On January 10, 2012, Dr. Eric Wieschaus and Sir John Gurdon were recognized for their contributions to science with the highest recognition awarded by Universidad Andrés Bello, Doctor Honoris Causa. The ceremony was led by UNAB's Rector, Dr. Pedro Uribe Jackson at UNAB's Casona de Las Condes Campus and was attended the UNAB's faculty and invited guests. Dr. Wieschaus and Sir Gurdon were accompanied by their sponsors, Dr. María Inés Vera and Dr. Roberto Mayor, respectively.
Dr. María Inés Vera, dean of the School of Biological Sciences, provided a laudatory portrait of Dr. Wieschaus, detailing the path that led the scientist to the field of developmental biology and eventually to the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1995, stressing his passion for science and art. Dr. Mayor, reviewing the biography of Sir Gurdon, humorously stated that despite the poor prognosis the scientist received from his biology teacher in high school, he has made great contributions to the field of developmental biology, specifically in the field of cloning, leading to the Lasker Award in 2009.
After the introductions, UNAB's Rector granted both scientists the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa and delivered to them the symbols of this recognition. Dr. Eric Wieschaus and Sir John Gurdon took the floor to thank UNAB for the recognition and to help explain the work they have developed during their careers in the field of developmental biology.
With a big smile, Dr. Eric Wieschaus appreciated the homage paid by UNAB. According to Dr. Weischaus, "Although the process that allows a cell to become a complex organism like us is still a great mystery, this distinction is a clear recognition that developmental biology has made tremendous progress over the past 30 years." The Nobel laureate acknowledged that he received the honorary doctorate on behalf of science in general. "I hope this will inspire young scientists, because while science is difficult, it's nice to be able to receive an award like this," he said.
The American researcher also noted that, despite its short history, UNAB has developed a research profile that places it among the best in Chile. He also said that the delivery of this distinction from a Chilean university "means that science is truly universal, which is wonderful."
Meanwhile Sir John Gurdon explained that this recognition "is something very special to me because of my connections with Chile." The British scientist said his specific connection with Universidad Andrés Bello was the result of his work, over several years, with Dr. Roberto Mayor.
Dr. Weischaus and Sir Gurdon join several other respected global figures, like José Maria Aznar, Mario Vargas Llosa and Nelson Mandela, whose work and contributions to society have been recognized by UNAB with an honorary doctoral degree.