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York honours seven for contribution to global issues

Posted on 11 July 2017

The University of York will this week award honorary degrees to a distinguished group of scientists and global health, food and business figures.

They are:

  • Scientist, author and broadcaster, Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE
  • Eminent neuroscientist, Professor John O’Keefe
  • Atmospheric chemist and one of the world’s foremost authorities on the ozone layer, Professor A.R Ravishankara
  • Non-Executive Chair of Channel 4, Charles Gurassa
  • Global health and food scientist, Clare Matterson CBE
  • Chairman of Nestlé, Dame Fiona Kendrick DBE
  • Microbiologist and Chair of the WHO Ebola Science Committee, Professor Baron Peter Piot

They will receive honorary doctorates at the University’s graduation ceremonies on 12, 13, 14 and 15 July 2017.

Every year, the University confers honorary degrees on people who have made a significant contribution to society. Honorary graduates are selected from nominations by members of the University and often have existing links with academic departments or are York alumni.

Professor Koen Lamberts, Vice-Chancellor and President at the University of York, said:

“This year’s honorary graduates are world leaders in their field, from experts in climate change and global disease, to leading figures in business and commerce.

“We congratulate them in their dedication towards finding solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems. Their work aligns to the University’s commitment to solving some of the biggest and most important scientific, social and environmental challenges of our time.”

Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE

Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE FInstP Hon.FBAASc

British scientist, author, and broadcaster, Jim Al-Khalili is a professor of Physics at the University of Surrey, where he also holds a chair in the Public Engagement of Science.

Last seen on television presenting the documentary, ‘Gravity and Me: the force that shapes our lives’ for BBC 4, Professor Al-Khalili is recognised for his ability to bring to life complex science for the enjoyment and education of TV and radio audiences.

Born in Baghdad to an Iraqi father and English mother, Professor Al-Khalili completed his education in the UK, before pursuing his passion for physics and science communications in academic and broadcast roles.

He is a recipient of the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize and the Stephen Hawking Medal, both for science communication. He was awarded an OBE in the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

His research interests lie in the field of theoretical nuclear physics, with more recent studies focusing on the quantum mechanisms of molecular biology.  He has written a number of popular science books, translated between them into over 20 languages.

Professor John O’Keefe

Professor John O’Keefe

Professor at University College London (UCL), John O’Keefe, is one of the world’s most distinguished neuroscientists. He received the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience for the discovery of specialised brain networks for memory and cognition and shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2014.

Born in New York City, he studied in New York, Montreal and UCL before obtaining a professorship at UCL in 1987, where he has remained ever since.  Professor O’Keefe was the first to describe nerve cells in the brain that enable a sense of place and support navigation.

Fellow of the Royal Society, the UK Academy of Medical Sciences, and the National Academy of Sciences of the US, Professor O’Keefe has also published an influential book, proposing the functional role of the hippocampus as a cognitive map for spatial memory and navigation and showing its relevance to human episodic memory.

Professor  A.R Ravishankara

Professor A.R Ravishankara

Professor Ravishankara is an atmospheric chemist who has worked for nearly 40 years on the chemistry of the Earth's atmosphere.

His work relates to stratospheric ozone depletion, climate change, regional air quality and furthering our understanding of the formation, removal, and properties of pollutants.

He is currently a Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University.  He was previously at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chemical Sciences Division (CSD) of Earth System Research Laboratory.

He is a member of the US National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.  He is also a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

His many awards include the Polanyi Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Stratospheric Ozone Protection award of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Charles Gurassa

Charles Gurassa

Charles Gurassa is the non-Executive Chair of Channel 4. He is also Deputy Chairman at EasyJet plc, Senior Independent Director of Merlin Entertainments plc, and a trustee of English Heritage and the Migration Museum.

He is a former Chairman of Virgin Mobile plc, LOVEFiLM, Genesis Housing Association, Phones4U, MACH, NetNames, Tragus, Parthenon Entertainments and Alamo/National Rent a Car and former Deputy Chairman of the National Trust.

His executive career included roles as Chief Executive of Thomson Travel Group plc, Executive Chairman TUI Northern Europe, Director TUI AG and as Director, Passenger & Cargo business at British Airways. He is a former non-executive Director at Whitbread plc, trustee of the children’s charity Whizz-Kidz and a member of the development board of the University of York.

