Honorary doctorates for Willy Verstraete and Valerie Trouet

(10-03-2023) On the occasion of Wageningen University & Research's 105th Dies Natalis, three honorary doctorates were awarded on 9 March. Both Valerie Trouet and Willy Verstraete, two alumni of our faculty, were each allowed on the highest scaffold.

The 105th Dies Natalis of Wageningen University & Research last Thursday 9 March paid attention to the challenges, possibilities and required knowledge for a sustainable future of marine systems. Prior to and during this official dies natalis celebration, in addition to masterclasses for WUR staff and students, three honorary doctorates were also awarded. Two of them, those for Valerie Trouet and for Willy Verstraete, were already reserved for a duo of FBW alumni.

Willy Verstraete

Em. prof. dr. ir. Willy Verstraete

Willy Verstraete was born in 1946 and has been associated with Ghent University since 1971. In 1979 he became a professor at the Center for Microbial Ecology and Technology, or CMET for short, part of the Department of Biotechnology. After his retirement in 2011, he was Chairman of the IWA Cluster on Resource Recovery until 2017 and honorary fellow of KWR, the Dutch knowledge institute for water management, from 2018. Verstraete was also active in various assessment committees of (international) scientific programmes and involved in the establishment of various Ghent University spin-offs. 

For his great contributions to research into microbial processes and a responsible handling of raw materials and the environment, Willy Verstraete was praised several times throughout his career. He is known as a tireless activator and inspirer in the field of resource recovery and even after his retirement in 2011 Verstraete has remained fully active, both inside and outside his field.

From 1995 to 2001, Verstraete was chairman of the Royal Flemish Society of Engineers (KVIV), since 2016 Ingenieursvereniging ie-net, of the Belgian department of the IWA (2000-2005) and of the Centre for Environmental Science of Ghent University (2000-2005). In addition, he was appointed a member of the Technical Committee for Soil Protection of the Netherlands for the period 2000-2010 and he was also a member of the Flemish Council for Scientific Innovation (VRWI) for 4 years. At the beginning of 2020, Verstraete was unanimously re-elected chairman of the Scientific Research Fund, a position he had held since 2016.

Valérie Trouet

Prof. dr. ir. Valerie Trouet

The Flemish climate scientist Valerie Trouet has been at the head of the newly established Belgian climate centre in Ukkel since the beginning of 2023. As scientific director of this new centre, she wants to better bundle our knowledge about the climate and help coordinate it. Trouet wants to bring together scientists from different domains or institutions and make studies available on an easily accessible portal.

In addition, Trouet is a professor at the American University of Arizona and known worldwide for her climate research through the study of tree rings. After a master's degree at Ghent University and a PhD in bioscience engineering at KULeuven, Trouet worked at PennState University and in Switzerland before moving to Tucson in 2011.

For more than two decades, Valerie Trouet has been a leading dendrochronologist who focuses her research on the climate of the past 2,000 years. Her expertise: how have weather conditions affected human history and ecosystems? In addition to tree rings, she used hurricanes, snowpacks, wildfires and jet streams to study such effects.

Furthermore, this academic has published more than 80 scientific articles and is a University of Arizona Distinguished Scholar and a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences. As a paleoclimate scientist, she also wrote books on the influence of climate on historical events such as the fall of Rome and the golden age of piracy.