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UJ bestows Honorary Doctorate on world-leading chemist and nanoscientist, Prof Bernard Feringa

Nobel Prize winner, Professor Bernard Feringa in recognition of his sterling international contribution to the Chemistry field and scientific community as a whole accepted an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Tuesday, 02 April 2019.

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“As a synthetic organic chemist, Prof Feringa’s mission of serving humanity through innovation is in line with that of the University. His ‘molecular motor’ for drug delivery is undeniably unique and innovative, and promises to revolutionise treatment options for various diseases,” said Professor Debra Meyer, the Executive Dean of Science at UJ.

”In addition, his values of imagination and engaging meaningfully with others are those that are shared by UJ. It is no coincidence that so many postgraduate students credit his academic supervision, citing the experience as one that makes science accessible and tangible,” added Prof Meyer.

Prof Feringa has received numerous accolades over the years, including the Spinoza prize, the ‘Dutch Nobel Prize’. In 2013, Ben Feringa was awarded the Lilly European Distinguished Science Award, followed by the Marie Curie Medal, the highest honour awarded annually by the Polish Chemical Society for chemists working outside of Poland. Also in 2013, he was awarded two important Japanese prizes followed by, in 2014, the prestigious Cope Scholar Award of the American Chemical Society. In November 2015 he received the Chemistry for the Future Solvay Prize.

His discovery in 1999 of the ‘molecular motor’, a light-driven rotating molecule and the potential applications of this concept to transport themselves through the bloodstream in order to deliver drugs to previously unreachable locations in the human body with a high degree of accuracy is particularly inspiring.

Upon receiving his honorary doctorate, Prof Feringa passed advice to the new set of alumni on how they can shape the future. “Invest in the basis of looking far beyond your current horizon. That is a key message I want to convey to you today,” said Prof Feringa.

“In fact we will indeed have to go far beyond our horizon and leave our comfort zone if we are really looking forward to a sustainable society of the future. Invest in talent, fundamental research and cooperation as a strong basis for innovation; indeed not in isolation but in cooperation with institutes abroad, as well as industrial and societal partners. Focus on scientific insight and quality of thought,” he added.

Prof Meyer highlighted that Prof Feringa has an undoubtedly stellar career. “We envision, that in the Faculty he will serve as a motivator to emerging researchers, an advisor in research fields already under development and as an overall indicator of what hard work and dedicated science can achieve. He has my highest recommendation for an honorary doctorate in our Faculty.”

Prof Feringa obtained his PhD degree at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands where he was also appointed lecturer and in 1988, full professor He is a member and vice-president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and in 2008 he was appointed Academy Professor and was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands.

 

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