Professors in the Auditorium of Wageningen University

Press release

95-year-old Wageningen University awards three honorary doctorates

Published on
January 31, 2013

To mark the 95th anniversary of Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR, Vice Chancellor Martin Kropff will be awarding honorary doctorates to three leading researchers. Professor Graham Farquhar of the Australian National University, Professor Richard Lenski of Michigan State University and Professor Brian Staskawicz of the University of California will be awarded honorary doctorates during the Dies Natalis Celebration on Friday the 15th of March in Wageningen.

Professor Graham Farquhar (1947) is Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. He has made a fundamental contribution to our understanding of the role of plants in carbon and water cycles and the methodologies underlying that understanding. He has also created a profile for himself in recent years within the climate debate, for instance through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN's climate panel, on which a large number of leading climate scientists are represented.

Professor Farquhar is receiving his honorary doctorate for his outstanding academic career in the field of plant biology (defined primarily by his work on photosynthesis and isolating stable isotopes) and climate change (the famous Farquhar formula is at the heart of many vegetation and carbon models), a field not only of major importance for Wageningen University, but one that can be considered socially relevant. His scientific work is ground-breaking, and has had an enormous scientific and social impact in a field extremely relevant to the domain and the key focus areas of Wageningen University.

The honorary promotor of Professor Farquhar is Professor Paul Struik, professor of crop physiology.

Professor Richard Lenski (1956) is a professor of Microbial Ecology at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, USA. He founded the study of how evolution proceeds in real time. He pioneered this field using experiments with micro-organisms in the laboratory. Thanks to his work, evolutionary biology has been transformed from a primarily descriptive science into an experimental science.

Professor Lenski is being awarded this honorary doctorate for his outstanding contributions to science. He already has a great many publications to his name, including several in leading journals. He is on many prominent international scientific boards, such as the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. He has also inspired teaching at Wageningen University in an extraordinary way, and taught a great number of scientists, including those in Wageningen. In addition, Professor Lenski is exemplary in conveying scientific ideas to a broader audience.

Professor Lenski's honorary promotor is Professor Bas Zwaan, professor of genetics.

Professor Brian Staskawicz (1952) is professor of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of California at Berkeley (USA). Staskawicz has made a fundamental contribution to the identification and understanding of plant defence mechanisms against bacteria. His work forms the basis for modern, sustainable plant breeding for resistance to micro-organisms. Staskawicz is a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and of the American Academy of Microbiology. He is an editor of the academic journals PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) and CELL.

Professor Staskawicz is being awarded this honorary doctorate for his impressive academic impact on the field of sustainable crop protection, plant sciences, and microbiology, all areas of eminent importance to Wageningen University. He has always exhibited flair in dedicating his efforts to the practical application of his research results. He is not only an outstanding academic but an exemplary teacher. Many of his students have gone on to leading positions at universities and in industry.

Professor Staskawicz's honorary promotor is Professor Pierre de Wit, professor of phytopathology.

Honorary doctorates

Wageningen University awards honorary doctorates on the occasion of its anniversary celebration every five years. These honorary titles are intended for outstanding researchers with an international reputation in one or more academic areas in which Wageningen University is active. The effect of their research on society must also underscore the role and the position of Wageningen University as an academic institution in society.