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Of Interest

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The fusion torch is in good hands

Sabina Griffith

The handshake after the laudation pronounced by Guido van Oost (right). To the left of laureate Motojima stands the rector of Ghent University, Paul Van Cauwenberge. (Click to view larger version...)
The handshake after the laudation pronounced by Guido van Oost (right). To the left of laureate Motojima stands the rector of Ghent University, Paul Van Cauwenberge.
It was an odd-looking procession that made its way through the ancient streets of Ghent last Friday. About 100 men and women lined up in twos and dressed in long black robes and velvet hats walking with great dignity towards the auditorium of the city's university, which was founded in 1817 by William I, King of the Netherlands. Today Ghent is the capital and largest city of Belgium's east Flanders region (see textbox).

It was an odd-looking procession that made its way through the ancient streets of Ghent last Friday. (Click to view larger version...)
It was an odd-looking procession that made its way through the ancient streets of Ghent last Friday.
The procession is part of a long-standing tradition that precedes Ghent University's dies natalis ceremony. Last week seven outstanding scientists, among them ITER Director-General Osamu Motojima, received the honorary doctorate degree. "ITER is a unique and highly challenging project," the head of the university's fusion branch and coordinator of the European fusion education program, Guido van Oost, said in his laudation, which he gave in Flemish. "Your determination has put the ITER train back on track. The torch that was lit thirty years ago by the first generation of fusion scientists is in good hands. By bringing a sun to Cadarache, you are working to shape a better future for our children and grandchildren, and for many generations to come."

Founded in 1817 as a Latin-speaking state university by William I, King of the Netherlands, Ghent University is a relatively young university. After its independence in 1830, the Belgian State was in charge of the administration of Ghent University; French was the new official academic language. In 1930 Ghent University became the first Dutch-speaking university in Belgium.
In addition to the ITER Director-General, the honoris causa title was awarded to Paula Semer, presenter and producer of many emancipatory broadcasting programs and a Belgian "institution"; to Masatoshi Takeichi from the University in Kobe, Japan, for his pioneering work on the key role of specific intercellular adhesion in morphogenesis; to the Dutch researcher Désirée van der Heijde for pioneering work that has helped to improve the quality of life of patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis; to Arnoud De Meyer, rector of the Singapore Management University; to Paul Sackett from the University of Minnesota, a leading authority in the field of human resources management; and finally to the Dutch researcher Saskia Sassen, author of the book The Global City, a highly original sociology of globalization.

The laureates await their turn to receive the honorary sash and medal. (Click to view larger version...)
The laureates await their turn to receive the honorary sash and medal.
The last word of the ceremony, the acceptance speech, was given by Arnoud De Meyer who thanked Ghent University and Rector Paul Van Cauwenberge on behalf of the seven laureates. "We are truly grateful for this honorary title which we also accept on behalf of our teams and—not to forget—our families. Without them a successful scientific career is not possible."

Click here to see the photo gallery of the event posted on the University of Ghent website.


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