Sanne Vergouwen
Sanne Vergouwen

Hanneke Janssen Memorial Prize 2022 awarded to Sanne Vergouwen

The Hanneke Janssen Memorial Prize for 2022 has been awarded to Sanne Vergouwen for her Master’s Thesis titled "Emergent Solitons and the Philosophy of Non-Perturbative Quantum Field Theory", submitted to Utrecht University.

The Jury received no less than nine nominations this year, all of which showed admirable skill and competence in the various topics they address in the history and philosophy of modern physics.

It was the unanimous decision of this Jury to award the 2022 Hanneke Janssen Memorial Prize to Sanne Vergouwen for her Master’s Thesis: Emergent Solitons and the Philosophy of Non-Perturbative Quantum Field Theory” submitted to Utrecht University. 

On Vergouwen

This work combines the philosophy of quantum field theory (QFT) with a discussion of the long-standing problem in the philosophy of science of when we can regard one theory as being ‘emergent’ from another more ‘fundamental theory. The Thesis breaks new ground in directing the debate on the interpretation of QFT away from the perturbative methods of effective quantum field theories and redirecting it towards a study of models in QFT which can be characterized with more mathematical rigour: the so-called soliton solutions.

Focusing on the examples of the sine-Gordon and Seiberg-Witten solitons, and their duality relations with other theories, it is argued that these exemplify ‘epistemic emergence’ (in the first case) and ‘ontological emergence’ (in the second). But in stark contrast to the usual expectation that emergence only obtains between a ‘less fundamental’ and a more ‘fundamental’ theory, this work shows that in these cases emergence obtains as a symmetrical relation between two theories, so that there are no grounds for regarding one as more fundamental than another.

The Jury was impressed with the way in which this Thesis combined the traditions of philosophy of science, philosophy of QFT and theoretical physics in a novel way, and was able to draw surprising conclusions.

The Jury

Jos Uffink (chair)
Guido Bacciagaluppi
Klaas Landsman
Christoph Lehner
Francesca Vidotto

Hanneke Janssen Memorial Prize

The Hanneke Janssen Memorial Prize is awarded annually in memory of Hanneke Janssen, who tragically lost her life in a traffic accident in 2008. Hanneke was at the beginning of a promising career in science. The prize is granted to the best Master's thesis worldwide in the field of History and Philosophy of Modern Physics.

Hanneke Janssen

Hanneke Janssen

Hanneke Janssen (1982-2008) had just obtained her MSc in Physics with praise from Radboud University shortly before the accident. Hanneke was also an inspiring personality outside of her field of expertise. She cooked for the homeless on a weekly basis and was involved in Culture on Campus. Additionally, she tried to live as environmentally conscious as possible.

Read more in the In Memoriam about Hanneke Janssen.

Winners Hanneke Janssen Memorial Prize

Full jury reports can be found in the archive.

2022 Sanne Vergouwen
2021 Jingy Wu
2020 Emilia Margoni
2019 Grace Field
2018 Ruward Mulder
2017 Omid Charrakh
2016 James Read
2015 Joshua R. Hunt
2014 Benjamin Feintzeig
2013 Neil Dewar
2012 Martin Jähnert
2010 Ronnie Hermens


Contact information

For more information, please get in touch with Sandra Hendriks.

Organizational unit
Faculty of Science