Scientific Biography

Sense Jan van der Molen, Associate Professor


I studied physics in Groningen, the Netherlands, following an exchange year in Olympia, Washington, USA. My Master project, carried out under prof. Teun Klapwijk, focused on quantum mechanical interference effects in mesoscopic samples.


Next, I moved to the group of prof. Ronald Griessen at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Here, I investigated so-called switchable mirrors. These metalhydrides, e.g. YHx, switch from perfect mirrors to transparent windows upon hydrogen uptake. My work focused on both the fundamentals of the metal-insulator transition and the possibility to manipulate the hydrogen concentration in these mirrors electrically (e.g. by electromigration).


In 2002, I joined the group of prof. Bart van Wees, to start up a new research line in molecular transport (Groningen, the Netherlands). We put considerable effort in creating and optimizing new techniques to investigate single molecules. In a collaboration with prof. Ben Feringa, we focused on light-sensitive, switchable molecular devices.  Furthermore, we explored the exciting field of spin transport through carbon nanotubes.


In 2005, I obtained an NWO talent grant to perform research in the group of Christian Schönenberger (Basel, Switzerland). After a successful and pleasant stay, I moved to Leiden in 2007.


In Leiden, I took up the challenge of building up my own research group. My research has since concentrated on molecular properties, and specifically on molecular charge transport. My fascination for this field stems from both my deep interest in quantum charge transport phenomena and my affection with chemistry. I am convinced that our science efforts can reach the highest levels if we are able to effectively combine both these fields. Hence, I am actively participating in collaborations and am organizing workshops to bridge ‘cultural’ differences between both fields. In November 2009, I received a personal VIDI-grant for research in this direction. Furthermore, I am excited to be part of a FOM-program on quantum interference in molecular charge transport, and of the Delft-Leiden Nanofront program, both kicking off in 2013.


To also study layer growth, molecular assembly and transport with a different set of ‘eyes’, we make use of a low-energy electron microscope (LEEM). I am the project leader of 'ESCHER' for which we obtained a large 'NWO-groot onderzoek' grant. We have optimized aberration-corrected LEEM/PEEM to a world-record value of 1.4 nm laterally. To see if we can go even further, we are also investigating the theoretical limits of LEEM and electron microscopy in general. Within this ESCHER project, I collaborate with prof. Ruud Tromp (Leiden and IBM Yorktown) and others. The full research program is part of the Leiden Center for Ultramicroscopy (LCU), which Joost Frenken and I established on September 17, 2010.


My page on the research gate: