14 May 2020

This weekend, seven international researchers should have received honorary doctorates from Linköping University. But the corona pandemic turned life upside down, and the Academic Ceremony has been postponed until the autumn.​

Woman receiving her doctoral hat Peter Holgersson AB

The seven selected researchers have close collaborations with LiU researchers within language and reading skills, climate policy, computer science, organic electronics, medical imaging and inflammatory diseases.


Two of this year’s honorary doctors – Professor Brian Byrne and Professor Richard Olson – have worked with Professor Stefan Samuelsson from LiU, leading a major international twin study for 20 years, and studying how genetics and the environment influence children’s language and early reading skills. The group has shown that genes have a significant influence early in the development of children’s written language, and that the effect of genes differs, depending on the environment. In the latter, priorities given to various social and educational aspects in different countries play a role. Brian Byrne is professor emeritus of psychology at the University of New England, Australia, and Richard Olson is professor emeritus at the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, USA. Both researchers have made major contributions within language and reading skills, one result of which is the development of technical aids designed for children with special needs.


Karen O’Brien, professor in sociology and human geography at Oslo University has also been awarded an honorary doctorate. She is a pioneer in cross-disciplinary research into the societal effects of climate change. She has conducted breakthrough research into our vulnerability to climate change and how society can adapt and realign to meet the challenges it presents. Karen O’Brien has been a support and vital inspiration for the successful research into climate adaptation and social realignment conducted at the Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research and the Department of Thematic Studies – Environmental Change.


Jeannette M. Wing has been awarded an honorary doctorate, with special focus on her work in computational thinking, formal methods and artificial intelligence. Computational thinking concerns how to solve problems and design systems together with computers, with the aid of calculations. It also takes up the question of machine intelligence – what can people do better than computers and what can computers do better than people? Jeannette M. Wing is professor of computer science at Columbia University, USA. She has been scientific adviser to the the Wallenberg AI, Autonomous Systems and Software Program.


George Malliaras, professor at the University of Cambridge, is a pioneer within organic electronics, having worked in the field for more than 25 years. He has now been awarded an honorary doctorate at Linköping University. Organic electronic materials can function as a bridge between the digital and the biological worlds, and the field has given us soft electronic components on paper, batteries that are partially based on forestry raw materials, and “bio-electronics”, which release biological substances in response to electronic signals. George Malliaras’ contributions to research include not only fundamental studies into the properties of materials but also several applications within medicine and printed electronics. He has collaborated with LiU in several ways for nearly 20 years.


Cynthia H. McCollough has been awarded an honorary doctorate for her initiatives in the borderland between medicine and technology. She is an internationally renowned researcher in the development and evaluation of computer tomography (CT) and dose-reduction methods. Dr McCollough is professor in both medical physics and biomedical engineering at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA. She has collaborated with Linköping University for the past ten years through the exchange of researchers and methods. This has resulted in new imaging methods with significant benefit to patients.


Derek McKay, professor at the University of Calgary, has been awarded an honorary doctorate. McKay is a well-established researcher within the physiology and pathophysiology of the gastro-intestinal tract, in particular during inflammatory disease. His research deals principally with how parasite infections in the intestine affect the immune system of the intestinal mucous membranes in inflammatory disease. The scientific collaboration between McKay and research groups at Linköping University was established during the early years of the millennium, and McKay has advanced gastro-intestinal research in Linköping through his expertise in methods and immunophysiology.

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