The Encaenia procession.

Image credit: John Cairns

Honorary degree recipients for 2019 announced

Eight people are to receive honorary degrees from Oxford University this year.

At the annual Encaenia ceremony in June, degrees will be awarded to Professor Jennifer Doudna, Professor Andrea Ghez, Professor Shafi Goldwasser, Professor Daniel Kahneman, Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Mr Yo-Yo Ma, Dr Cyrus Poonawalla and Professor Sir Simon Wessely.

The degree ceremony will take place on Wednesday 26 June 2019.

Professor Jennifer A. Doudna is Professor of Chemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2012, she and her team made a major discovery of a simple way of editing the DNA of any organism. This technology - CRISPR-Cas9 - has significant implications for human and non-human applications of gene editing, including assisting researchers tackling HIV, sickle cell disease and muscular dystrophy. She has received numerous prestigious awards for her research, including the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2015), and is the co-author of A Crack in Creation, a personal account of her research and the societal and ethical implications of gene editing.

Professor Andrea Ghez is an astronomer and Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is one of the world’s leading experts in observational astrophysics and is best known for her groundbreaking work on the centre of the Galaxy, which has uncovered the best evidence to date for the existence of supermassive black holes. She was the first woman to receive a Crafoord prize in 2012 and has won numerous other prestigious honours for her work. She is dedicated to communicating science to the general public and to inspiring girls into the field.

Professor Shafi Goldwasser is a computer scientist and the RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). With research interests spanning cryptography, computational number theory, complexity theory, and beyond, she has made major contributions to the field, including the introduction of zero-knowledge interactive proofs. She was the recipient of the ACM Turing Award in 2012 and has received numerous other awards and honours. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Engineering, and Israeli National Academy of Science. She is also a foreign member of the Russian National Academy of Science, and a London Royal Mathematical Society Honorary Member.

Professor Daniel Kahneman is Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton. He is best known for his work with Amos Tversky on human judgment and decision-making, for which he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2002. He has worked across several areas of psychology, including attention, the memory of experiences, well-being, counterfactual thinking, and behavioural economics, and is the author of the best-selling Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011). His many honours include the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2013) and the Distinguished Lifetime Career Contribution of the American Psychological Association (2007).

Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan is a Pakistani singer, primarily of Qawwali, a devotional music of the Muslim Sufis. Born into a family whose name has become synonymous with South Asian musical tradition, he began formal training at the age of seven and has since released more than fifty albums, performed in numerous high-profile concerts across the world, and amassed a global following, achieving over one billion views online. He has sung more than fifty title tracks of television serials and over one hundred film songs in both Hollywood and Bollywood.

Mr Yo-Yo Ma is a world-renowned cellist whose celebrated career has involved performing new and familiar works from the cello repertoire and engaging unexpected musical forms. His discography of over 100 albums, including 19 Grammy Award winners, includes renditions of the Western classical canon as well as music from genres and traditions from across the world. In 1998 he established Silkroad, a collective of artists from around the globe, and he has worked with communities and institutions from Chicago to Guangzhou. He has received many prestigious awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010), and performed for eight American presidents.

Dr Cyrus Poonawalla is the Founder and Chairman of the Serum Institute of India. Founded in 1966, 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. With Dr Poonawalla’s vision the Serum Institute has reached the unmatched figure of protecting more than two-thirds of the infant population globally. He is also a generous philanthropist, focusing on public causes and underserved communities.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely is Regius Professor of Psychiatry at King’s College London and a Consultant Liaison Psychiatrist at King’s College and the Maudsley Hospitals. In a career spanning general hospital psychiatry as well as academia, Sir Simon has particular interests in unexplained symptoms and syndromes, population reactions to adversity, and military health. He founded the King’s Centre for Military Health Research; has published books on chronic fatigue syndrome, randomised controlled trials, and a history of military psychiatry; and regularly contributes to discussions on science and medicine on radio and television.