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Honorary degrees awarded at Bristol University

Press release issued: 7 July 2003

Bristol University is awarding Honorary degrees to Professor Sir Paul Nurse, Professor Glynis Breakwell and Professor Sir Gabriel Horn at degree ceremonies in the Wills Memorial Building today.

Bristol University is awarding Honorary degrees to three prominent people at today's degree ceremonies in the Wills Memorial Building.

Professor Sir Paul Nurse, FRS, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, and Joint Director, Cancer Research UK, will be honoured with the degree of Doctor of Science at the 11.15am ceremony.

Sir Paul Nurse graduated from Birmingham University with a BSc in Biology and studied for his PhD at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. He worked in Edinburgh and then at Sussex University where he studied yeast cells and discovered a yeast gene, cdc2, which was shown to be critical in controlling the cell cycle of yeast.

In 1984 he went to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) in London where he and his team discovered a human equivalent to the yeast cdc2 gene and showed that the cell cycle in humans was controlled in a similar way to yeast. This resulted in a greater understanding of how human cells multiply - an essential step to conquering cancer.

In 1988 he became Professor of Microbiology at Oxford University and, in 1993, Scientific Director of the ICRF. When the ICRF joined forces with Cancer Research Campaign in 2002 to form Cancer Research UK, he became the new organisation's Chief Executive.

Paul Nurse has won numerous awards and distinctions during his career. In 1989 he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society and, in 1999, was honoured with a knighthood for services to cancer research and for his pioneering work on the cell cycle.

In 2001 he shared the most prestigious of awards, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, with Professors Lee Hartwell and Tim Hunt for their pioneering work on the control of the cell cycle. His research has greatly increased our understanding of why certain cells multiply uncontrollably and become cancerous. Fundamental knowledge of this kind is essential if we are to make further progress in the prevention and cure of a number of major diseases including cancer.

Professor Glynis Breakwell, social psychologist and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath, will be honoured with the degree of Doctor of Laws at the 2pm ceremony.

Glynis Breakwell studied Psychology at the University of Leicester, took a Masters degree at Strathclyde University and then a PhD at Bristol University which she completed in only 18 months.

She then worked at Bradford University's School of Social Analysis and the University of Oxford before moving to Surrey University in 1981 where she was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor in 1994.

Her academic career has been devoted to the study of how people perceive and react to risk. Her work has covered adolescents' and young adults' responses to work and unemployment, to new technologies, drugs, smoking and sexual behaviour. She has also studied subjects as diverse as the impact of migration and displacement, reactions to international terrorism, and the perceived safety of mobile phones.

She has conducted a pioneering survey of risk perception among 50,000 soldiers and civilians in Northern Ireland and won the largest ever Economic and Social Research Council grant for a five-year study of responses to Aids.

Her work straddles the boundary between psychology and sociology, covering both individual and group behaviour. She has published numerous books and more than 250 articles for a range of academic journals. In addition to her scientific research, Professor Breakwell's practical help has been sought on many occasions by both policy-makers and practitioners.

In 2001 she was appointed to the role of Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bath where she has already made a considerable impact - the most publicly visible of her achievements being the rapid development of the University of Bath at Swindon, Wiltshire's first Higher Education institution.

The anatomist, Sir Gabriel Horn, FRS, will be honoured with the degree of Doctor of Science at the 4.45pm ceremony.

Sir Gabriel Horn studied medicine at Birmingham University and, in 1956, became Demonstrator in Anatomy at the University of Cambridge. In 1974 he was appointed Professor of Anatomy at Bristol, leaving three years later to become Head of the Department of Zoology at Cambridge. He was Master of Sidney Sussex College from 1992 to 1999 and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge from 1994 to 1997.

His research is focused on understanding the workings of the brain, particularly how nerve cell activity can explain behaviour. He has made important advances in the knowledge and understanding of perception (particularly mechanisms underlying how we see), attention and consciousness.

His main interest, however, lies in understanding the basis of memory within the brain - a subject widely considered to be one of the key scientific challenges of our time. He was the first to identify an anatomical region of the brain where memories are formed and held. These findings led to further discoveries of certain biochemical and anatomical changes which are related to how learning alters the way in which nerve cells connect to each other.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1986 and was awarded its prestigious Gold Medal in 2001. The following year, he was knighted for his services to neurobiology and the advancement of scientific research.

He was Chairman of the Committee to Review the Origin of BSE, which presented its report to the Government in 2001. He also initiated and chaired the Cambridge University Government Policy Programme which aims to provide scientific policy advice to the Government.

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