University of Dundee

University to honour leading figures in science, sports and humanities

07 Jun 2009

The University of Dundee will confer honorary degrees on six leading figures from the worlds of humanities, sport and science at its Graduation ceremonies next week.

Those receiving Honorary Degrees (Doctor of Laws) at the ceremonies on June 24th, 25th and 26th are:

  • Richard Holloway, former Anglican Bishop and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and now a respected writer and broadcaster on moral, ethical and religious issues
  • Wendy Houvenaghel, a Dundee alumna and an Olympic silver medallist in the Women's 3000m pursuit at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
  • Professor Matthias Mann, one of the world’s most prominent scientists, and a pioneer in the field of mass spectrometry and proteomics
  • Sir Paul Nurse, a leading British biochemist who was jointly awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  • Sir David Weatherall, a leading world expert in haematology
  • Professor Frank Walsh, a leading advocate of translational medicine and Professor of Neuroscience at Kings College London
  • 'Our Honorary Graduates this year represent some of the highest achievers, clearest thinkers and respected voices in their respective fields and they give great inspiration to our students,' said Professor Peter Downes, Acting Principal of the University of Dundee.

Among the many people who will be coming from far and wide for the ceremonies is Wendy Houvenaghel’s coach Dan Hunt. He is currently with the British cycling team in Italy for a competition, but will make a round trip from there to Dundee specifically to deliver Wendy’s laureation address, before heading back to rejoin the team.

The Graduation ceremonies take place in the Caird Hall in Dundee, with morning and afternoon ceremonies each day.


* Richard Holloway is a writer and broadcaster on moral, ethical and religious issues. He has written over 25 books, including Godless Morality: Keeping Religion out of Ethics, published in 1998 when he was Anglican Bishop and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and most recently Between the Monster and the Saint.

A controversial figure in the Church, Richard Holloway had a reputation for not being afraid of challenging the perceptions of what Christianity is or should be. Since leaving the Church, his thoughtful prose on complex ethical issues has found a broad audience in Scotland and beyond.

He received his theological training in Edinburgh and New York City, and from 1959 ministered in England, Scotland and the United States until his resignation from the Church in 2000.

He has been a member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and held the position of chair of the BMA Steering Group on Ethics and Genetics. He has written for many newspapers and is a regular presenter on radio and television, hosting several BBC television series, including The Sword and the Cross and the BBC Radio Scotland book review programme, Cover Stories.

He became Chairman of the Scottish Arts Council in 2005. He is Chair of the Arts Council-funded Sistema Scotland, a charity based on the model of the National Network of Youth and Children's Orchestras of Venezuela, helping to introduce music within a symphony orchestra to deprived young people in Scotland.

*Wendy Houvenaghel is a Dundee alumna and an Olympic silver medallist - she won an individual silver medal in the Women's 3000m pursuit at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Wendy is also a reigning World Champion, being part of the British trio who won the World Championship Team Pursuit for women in Poland this March, repeating the team’s success of 2008. She also won silver at the same competition in the Women’s individual pursuit, narrowly missing out on gold.

Wendy studied Dentistry at the University of Dundee, and after graduating in 1998 began a career as a dentist within the Royal Air Force, ultimately being promoted to squadron leader in 2003. In 2006 she gave up dentistry to become a full-time track cyclist, and represented England at the Commonwealth Games that year.

Having been a keen cross-country runner at school and during university, Wendy took up cycling ‘for a change’ to relax and recover after completing the London marathon in April 2002 - having not been on a bike for ten years.

She took part in her first road race in September that year, and was quickly spotted and selected for Team GB in 2003, first competing on the world stage in 2005, when aged 31.

Wendy now lives in Cornwall with her husband Ian, whom she met while a student in Dundee. She is in training for Olympics 2012.

*Professor Matthias Mann is one of the world’s most prominent scientists, and a pioneer in the field of mass spectrometry and proteomics, analysing the elemental composition of a molecule or protein.

He is the recipient of numerous international prizes and medals, and was the second most cited scientist in the ten years up to 2007, having published 330 articles with 42,000 citations.

After studying mathematics and physics at the University of Goettingen, he received his PhD in 1988 from Yale University, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. He then became group leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, returning to Odense as a Professor for Bioinformatics.

Since 2005 he has been Professor and Director at the Max-Planck-Institut for Biochemistry in Berlin, where he has developed ground-breaking methods and technologies which have become essential in proteomics laboratories.

