Professor Sjoerd Harder was born in Kornhorn, a small farming village in the far north of the Netherlands. After studying chemistry at the University of Utrecht he obtained a PhD degree in Organic Chemistry under the supervision of Lambert Brandsma (1990, University of Utrecht). His thesis on structure-activity relationships in organolithium chemistry was awarded the H. J. Backer prize. This was followed by several post-doc stays with Paul Ragué von Schleyer (1991, Erlangen, Germany), Andrew Streitwieser (1992, Berkeley, USA) and Hans Brintzinger (1993–1994, Konstanz, Germany). After falling in love with the lake, the mountains and the thriving research in and around the Brintzinger group, he extended his research stay to work on his Habilitation (1995–1998), exploring the chemistry of alkali metal sandwich complexes (the lithocene, sodocene and cesocene anions). As a Privat-Dozent (1998) he started to work on the heavier group 2 metals (Ca, Sr, Ba), elements that at that time were hardly touched by the organometallic community. A cooperation with BASF led to highly reactive alkaline earth metal catalysts for styrene polymerization. In 2004 he became a professor of Inorganic Chemistry at the university of Duisburg-Essen, actively pursuing the goal to exploit group 2 polymerization catalysts in other catalytic transformations.
After offers for full professorships in Konstanz and Groningen, in 2010 he moved to the Netherlands but since 2012 he is back in Germany, leading the Chair of Inorganic and Organometallic Chemistry at the University Erlangen-Nürnberg.
His current research interests include catalysis with early main group metals, metal hydride chemistry, hydrogen storage, and the interplay between s- and p-block elements for bond activation and catalysis.