The University of Southampton

Nobel winner awarded Southampton Honorary Doctorate at graduation ceremony

Published: 4 August 2017
Physics and Astronomy graduation

Nobel laureate Professor Brian Schmidt was made an Honorary Doctor of Science by the University of Southampton at this summer’s graduation ceremony for Physics and Astronomy.

Over 100 students celebrated the completion of their degrees in the graduation service on Tuesday 25th July, where Head of Department Professor Jonathan Flynn congratulated them on achievements that have equipped them with valuable “tools to understand the world”.

Professor Brian Schmidt, a world-renowned astrophysicist who is known for his research in using supernovae as cosmological probes, received an Honorary Doctorate in Science in recognition of his revolutionary contribution to astronomy and cosmology.

Under his leadership, in 1998, the High-Z Supernova Search team based at the Australian National University’s (ANU) Mount Stromlo Observatory, made the startling discovery that the expansion rate of the Universe is accelerating. The discovery led to a string of accolades, including the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011.

Professor Schmidt, now the Vice-Chancellor and President of ANU, was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2013. The following year, he became a Diamond Jubilee International Visiting Fellow at the University, working closely with the Southampton Theory Astrophysics and Gravity (STAG) Research Centre and delivering the annual STAG Public Lecture in 2015.

Speaking to an audience of graduates in Physics and Astronomy, along with their families, friends, supporters and academic colleagues, he emphasised the importance of education in shaping the solutions that will change the world for the better.

“It is truly an honour for someone who has had too many honours in their life, but receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Southampton - which I’ve had the privilege of visiting many times over the past five or so years - is as high an honour as I can receive from here and I truly appreciate it,” he said.

“When we look at humanity, we face a turning point,” he continued. “New technology is disrupting every facet of our lives from media to medicine, from astronomy to accounting. This technology needs to serve all of society, not just you. The very small portion of the world’s population that has the education – like you do – need to actively shape how technology is deployed. So I ask you to take responsibility, to use your knowledge, to make the world a better place for everyone.”

There were 109 graduates from Physics and Astronomy at July’s ceremony, with 86 completing undergraduate degrees and 23 concluding postgraduate research.

Addressing the audience, Professor Jonathan Flynn, Head of Physics and Astronomy, added: “I would like to congratulate all this summer’s graduates. We know how hard you've worked and you should all be proud of your achievements. We hope you leave Southampton with a deep appreciation of the beauty and complexity of the world, along with the tools to understand that world. These will serve you well in any sphere. May your futures be bright and wonderful.”

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