Encaenia and Honorary degrees 2019 | University of Oxford
Encaenia honorands 2019
From left to right: Professor Shafi Goldwasser, Yo-Yo Ma, Professor Andrea Ghez, Professor Jennifer Doudna, Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Professor Sir Simon Wessely and Dr Cyrus Poonawalla
Credit: Ian Wallman

Encaenia and Honorary degrees 2019

Seven honorary degrees were conferred by the Chancellor of the University, Lord Patten of Barnes, at Encaenia on 26 June 2019.

The Honorands were:

Professor Jennifer Doudna

Biochemist

Professor Jennifer Doudna was born in Washington, D C, and grew up in Hawaii. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biochemistry from Pomona College in 1985 and a PhD in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology from Harvard Medical School in 1989. She held fellowships at Harvard and the University of Colorado before joining Yale University from 1994 to 2002. Since 2002 she has been Professor of Chemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

In 2012, Professor Doudna and her colleagues made a major discovery by describing a simple way of editing the DNA of any organism using an RNA- guided protein found in bacteria. This technology, called CRISPR-Cas9, has wide-ranging implications for human and non-human applications of gene editing, including assisting researchers in the fight against HIV, sickle cell disease and muscular dystrophy. In 2015, with Emmanuelle Charpentier, she received the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for her contributions to this CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology. Alongside other CRISPR researchers, she was a runner-up for Time Person of the Year in 2016.

In addition to her positions at Berkeley, she is also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Inventors and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has published over 200 scientific articles and is the co-author, with Sam Sternberg, of A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution, a personal account of her research and the societal and ethical implications of gene editing.

For her work she has received numerous awards, including the Heineken Prize (2016), the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2017) and the Japan Prize (2017).

Professor Andrea Ghez

Astronomer

Professor Andrea Ghez was born in New York City. She earned a B S from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1987 and a PhD in Physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1992. She has been on the faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) since 1994, where she is currently Professor of Physics and Astronomy. She is one of the world’s leading experts in observational astrophysics and is head of UCLA’s Galactic Center Group.

She is best known for her leading work on the centre of the galaxy, which has shown evidence for the existence of supermassive black holes and has opened a new approach to the study of black holes. Her group is currently using this approach to understand the physics of gravity near a black hole and the role that they play in the formation and evolution of galaxies. She serves on several leadership committees for the W. M. Keck Observatory, which hosts the largest telescopes in the world, and the future Thirty Meter Telescope.

Professor Ghez has received numerous honours and awards for her work. In 2012 she was the first woman to receive a Crafoord Prize when she was awarded the Prize in Astronomy from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science. She has also been awarded the Bakerian Medal from the Royal Society of London (2015) and a MacArthur Fellowship (2008), among many others. She is committed to communicating science to the public and to inspiring young women into the field. Her work has been featured in many outlets including TED, NOVA’s Monster of the Milky Way, Discovery’s Swallowed by a Black Hole, and the Griffith Observatory.

Professor Shafi Goldwasser

Computer scientist

Professor Shafi Goldwasser was born in New York City. She gained her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1979, followed by MS and PhD degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1981 and 1984. Since 1983 she has worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has been the RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT since 1997. She is also a Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and the Director of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at the University of California, Berkeley, since 2018.

Her research interests include cryptography, computational number theory and complexity theory. Her major contributions in the field include the introduction of probabilistic encryption, zero-knowledge interactive proofs, elliptic curve primality tests, combinatorial property testing and pseudo-deterministic algorithms.

Professor Goldwasser has won numerous awards for her research. She was the recipient of the Gödel Prize in 1993 and 2001 for her work on interactive proofs and connections to approximation. She has also been awarded the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award (1996), the RSA Award for Excellence in Mathematics (1998), the Benjamin Franklin Medal (2010), the IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award (2011), the ACM A.M. Turing Award (2012) and the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge award (2018), among others.

Professor Goldwasser is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the US National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Engineering, the Russian National Academy of Science and the Israeli National Academy of Science, and an Honorary Member of the London Royal Mathematical Society. She has taught and published widely.

Dr Cyrus Poonawalla

Philanthropist and Industrialist

Dr Cyrus Poonawalla graduated from Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce in 1963 and was awarded a PhD from the University of Pune in 1988. In 1966 he founded the Serum Institute of India with the aim of making low-cost vaccines that had been previously unavailable in his country. The Serum Institute is now the world’s largest manufacturer of life-saving vaccines by number of doses, producing more than 1.5 billion doses a year that are used in over 170 countries to combat infection from diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, hepatitis-B, haemophilus influenzae B, rabies, measles, mumps, rubella, tuberculosis, rotavirus, polio and meningitis, among others.

His work has a global impact, with the Serum Institute protecting more than two-thirds of the infant population across the world and saving the lives of more than 30 million mostly under-privileged children by providing them with affordable vaccines. Under Dr Poonawalla’s leadership, the institute works on a sustainable business model that ensures continued production of existing products as well as new innovations.

Dr Poonawalla is also a philanthropist who has donated millions of dollars, as well as vaccines, to public causes and underserved communities. He has strong ties to India’s thoroughbred horse racing and breeding world and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities in 2009 for his outstanding contribution in the field.

