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Iris Sommer selected as Distinguished Lorentz Fellow 1

Iris Sommer selected as Distinguished NIAS Lorentz Fellow

Psychiatrist Iris Sommer of the University Medical Center Groningen and University of Groningen has been awarded the Distinguished NIAS Lorentz Fellowship 2022/23 for her research on computational linguistics in psychiatry. During her fellowship, she will try to unravel how automatic language analysis can help recognize and monitor psychotic disorders.

Professor Iris Sommer is a world leading expert on schizophrenia, who aims to find objective measures – or biomarkers – that help diagnose whether a patient is in a psychosis. While brain scans and blood tests have shown disappointing results, the recent research from her team is showing that patients’ language use can reliably reveal whether someone is having a psychosis. Sommer and her colleagues are therefore developing artificial intelligence that can analyse both what patients are saying and how they are saying it in order to diagnose and monitor a psychotic disorder.

The DNLF Fellowship allows Iris Sommer to take the linguistic software models to a next level, by working together intensively with experts from other disciplines, especially linguists and computer scientists. Aim is to see whether automated speech analysis also works in other languages, and to build AI software that is accurate but also ethically sound.

Arjen Doelman, director of the Lorentz Center: “The work of Iris Sommer is inherently multidisciplinary, it combines the fields of linguistics, artificial intelligence (Al) and neuroscience to drive the development of novel tools for diagnosis and treatment monitoring in psychiatry. This rich blend of the medical, the natural and the social sciences with a direct impact in everyday life lies at the very core of what the NIAS-Lorentz collaboration program is all about.”

About Iris Sommer

Prof. Sommer is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Groningen, clinical psychiatrist at University Medical Center Groningen and director of its Brain and Cognition research institute. She received her Ph.D. from Utrecht University, after which she has published over 300 peer-reviewed articles. From 2012-2016 she was a member of De Jonge Akademie (KNAW), and was elected member of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (KHMW) in 2020.

Sommer has led many international research consortia and is one of the founders of the global Discourse in Psychosis Consortium. Next to her academic work, she has written four popular-scientific books, two of which have become national bestsellers (Haperende Hersenen, 2015, and Het Vrouwenbrein, 2020). She regularly holds presentations to the general audience, most recently at the Gala van de Wetenschap.

The Distinguished NIAS Lorentz Fellowship

The Distinguished NIAS Lorentz Fellowship (DNLF) is awarded annually to a leading scientist working on research that brings together perspectives from the Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Technological Sciences. It was set up by the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS-KNAW) and the Lorentz Center Leiden and is part of the NIAS-Lorentz Program, promoting cutting-edge interdisciplinary research. Previous DNLF’s include cultural biologist Franjo Weissing, psychologist Iris van Rooij and epidemiologist Luc Coffeng. In autumn 2022, the prize will be awarded by Carel Stolker, chairperson of the NIAS-Lorentz Advisory Council.