Using these new technologies, Professor Mann has collaborated with Professor Angus Lamond, Head of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Gene Regulation & Expression at the College of Life Sciences here at Dundee, to study in unprecedented detail how proteins move inside human cancer cells.

Professor Mann has contributed significantly to the understanding of the human genome and its protein products, which will ultimately lead to a far greater understanding of the future molecular mechanisms human disease.

*Sir Paul Nurse is a leading British biochemist who was jointly awarded the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discoveries regarding cell cycle regulation by cyclin and cyclin dependent kinases.

Born into a fairly humble background, he only recently discovered that he was raised by his grandparents, his ‘sister’ being his real mother. His family encouraged his academic interests, though initially he was barred from going to University because he lacked a foreign language qualification. After working as a technician in a microbiological laboratory, he was eventually accepted at the University of Birmingham to study biology, followed by a PhD from the University of East Anglia.

He then moved to Edinburgh, where his research began in earnest. He quickly identified an important gene in yeast, leading to the discovery of the gene which controls cell division. This has since contributed to important new treatments and medicines for cancer.

In 1984, he joined the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (now Cancer Research UK), moving to the University of Oxford in 1988 to become Chair at the Department of Microbiology. Later he returned to the ICRF as Director of Research and then Director General.

Dubbed ‘the David Beckham of science’ by The Sun, Sir Paul is famed not only for his scientific reputation but for his leadership qualities, his outspoken views and his unequivocal support for some controversial topics, such as cloning human embryos for stem cell research.

Sir Paul is a winner of the Royal Medal, the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, the French Legion d'Honneur and the Copley Medal, and has been elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 2003, he became both University President and Professor at the Laboratory of Yeast Genetics and Cell Biology at the Rockefeller University in New York City. He continues to work there on the cell cycle of fission yeast.

*Sir David Weatherall is Regius Professor of Medicine Emeritus and retired Honorary Director of the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Oxford.

He is a leading world expert in haematology, specifically the molecular genetics of common inherited anaemias, and has particular interest in working with developing countries in the management and prevention of these diseases, with collaborators in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, Canada, Vietnam and Kenya.

Sir David gained his degree in Medicine from the University of Liverpool in 1956, and then spent two years in National Service in Singapore, where his interest in haematology was sparked. Working out his medical training there, the critically ill child of a Ghurka soldier appeared on his ward, and Sir David was able to diagnose an inherited anaemic disease - the first time it had been identified in that region. Publication in the British Medical Journal followed, and he has worked in the field ever since.

National Service was followed by a Fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. He returned to Liverpool, eventually becoming Professor of Haematology, before being appointed as the Nuffield Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Oxford, and in 1992 became Regius Professor of Medicine.

Sir David retired from Oxford in 2000, and the institute which he had helped to found in 1989 was renamed in his honour. In 2002 at the age of 69 he became Chancellor of Keele University, and was instrumental in establishing its new School of Medicine.

In 2005-6 he chaired The Weatherall committee, commissioned to conduct an independent review into the use of primates in animal research. Sir David was knighted in 1987 and was winner of the Royal Medal for Medicine in 1989. He has sat for the National Portrait Gallery and is a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association.

* Frank Walsh is Professor of Neuroscience at Kings College London and interim Research Director of Kings Health Partners.

Born in Wishaw, Professor Walsh started his scientific career with an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Strathclyde and a subsequent Ph.D. in biochemistry from University College London. His post-doctoral training was conducted under the tutelage of the Nobel Prize winner Marshall Nirenberg at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, USA.

From 1979-1986 he served as Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Neurochemistry at the Institute of Neurology before being appointed the Wellcome Trust Senior Lecturer at the Institute in 1986. In 1989, he moved to the United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospitals (UMDS), London, becoming the Sir William Dunn Professor of Experimental Pathology, and later served as the UMDS’s Research Dean.

In 1997, Frank moved to SmithKline Beecham (SB) Pharmaceuticals to become Vice President and Director of Neuroscience Research, subsequently becoming Senior Vice President and Head of the Neurology-Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery following the merger of the company with Glaxo Wellcome.

From 2002 to 2009 he was Senior Vice President and Head of Discovery Research at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in Philadelphia. In this role he was responsible for overseeing the transition of more than 80 novel drug candidates into clinical development for a number of devastating diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Stroke, Schizophrenia, Cancer, Diabetes, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and COPD.

He has been a passionate advocate for academic science departments working closely with their industrial counterparts to aid drug discovery, and was closely involved with the development of the Translational Medicine Research Collaboration between Scotland’s leading medical science universities and Wyeth.