He graduated from the University of York with a BA (Hons) Economics in 1977 and from the International Management Centre at Buckingham with an MBA in 1986.

Clare Matterson CBE

Clare Matterson CBE

Clare Matterson is Special Adviser to the Wellcome Trust’s Our Planet Our Health Initiative, Vice President of the EAT Foundation and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Council on Food, Nutrition and Agriculture.

Holding a Zoology degree from the University of Oxford, Matterson worked as a consultant for PWC before becoming Senior Adviser to the Dearing Review, the National Inquiry into Higher Education.

Working for the Wellcome Trust for 18 years as Director of Strategy and Director of Culture and Society, she led many transformative initiatives, co-founding the Wellcome Collection and establishing the UK’s National STEM Learning Centre in York.

Matterson chairs the UK National STEM Forum for Public Engagement, and serves on several boards including the Science Gallery International. Named as one of GQ’s top influential women, she was a Fulbright Fellow and received a Fellowship from the British Science Association for outstanding contributions to public engagement in 2015. She was also awarded a CBE for services to public engagement with science.

Dame Fiona Kendrick DBE

Dame Fiona Kendrick DBE


Fiona Kendrick became Chairman of Nestlé UK and Ireland in 2012, having joined Nestlé UK in 1980. Before joining Nestlé, Fiona started her career in teaching.

In her role as Chairman, Fiona heads up the UK and Ireland business which has a turnover of £2.4 billion and employs 8,000 people across 20 sites.

Prior to taking this role Fiona was responsible for the global strategic direction of Nestlé’s Coffee and Beverage brands based in Nestlé headquarters in Switzerland.

Fiona has a personal passion for the youth employment and skills agenda and has championed the growth of apprenticeships across the food and drinks industry. Fiona was a UK Commissioner for Employment and Skills and played a lead role in supporting the development and delivery of strategies for skills and employment across the UK as well as leading the work to establish the first UK MEng in Food Engineering.

From January 2015 to December 2016 Fiona was President of the Food and Drink Federation, and in the 2015 New Year’s Honour’s list was created Dame Commander of the British Empire for services to the food industry and support for skills and opportunities for young people.

In January 2017 Fiona was appointed to the Board of the Institute for Apprenticeships.

Professor Baron Peter Piot KCMG

Professor Baron Peter Piot

Microbiologist Professor Peter Piot is at the forefront of fighting global threats to health in his role as Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

While still a junior researcher in the 1970s, Peter Piot was part of a team that discovered and helped contain the first outbreak of Ebola in Central Africa. More recently, he campaigned for urgent international action in response to the West Africa 2014 outbreak and he chaired the WHO Ebola Science Committee, which provided the scientific underpinning of the WHO’s response.

Peter Piot was also instrumental in early research into HIV/AIDS, and was UN Under Secretary-General and the founding Executive Director of UNAIDS, the UN's programme to contain the HIV epidemic, for 14 years. Through Peter Piot’s advocacy, HIV/AIDS became a concern at the highest political levels globally.

Professor Piot continues to be one of the world’s most prominent policy influencers and spokespersons on global and public health.

Further information:

  • Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE will be presented for his honorary degree by Professor Brian Fulton, from the Department of Physics, on Thursday 14 July in Ceremony Five at 12 noon
  • Professor John O’Keefe will be presented for his honorary degree by Dr Tom Hartley, from the Department of Psychology, on Friday 14 July in Ceremony Eight at 12 noon
  • Charles Gurassa will be presented for his honorary degree by Ed Braman, from the Department of Theatre, Film and Television, on Thursday 13 July in Ceremony Four at 9.30am
  • Clare Matterson CBE will be presented for her honorary degree by Beatrice Szczepek Reed, from the Department of Education, on Wednesday 12 July in Ceremony Three at 3.30pm
  • Dame Fiona Kendrick DBE will be presented for her honorary degree by Professor Bob Doherty, from the York Management School, on Saturday 15 July in Ceremony Ten at 9.30am
  • Professor Baron Peter Piot will be presented for his honorary degree by Professor Deborah Smith, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, on Friday 14 July in Ceremony Nine at 3.30pm
  • Professor  A.R Ravishankara will be presented for his honorary degree by Professor Lucy Carpenter, from the Department of Chemistry, on Thursday 14 July in Ceremony Five at 12 noon

All our graduation ceremonies are available to watch online.

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