic assays, in vitro reconstitution of dynamic cytoskeleton-based processes and different methods of identification of protein-protein interactions.


Anna Akhmanova has received the NWO Spinoza Prize 2018, as well as the NWO VIDI (2001) and VICI awards (2007) and an ERC Synergy grant (2013). She is an editorial board member of several journals in the field of life sciences and is a Deputy Editor of eLife.

Keynote speakers on 5 December:
Christina Nevado

Cristina Nevado graduated in chemistry at the Autónoma University of Madrid in 2000. In October 2004 she received her PhD in organic chemistry from the same University working with Prof. Antonio

M. Echavarren in late transition metal catalyzed reactions. After a post-doctoral stay in the group of Prof. Alois Fürstner at the Max-Planck-Institut für Kohlenforschung (Germany), she joined the University of Zürich as an Assistant Professor in May 2007. In 2011, Cristina was awarded the Chemical Society Reviews Emerging Investigator Award and the Thieme Chemistry Journal Award in recognition of her contributions in the field of synthetic organic chemistry. In 2012 she received an  ERC Junior Investigator grant and has been awarded the Werner Prize of the Swiss Chemical Society. In 2013 she became Full Professor at the Organic Chemistry Institute of the University of Zürich. Rooted in the wide area of organic chemistry, her research program is focused on complex chemical synthesis and new organometallic reactions.

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson is the Arthur T. Kemp Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Yale University.  Johnson is known for the development and exploitation of experimental methods that capture and structurally characterize transient chemical species such as reaction intermediates. Most important among these is his exploitation of cryogenic ion chemistry in conjunction with multiple resonance laser spectroscopy. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a degree in chemistry and then earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1983 with Dick Zare, which involved an extensive collaboration with Joëlle Rostas at the Université de Paris-Süd. He was a postdoctoral fellow with Carl Lineberger at JILA/University of Colorado, Boulder from 1983-1985 and joined the Yale faculty in 1985 where is currently the Arthur T. Kemp Professor. He has served as Chair of APS Division of Laser Science and the ACS Division of Physical Chemistry, and is presently co-editor of the Annual Review of Physical Chemistry.  He has been elected to Chair three Gordon Research Conferences (Molecular and Ionic Clusters (1996), Photoions (2001), and Gaseous Ions: Structures and Energetics (2015).

Professor Johnson’s accomplishments in teaching and research have been acknowledged by the Yale College Dylan Hixon Award for Teaching Excellence in the Natural Sciences, fellowship in the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science , the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences. He has received the APS Plyler Award for Molecular Spectroscopy, the ACS Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics, the Humboldt Senior Research Award , and the Miller Research Professorship at the University  of California, Berkeley.


Tanja Weil

Tanja Weil studied chemistry (1993–1998) at the TU Braunschweig (Germany) and the University of Bordeaux I (France) and completed her PhD at the MPI for Polymer Research with Klaus Müllen. From 2002 to 2008 she managed different leading positions at Merz Pharmaceuticals GmbH (Frankfurt) from Section Head Medicinal Chemistry to Director of Chemical Research and Development. She accepted an Associate Professor position at the National University of Singapore in 2008. About two years later, she joined Ulm University as Director of the Institute of Organic Chemistry III / Macromolecular Chemistry. Tanja Weil became member of the Max Planck Society in 2017 as one of the directors of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research heading the department “Synthesis of Macromolecules”. She has received the Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society (2003), an ERC Synergy Grant together with Fedor Jelezko and Martin Plenio (2013) and the research prize of the city of Ulm (2014). Her current scientific interests include the synthesis of quantum materials, functional macromolecular architectures and biohybrid materials to address urgent challenges in materials science, biomedicine and sensing.