AAU Update


AAU honored five new honorary doctorate recipients at an online ceremony 15. april. Foto: AAU


Five new honorary doctorate recipients were honored at AAU on 15 April at an online ceremony following a roundtable discussion where the researchers and Rector Per Michael Johansen discussed the far-reaching impact of the coronavirus on the research world and on society.

By Mads Gregersen, AAU Communication. Translated by LeeAnn Iovanni, AAU Communication

The air was filled with commendations and contemplations on Thursday, 15 April when AAU honored five new honorary doctorate recipients at an online ceremony. The twofold event opened with an Academic Round Table, a roundtable discussion where the five researchers discussed the influence of the coronavirus on the research world.

The official ceremony followed where the dean of each faculty presented the faculty's new honorary doctorate recipient. You can read more about them below:

TECH: Elisa Bertino, Professor, Purdue University
ENGINEERING: Hoda ElMaraghy, Professor, University of Windsor
MEDICINE: Ranu Jung, Professor, Florida International University
HUM: Annabelle Lever, Professor, Sciences Po, Paris
SOCIAL SCIENCES: Kirsten Sandberg, Professor, University of Oslo[LI1] 

The honorary doctorate is awarded to highly recognised researchers who, through international cooperation, have contributed to scientific development at AAU.

Originally, the ceremony was to take place during the AAU annual celebration in 2020, but with two annual celebrations cancelled during the pandemic, the ceremony was now virtual.

- It would have been more appropriate – and certainly more festive – if we could have honored you here in our beautiful city where spring is in the air. I’m afraid that we will have to owe you that experience, said Rector Per Michael Johansen in his welcome address. 


Gregory Lip, Professor in the Department of Clinical Medicine and AAU's first Distinguished Professor, moderated the opening discussion where the Rector also took part. The wide-ranging conversation touched on issues like the challenges of video meetings, the lack of laboratory access and missing the students.

However, the panelists also agreed that the coronavirus has given us an opportunity to think in new ways, and that as human beings we can take new experiences on board.

- It has affected us, but it has also shown how flexible we humans can be. For me as a laboratory researcher, it was a big challenge, but it forced us to think differently. I think it will push us forward, said Professor Ranu Jung, the honorary doctorate recipient at the Faculty of Medicine.

At the same time, she praised the PBL model for proving to be particularly suitable during the pandemic.

- It demonstrated that we can teach in other ways than lecturing, she said.


The new forms of communication are here to stay in one form or another, the new honorary doctorate recipients particularly noted.

- We want to keep the good aspects of digital communication, but not everything. Because we need to combine the digital and the physical. Particularly when you meet people the first time, it can be important to do that in person. It’s also easier to meet with colleagues from all over the world when it’s digital, said Kirsten Sandberg, Professor at the University of Oslo and now an honorary doctorate recipient at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

The pandemic has also shown how important science is to society, as was noted by Elisa Bertino, Professor at Purdue University in the US and the honorary doctorate recipient at the Technical Faculty of IT and Design. 

- Covid has shown that science plays an incredibly important role in our society and that we grapple with important questions. That science is one of society's pillars, she said.


A similar point was echoed by Rector Per Michael Johansen when, after the discussion, he began the official award ceremony with a short speech. He also touched on the influence of the coronavirus on research – and vice versa. 

- In the past year, many of us have come to know scientists and experts by their first names. The knowledge gained through research has been crucial in the fight against the virus, said Rector Per Michael Johansen.

Thus, research has also saved lives, he pointed out.

- This would never be possible if research were only self-serving. An outward-looking perspective and a collaborative approach are essential for the creation and use of results. Research knows no national boundaries; nor should it. The best results are created with the world in mind. You are proof of that, he said, to the five honorary doctorate recipients.


The honorary doctorate recipients were presented by the deans of the respective faculties followed by the awarding by the Rector. In their acceptance speeches, all the recipients expressed hope for further AAU collaboration.

- I’m very privileged to have had the opportunity over the years to partner with Aalborg University. I’ve learned a lot and I believe that these international partnerships can run long and deep and have a positive impact on society. And I’m very proud to now belong to the AAU family in a more official way. Thank you, said Professor Ranu Jung.

Read more about honorary doctors at AAU