He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Padma Shri in 2005 for his outstanding contribution in the field of health and a Lifetime Achievement Award awarded by the Honourable Prime Minister of India in 2005. Among others, he has also received a Vaccine Hero Award from GAVI for his commitment to global public health (2018) and was the first Indian to receive the Excellence in Inter-American Public Health Award (2010) from the Pan American Health Organization.

He was conferred Doctor of Literature at the hands of His Excellency Governor of Maharashtra in 2015 and was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by the University of Massachusetts in 2018.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely

Psychiatrist

Professor Sir Simon Wessely was born in Sheffield. He began his studies in medicine in 1975 at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he also studied for an interpolated final-year degree in the History of Art. He completed his medical training at University College, Oxford, in 1981, and obtained his medical membership after training in Newcastle. In 1984 he began his career in psychiatry on the Maudsley Training Scheme. He was awarded an MSc in Epidemiology in 1989 and a PhD on the relationship between crime and schizophrenia in 1993.

He is active in both academia and in general hospital psychiatry, working at the National Hospital for Neurology and King’s College Hospital, where he remains a Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist. His academic career has been at the Institute of Psychiatry, now part of King’s College London, where he became Head of the Department of Psychological Medicine in 2002 and Vice-Dean for Academic Psychiatry in 2009. He was a Foundation Senior Investigator of the NIHR and an early Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. In 2017 he was appointed as Regius Professor of Psychiatry, the first and only Regius Chair held at King’s College London and the first anywhere in Psychiatry.

Sir Simon’s work spans the boundaries of medicine and psychiatry, including interests in unexplained symptoms and syndromes, population reactions to adversity and military health. He founded the King’s Centre for Military Health Research in 1996 and has been Civilian Consultant Advisor in Psychiatry to the British Army since 2001. He has co-authored books on chronic fatigue syndrome, randomised controlled trials and the history of military psychiatry, and has over 750 original publications.

Beyond medicine, he is active in public life and appears regularly on radio and television. He has written over 50 columns for The Times and was the first recipient of the John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science in 2012. In 2017 he chaired the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act.

Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan

Musician

Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was born in Faisalabad, Pakistan, into a family whose connection to South Asian musical tradition goes back 600 years. He is the son of Farrukh Fateh Ali Khan, grandson of Fateh Ali Khan, and the nephew of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, all qawwali musicians. He began formal training with his uncle at the age of seven. At fifteen he was made an integral part of his uncle’s qawwali party.

As well as qawwali music – the devotional music of the Muslim Sufis – he also performs ghazals and other light music. He debuted in the United States in 2000 with two performances in New York and Los Angeles and has since performed across the globe in many high-profile concerts, including the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo in 2014 and at the first celebration of Pakistan Day at the United Nations General Assembly in 2016.

He has also achieved success in Hollywood, beginning with his contribution to the soundtrack of Dead Man Walking (1995). In 2002 he worked on the soundtrack of The Four Feathers in collaboration with James Horner and performed with the Derek Trucks Band on the song Maki Madni. In 2006 his vocals were featured on the soundtrack of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. In 2004 he debuted in Bollywood with Pooja Bhatt’s movie Paap and has since sung more than 50 title tracks of television series and over 100 film songs.

He has released more than fifty albums and has a global reach of over one billion views online, with one of his songs, Zaroori Tha, accruing over 630 million views on YouTube. He has received numerous awards for his music, including Male Vocalist of the Year (2010, 2011, 2017) and Best Song in Sufi Tradition (2011) at the Mirchi Music Awards; Best Male Playback (2010, 2011) at the Star Screen Awards; and Best Male Vocalist (2011) at the IIFA Awards.

Yo-Yo Ma

Musician

Yo-Yo Ma was born in 1955 to Chinese parents in Paris. He began studying the cello at age four and three years later moved with his family to New York City, where he continued his cello studies with Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School. After his conservatory training he graduated from Harvard University with a degree in anthropology in 1976.

Throughout his career, he has sought to expand the classical cello repertoire, frequently performing lesser-known music of the 20th century and commissions of new concertos and recital pieces. He has premiered works by a diverse group of composers, among them Osvaldo Golijov, Leon Kirchner, Esa-Pekka Salonen and John Williams.

His discography of over 100 albums, including 19 Grammy Award winners, reflects his wide-ranging interests. In 2019 he is performing Bach’s six suites for solo cello in one sitting in 36 iconic venues around the world.

Yo-Yo Ma maintains a balance between engagements as a soloist with orchestras, recital and chamber music activities, and collaborations with artists and institutions. In 1998 he established Silkroad, a collective of artists from around the world which has commissioned more than 100 new works. He also acts as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant; artistic director of the Youth Music Culture Guangdong festival; and UN Messenger of Peace. He is the first artist ever appointed to the World Economic Forum’s board of trustees.

He has received numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010), Kennedy Center Honors (2011), the Polar Music Prize (2012), the Vilcek Prize in Contemporary Music (2013), and the J. Paul Getty Medal Award (2016). He has performed for eight American presidents, most recently at the invitation of President Obama on the occasion of the 56th Inaugural Ceremony.

Unfortunately Professor Daniel Kahneman was unable to attend. We expect his honorary degree to be conferred at a future Encaenia.