Royal Distinctions for four (former) Radboudians

On the occasion of King's Day this year, four (former) employees of Radboud University and Radboud university medical center will receive a royal distinction for their exceptional scientific and/or social achievements.

They are the following:

  • Jeroen Smits, Professor of Comparative Economic and Human Development, Nijmegen School of Management
    Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion
  • Guillén Fernández Reumann, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Radboud university medical center
    Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion
  • Gerard Martens, Professor Emeritus of Molecular Animal Physiology, Faculty of Science
    Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau
  • Wilma de Koning, General Director of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and, until 1 June 2021, Vice-President of the Executive Board of Radboud University
    Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau

The Order of Orange-Nassau is awarded for exceptional services to society. The Order of the Netherlands Lion is awarded for services to the sciences and the arts.

Jeroen Smits, Professor of Comparative Economics and Human Development

Over the past twenty years, Jeroen Smits has developed the Global Data Lab: a database containing data on individual circumstances and the households of two million children in 90 different developing countries. With immense patience and investment in time, he has worked to find technical ways to harmonise data files from different types of surveys in a scientifically sound and trustworthy way. Comparing data from a large number of studies on population welfare and wellbeing has been made possible by this means. These data are invaluable for researchers, governments and international organisations in following developments in developing countries over many years. They provide insight into the effectiveness of measures taken or the identification of problem areas. Smits publishes this information and makes it comprehensible free of charge through the Global Data Lab to help people in low and middle-income areas gain insight into their situation and how it develops. Smits personally keeps the Global Data Lab, which now contains data on 30 million people in over 130 countries, up to date and continuously develops the database for scientific and social parties such as the OECD and the United Nations.

Guillén Fernández Reumann, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience

Foto Guillen Fernandez Reumann

Guillen Fernández Reumann combines world-class scientific performance with an exceptional ability to educate and train young people in research in a unique way. His research spans two topics: the effect of stress on the human brain, and the operation of human memory. He conducts this research by integrating different disciplines, such as cognitive neuroimaging, genetics, pharmacology and clinical research.


A highlight of Fernández Reumann's scientific work is the finding that stress causes attention in the brain to be directed to the stressor, at the expense of cognitive functions, and that only afterwards do cognitive functions actually prevail.

In addition to his influential research on stress, he is also a renowned scientist in the field of human memory research. For the past almost 20 years, he has been among the pioneers to localise brain processes which, while studying information, cause this information to be stored in memory. Another important aspect of his work on human memory is his research on the influence of existing knowledge (‘schemas’ in the brain) on learning and storing new information.
Guillén Fernández is an advocate of Team Science, which he also puts into practice as the head of the Healthy Brain Study. In it, more than a hundred researchers from various Radboud faculties work together to investigate the brains of people in their thirties.


Throughout his career, Fernández Reumann has authored several publications in leading journals, including Science, Nature Neuroscience, PNAS, Biological Psychiatry, and Molecular Psychiatry. In addition, as Department Head of Cognitive Neuroscience within Radboud university medical center, he is committed to the careers of researchers; he sees their potential and talents and brainstorms with them about what they need to ensure that they can do their jobs as well as possible.

Gerard Martens, Professor Emeritus of Molecular Animal Physiology

Gerard Martens lintjesregen

In his research, Gerard Martens has focused on understanding the molecular basis of neurodegenerative diseases and developmental disorders by studying related processes in animal models. Martens has always had an eye for the possibilities of developing relevant applications in health care by deploying pure scientific knowledge and understanding of underlying molecular mechanisms within the nervous system to develop better medicines for patients.


Martens' research has so far led to over 220 publications in international scientific journals, such as Nature, Science, PNAS, Neuron and Cell. His best articles have been cited hundreds of times by international researchers. All this has made him an exceptionally successful and internationally recognised scientist.

Moreover, his research has yielded a total of no less than 12 patents in the spheres of innovative protocols and methods, medicines, and of specific proteins important for the production of neural messengers critical to the normal functioning of the central nervous system. Two companies (NeuroDrug Research Ltd and Drug Target ID) have also emerged from his work that are dedicated to the application of scientific knowledge for the benefit of society.

Wilma de Koning, General Director of the Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

Wilma de Koning lintjesregen

Wilma de Koning has dedicated herself to education since 1987, initially as lecturer but soon moving into administrative roles. In her long career, she has meant a great deal for higher education in the Netherlands. In the almost eight years that she was a member of the Executive Board of Radboud University, she delivered notable achievements in the areas of diversity, social safety, and the design and development of the campus. She has also successfully put sustainability on the map as an important Radboud University value. The impact of her efforts is felt by all employees and students at the university. For example, she was the first female director on the university's Executive Board to highlight the need for women in top positions. De Koning also strove to make a difference in the field of staff policy by seeing the person behind the employee through her Courage, Connection and Openness vision. In 2021, she bid farewell to Radboud University, where her decisiveness, work ethic and idealistic drive, as well as her sincerity and integrity, were lauded. Wilma de Koning has made herself known as someone who speaks out about her views, even when it comes to difficult issues about which others prefer to keep quiet.

Award ceremony

On Tuesday 26 April, Mayor Bruls of the Municipality of Nijmegen has presented the Royal Distinctions to Gerard Martens and Guillén Fernández Reumann at Radboud University (pictures above were taken at the reception at Radboud University later that day). There has been online contact with Jeroen Smits, who will receive his award at a later date. Wilma de Koning's award has been presented by Mayor Judith Keijzers-Verschelling of the Municipality of Oirschot.