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No rock star behaviour but modesty

The UM will grant five honorary doctorates on the occasion of its 38th foundation day

MAASTRICHT. Tomorrow, on its 38th foundation day, Maastricht University will award five honorary doctorates. The three men and two women are from the United States, Great Britain, and Germany, from research fields including COPD, European Law, and MRI. All faculties proposed an honorary doctor, with the exception of Humanities & Sciences, where no suitable candidate has been presented.

FASOS
Honorary doctor: Peggy Levitt, professor of Sociology at Wellesley College
Honorary supervisor: Valentina Mazzucato, professor of Globalisation and Development at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
“Peggy Levitt is one of the first scholars to have conducted an in-depth study of migrants’ transnational lives: how their lives are linked not only with the country they live in, but also with their home country”, says Valentina Mazzucato of her American colleague. “Migration is typically studied from a national perspective, as if migrants only relate to their country of residence. But from a transnational perspective, migrants are also linked to other countries. Their lives are multi-sited.”
In 2001 Levitt published her first book on transnationalism: The Transnational Villagers. This comprehensive, empirical study is based on her field trips to the Dominican Republic and the Dominican communities in Boston. She shows how Dominican migrants integrate in the US while also maintaining their ties with the island.
“Peggy Levitt is very influential; one of the most cited academic in the field of transnational studies. She writes very well, including for non-academic readers. I would definitely recommend all her books. Her stories are also regularly published in popular media.”
“Levitt’s work stands out for the way she bridges various themes; by also studying the role of religion and cultural artefacts, she has managed to expand a transnational approach to other fields.” Her book God Needs No Passport (2007), for example, is about how, by combining religious elements from their home country, recent immigrants shape the religious landscape in the United States.
 

SBE
Honorary doctor: Amy Edmondson, professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard
Honorary supervisor: Wim Gijselaers, professor of Education at the School of Business and Economics
Why does one team – no matter what the subject – perform more successfully than another? Because the members feel safe, free to give their opinion, even if this deviates from other opinions. In the nineteen-nineties, Amy Edmondson, professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard blew new life into that old idea from the nineteen-sixties.
“She is originally an engineer,” says honorary supervisor Wim Gijselaers. “She then specialised in Psychology and Organisational Behaviour, the connection being research into the learning behaviour of professionals within teams. She did a lot of research in hospitals, including the study where teams of surgeons had to learn how to use a new type of technology. After a time, she discovered a huge difference in performance, which had everything to do with the team leadership, with the conditions created by the team leaders in allowing the team members to learn. If you are unsuccessful in creating a safe atmosphere, carrying out an open discussion, then performance will plummet. It is a recurring pattern.”
The status of Edmondson’s scientific work is sky-high, but not disconnected from reality. Her findings are applied in practice everywhere, says Gijselaers, in hospitals, the construction industry, even in aviation. “I have known her work for a long time now, but I met Edmondson for the first time last spring. She is remarkably modest. Considering her status, she could - in a manner of speaking - behave like a rock star but she doesn’t. You see it quite often: those who are at the top don’t feel the need to puff themselves up.”

 

Law
Honorary doctor: Paul Craig, professor of English Law, University of Oxford
Honorary supervisor: Bruno de Witte, professor of European Union Law at the Faculty of Law
“In the nineteen-nineties, when we started teaching in English at the law department, it was a real bestseller. All our students bought it.” Bruno de Witte is pointing to the tome of more than a thousand pages on his desk: EU Law, Text, Cases and Materials by Paul Craig (and co-author Grainne de Burca). In the meantime, it has seen its fifth edition and it is still one of the leading international books on European law.
Craig (1951), who holds one of the oldest chairs in Oxford – as a professor of English law – is specialised in Constitutional and Administrative and EU Law. De Witte met him during an international project in Boston. “A charming man.” And although Craig received his academic training in Oxford and still works there, he is certainly not prone to insularity, says De Witte. “He travels a lot and is invited to many different universities.”
What makes him special? “He writes very elegantly, in a clear and accessible style. From the enormous amount of information coming at us, he manages to extract the essence. Take, for example, the discussion on the European Union’s authority. Some feel that the EU meddles in too many affairs; others feel that that the EU doesn’t do it enough. Craig manages to outline the debate clearly in an article. He leaves the details out so that a useful basis remains.”
He will give a lecture at the faculty on Friday morning, prior to the Dies celebration. He ponders the question whether it is time for a European Code of Administrative Procedure, which means: clear and definite rules for the way in which European rules are applied by the EU itself and by national governments. “Craig is interesting for both European and public law jurists and that makes him an excellent honorary doctor for our faculty.”


MUMC
Honorary doctor: Peter J. Barnes, professor of Thoracic Medicine at Imperial College London
Honorary supervisor: Emiel Wouters, professor of Pulmonology at MUMCW
hy Peter Barnes? That is not so difficult: for twenty years the British scientist has been the most quoted researcher in the field of lung disease, the focus being on asthma and COPD. He is in seventh place on the world ranking of all scientific disciplines.
Barnes (1946) – already in possession of four honorary doctorates – carried out a great deal of research into asthma up to fifteen years ago, after which he focused on COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), says Emiel Wouters, professor of Pulmonology. “Moreover, Barnes has always supported the Maastricht view that COPD does not just manifest itself in the airways but also in the bones, vessels and muscles. You have to look at the whole patient.”
Unpretentious, modest, loyal towards his colleagues, not someone who prides himself on his position. These are the characteristics that make Barnes who he is, says Wouters. “Besides he is possessed by new horizons, like a passionate young researcher who is stimulated by new developments every day and has such an open mind that he can appreciate them as well.”

 

Psychology and Neurosciences
Honorary doctor: Jürgen Hennig, professor of Medical Physics at the Freiburg academic hospital
Honorary supervisor: Rainer Goebel, professor of Cognitive Neurosciences at the Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences
The chemist Jürgen Hennig (1951, Stuttgart) is considered one of the pioneers of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for medical applications. Honorary supervisor Rainer Goebel has met him several times at conferences and once in Freiburg. “My first impression was of a smart, gentle person. At around two metres tall, his height also leaves an impression. Talking with him, it quickly becomes clear that he’s a very unconventional, visionary and deep thinker. Besides his scientific research, he likes practical work; he relaxes at weekends by making beautiful wood sculptures and paintings.”
Hennig is full professor at the University Medical Centre Freiburg and scientific director of the Department of Diagnostic Radiology. “He’s now developing ultra-fast MRI for applications in neurology, oncology and the neurosciences. He was awarded an ERC Advanced Investigators grant. His academic, intellectual and professional leadership is wide-ranging, as evidenced by numerous international awards and his presidency of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine in 1999.”
Recently, the UM Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences has started a very interesting collaborative project on ultra-fast brain imaging, says Goebel. “Based on his work, we want to perform novel neurofeedback studies for clinical applications that allow patients with for example schizophrenia to influence the cooperation between brain areas. To make this possible we need a signal of the brain every 0.1 to 0.5 seconds, instead of the usual 1 to 2 seconds. Hennigs work is a solution to this problem because it allows us to scan the brain fast.”

Wendy Degens and Maurice Timmermans

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