Da Vinci Project

The Da Vinci project is an interdisciplinary honours programme on sustainability for 2nd- and 3rd-year Bachelor’s students who are looking for an extra challenge.

Sustainability challenges

Do you want to meet people from different backgrounds, look across disciplinary boundaries and collaborate outside your comfort zone? Are you willing to try new things and want to work together in interdisciplinary teams on real-life sustainability related challenges with the involvement of important stakeholders? And above all, are you not afraid to fail? Then the new Da Vinci Project might be interesting for you!

Construct a prototype

Throughout the programme you use Design Thinking as a method to find solutions for the different challenges. Through an active learning-by-doing approach, you will be trained to collaborate transdisciplinary, thereby broadening your horizon. You will acquire new skills for life hard to acquire in a normal academic environment. To finish this programme successfully, you construct a solution, or prototype, together with your team members. On top of that the students take part in interactive lectures, or college tours, by sustainability experts from various areas of research and expertise from within and outside of the UU.

Further information is available at the bottom of the page.

Syllabus Catalysis Course (SK-BKATA)

Catalysis is everywhere!
Catalysts can be found in our body (enzymes are essential to life), in a gasoline-driven car (for exhaust gas purification), in washing powder (to help break down food residues on dirty clothes) and in chemical, food and process industries (no fuel, plastic, beer, bread or wine without the proper catalysts). Catalysis is also one of the key technologies required to drive the current energy, feedstock and circularity transitions demanded by the urgent need to transition to a more sustainable society. New catalysts are, for example, needed to make chemical building blocks, materials and fuels from more sustainable sources of carbon, such as biomass, municipal waste or CO2, or to achieve end-of-life circularity, e.g. by recycling plastics.

The aim of this course is to expand your understanding of chemical transformations and of substances, which can catalyze such transformations. The focus is on various types of catalysis, in particular molecular catalysis (bio- and homogeneous catalysis) and heterogeneous catalysis, and also the kinetics of catalytic processes. Together with a group of fellow students you will design a new catalytic route for the production of a key chemical building block, taking sustainability considerations explicitly into account. This new process will be detailed and presented as a poster presentation. Furthermore, the processes which lead to catalyst innovation will be explored.

Evidently, the concept of sustainability plays a central role in this course.

For excellent students, who wish to deepen their knowledge in catalysis (and, consequently earn up to 1 full extra point on the total course mark) we offer an extra assignment.

Further information is available at the bottom of the page.

Da Vinci Project - Further details

Programme layout

  • Interactive lectures
  • Create a prototype with your team members
  • Write a personal reflection report
  • Pitch your prototype in a festive setting

Time investment and meetings

  • The programme is 10 EC (1 EC = 28 hours)
  • The programme runs in study period 1 and 2
  • Kick-off meeting on September 11, 2022
  • Meetings are on Mondays and Thursdays
  • All meetings are scheduled in the evening


The programme leaders are prof. Dr. Bert Weckhuysen, prof. Dr. Appy Sluijs and Fieke Sluijs. For any questions or comments about the Da Vinci Project you can contact them at

Da Vinci Project - Application procedure

Application and interviews

The application deadline for the Da Vinci Project 2022/2023 has now closed.

Required documents

Before you complete the online application, there are some documents you need to prepare:

1. Video pitch in English
Make an eye-catching video pitch (exactly 3 minutes) in which you:

  • Motivate why you want to become part of this project and work with colleagues to make a real prototype; and
  • Come up with a possible solution that can help achieve (one of) the Sustainable Development Goals as formulated by the United Nations.

Name your pitch: Surname-First Name-DaVinci-Pitch, example: Johnson-Maria- DaVinci-Pitch. Upload your video in Google Drive or Dropbox. In the application form you will be asked to share the link to your video pitch.

2. CV in English (max 2 A4) 
Include a short description of your academic performance so far, extra-curricular activities and other valuable skills or life experiences. Please also indicate how proficient you are in English.

3. Study progress report
Your study progress report lists all of your results. You can download your report in Osiris on the tab Progress.

4. Combine documents into 1 PDF
Make 1 PDF of your CV and Study progress report and the and name the PDF: Surname-First Name-DaVinci-CV, example: Johnson-Maria- DaVinci-CV.


Once the deadline has passed, the admission committee will review your application. After review, you will be invited for an interview during which you pitch your idea for a sustainable challenge and discuss it with other students.

Shortly after the interview you will be informed of our decision.

Available places: 35.

Admission requirements

  • You are a pre-Master’s student or in your second or third year of your Bachelor’s degree;
  • You want to look across disciplinary boundaries;
  • You are a creative thinker;
  • You want to make a true connection to yourself and the group;
  • You are a good communicator;
  • You have respect for each scientific discipline and believe that every academic background is necessary to find the missing piece of a puzzle;
  • You are able to take responsibility and ownership;
  • You have an entrepreneurial attitude;
  • You are resilient and not afraid to fail.


SK-BKATA - Further details


At the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Formulate scientific questions concerning catalysis in molecular terms;
  • Select the proper type of catalysis, biocatalysis, homogeneous catalysis or heterogeneous catalysis to catalyze a particular transformation;
  • Describe the mechanistic, energetic and kinetic aspects of a chemical transformation;
  • Describe current methods for acquiring insight into transformations; and
  • Collect and summarize essential information into a poster presentation and use it to convince other people of the knowledge on catalysis you have acquired.

Study load

7.5 ECTS-points

Form of education



The courses Organic Chemistry 2, and Inorganic Chemistry and Solids from the 2nd year bachelor are recommended to follow this course. In case these subjects have not been followed, it is the student’s own responsibility to contact the respective lecturers when problems may arise.

Study material

Syllabi, text material and handouts will be made available (e.g. via Blackboard); also, the book “Catalysis, Concepts and Green Applications, 2nd Revised & Enlarged Edition”, Wiley-VCH, Gadi Rothenberg, 2017.


– Written exam 70%, assignment 30%.
– Assignment: poster preparation 20%, poster presentation 10%
Partial results need to be at least 5,0, weighed average final result min. 6.
To be able to make a reexamination, the final grade should be at least a 4,0


Contact person

Prof. Bert Weckhuysen (

SK-BKATA - Resumes of the lecturers

Prof. dr. I.W.C.E. Arends

Isabel Arends is Dean of the Faculty of Science at Utrecht University and Professor of Sustainable Organic Chemistry. As dean she is the head of the faculty of Science which houses the disciplines of Mathematics, Computing Sciences, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Pharmacy. Within the university, Isabel Arends is a member of the governing board of the strategic themes of Life Science, and Pathways to Sustainability. She is chairing the board of the leadership program of UU, and is a member of the Supervisory board of Utrecht Holdings. In her faculty she acts as ambassador for the themes of diversity and inclusion, and Open Science. Nationally she is leading a think tank to increase the number of 1st grade academic STEM teachers. Before Arends came to Utrecht in 2018, she was professor of Biocatalysis and Organic Chemistry and chair of the Biotechnology department at TU Delft, where she worked on new enzymes that can be used as catalysts for making chemical processes significantly more sustainable. Professor Arends studied physical organic chemistry at Leiden University and obtained her doctorate cum laude in 1993 with a thesis entitled ‘Thermolysis of arene derivatives with coal-type hydrogen donors’. Following a year as a post-doc with the Steacie Institute of Molecular Sciences in Ottawa, Canada, she began work at TU Delft in 1995. She was appointed professor in 2007, and became chair of the Biotechnology department of the Faculty of Applied Sciences (TNW) in 2013. She was director of the online course (MOOC) in industrial biotechnology, and she was vice-chair of the post-graduate school BiotechDelft. In 2016, she founded the TU Delft Bioengineering Institute. Between 2013 and 2018 she was member of the board of NWO-TTW. Isabel Arends is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (KHMW). In April 2018, she was decorated as Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau. In 2020 she received an honorary doctorate from UCLouvain.

Prof. dr. P.C.A. Bruijnincx

Pieter Bruijnincx received his PhD at Utrecht University in 2007, developing homogeneous iron-based catalysts for selective oxidation reactions. These catalysts mimicked the structure and function of non-heme iron oxygenases, a versatile family of oxidation enzymes. After his promotion, he did a postdoctoral stay in England where he worked in the field of chemical biology on the design of organometallic and coordination compounds as inorganic anti-cancer drugs. In  2009 he returned to Utrecht University and joined the Inorganic Chemistry & Catalysis group to work on the development of new catalytic processes for the sustainable production of chemicals and fuels from biomass. As of 2018 he is full professor in ‘Sustainable Chemistry & Catalysis’ at the Organic Chemistry & Catalysis group.

Address: David de Wiedgebouw, room 5.82, Universiteitsweg 99, 3584 CG Utrecht; Tel.: 06-22736354, E-mail:

Prof. dr. ir. B.M. Weckhuysen

Bert Weckhuysen studied to be an engineer in chemical and agricultural industries at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium). After he received his PhD in the field of heterogeneous catalysis in 1995, he fulfilled a postdoctoral position at American catalysis laboratories for two years, where he became more acquainted with catalyst characterization methods. In 2000 he became a full professor at the Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis group of the Debye Institute for Nanomaterials at Utrecht University. Since 2018 he is Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University. His research entails the characterization of the working catalyst by the help of microscopic & spectroscopic techniques, and the development of new catalysts for the production of chemical building blocks from sustainable resources, including biomass, waste and carbon dioxide. His research team strives to build a “powerful camera” to chemically image active solid catalysts from the level of the chemical reactor down to the level of single atoms and molecules.

Address: David de Wiedgebouw, room 4.82, Universiteitsweg 99, 3584 CG Utrecht; Tel.: 030-2534328, E-mail:

Prof. dr. E.T.C. (Eelco) Vogt

Eelco Vogt earned his PhD. at Utrecht University in 1988. His dissertation concerned the preparation and properties of catalysts supported on modified silica and upon completion of his PhD, he began working as a researcher at the catalysts business unit of Akzo Nobel. During his industrial career he worked on a.o. on hydro processing catalysts (HPC), zeolites, and fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) catalysts. From 1996 to 1999 he worked in Akzo Nobel’s research lab in Pasadena, near Houston, Texas. Akzo Nobel Catalysts was acquired by Albemarle Corporation (a catalyst company based in Charlotte, North Carolina) in 2004. Dr. Vogt went on to become director of several different businesses of the corporation and he was also was R&D manager for Albemarle’s R&D center in Bergheim, Germany. In 2014 he is professor by special appointment of Refinery Catalysis at the group of Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis at Utrecht University.

Address: David de Wiedgebouw, room 2.78, Universiteitsweg 99, 3584 CG Utrecht; E-mail: