Press release

Six leading figures to be honoured at Graduation ceremonies

Published on 11 June 2024

Six leading figures from science, law, medicine, sustainable energy, refugee rights, and inclusion and intersectionality will be honoured at the University of Dundee’s summer graduation ceremonies this month

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This year’s honorary graduates will join thousands of students in the graduation celebrations, taking place at the Caird Hall in Dundee from Tuesday 18 June to Friday 21 June. 

Those receiving the honorary Doctor of Laws degree are: 

  • Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, formerLord Chief Justice of England of Wales and Chancellor of Aberystwyth University 
  • Professor Sharon Peacock, Professor of Microbiology and Public Health at the University of Cambridge, and Executive Director and Chair of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) 
  • Professor Jim Skea, Chair of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) 
  • Dr Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council 
  • Dr Arun Verma, Inclusion, Intersectionality & Impact Leader 
  • Professor Andrew Morris, Director of Health Data Research UK, former Dean of Medicine at the University of Dundee 

Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee, said, “In choosing our honorary graduates we are mindful of inspiration, excellence and social purpose, of those who match the values of the University and who share our ambition to transform lives. 

“The six people we are honouring at Graduation this month have made a great contribution in their respective fields and stand as role models to our graduates, students, staff and wider community.”

The honorary graduates will receive their degrees at the following ceremonies: 

Tuesday 18 June, morning ceremony – Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd 
Tuesday 18 June, afternoon ceremony – Professor Sharon Peacock 
Thursday 20 June, morning ceremony – Professor Jim Skea 
Thursday 20 June, afternoon ceremony – Dr Sabir Zazai 
Friday 21 June, morning ceremony – Dr Arun Verma 
Friday 21 June, afternoon ceremony – Professor Andrew Morris 

Honorary graduate biographies

A portrait photo of Lord Thomas.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd  

Lord Thomas began practising commercial law in 1972 and became Queen's Counsel in 1984. In 1992, he was appointed to conduct the Department of Trade inquiry into the affairs of Mirror Group Newspapers when owned by Robert Maxwel.  

He was appointed a High Court Judge in 1996 and was successively, a Presiding Judge in Wales (1998-2002), Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court in London (2002-03), a Lord Justice of Appeal (2003-2011), Senior Presiding Judge of England and Wales (2003-2006), Vice-President of the Queen's Bench Division and Deputy Head of Criminal Justice (2009-2011), President of the Queen’s Bench Division 2011-2013 and  Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales 2013-2017. He was created a life peer in 2013, as Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd.   

Lord Thomas was a founder of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary in 2003 (President, (2008-10) and of the European Law Institute in 2011 (serving on its governance until 2023 and First Vice President 2019-2023). He was Chairman of the Commission on Justice in Wales 2017-2019 reporting in 2019 “Justice in Wales for the People of Wales”. 

He practices as an international arbitrator and is an active member of the House of Lords.  

Lord Thomas is Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, an Honorary Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, a Fellow of the Universities of Swansa, Bangor and Cardiff and the holder of Honorary Doctorates from other universities.  He is a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.  

A portrait of Professor Sharon Peacock

Professor Sharon Peacock 

Sharon Peacock is Professor of Microbiology and Public Health at the University of Cambridge, and Non-Executive Director on the Board of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.  

Sharon has built her scientific expertise around pathogen genomics, antimicrobial resistance, and several tropical diseases. 

She founded and directed the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK), formed in April 2020 to provide SARS-CoV-2 genomes towards the UK pandemic response. Prior to this, she dedicated more than a decade to the translation of pathogen sequencing into clinical and public health microbiology, as well as using sequencing to examine the transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria between humans, livestock, and the environment.  

She is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (2013), Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (2014), and Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). Sharon was awarded a CBE for services to Medical Microbiology in 2015, and in 2021 received the Medical Research Council Millennium Medal.  

A portrait of Professor Jim Skea

Professor Jim Skea 

Professor Skea was elected IPCC Chair for the Seventh Assessment cycle in July 2023. From 2015 to 2023, Jim was Co-chair of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, focusing on climate change mitigation. He was part of the scientific leadership for the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C.  

He was a Professor of Sustainable Energy at Imperial College London from 2009 to 2023.  His research interests are in energy, climate change and technological innovation.  

He was the Chair of Scotland’s Just Transition Commission from 2018 to 2023, and was a founding member of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, acting as its Scottish champion.  

Between 2012 and 2017 Professor Skea was Research Councils UK’s Energy Strategy Fellow and was President of the Energy Institute between 2015 and 2017. He was Research Director of the UK Energy Research Centre from 2004-2012.  

He was awarded an OBE in 2004 and CBE in 2013 for his work on sustainable transport and sustainable energy respectively.  

A portrait photo of Dr Sabir Zazai

Dr Sabir Zazai 

Dr Zazai is an activist and campaigner who has dedicated his life to securing the rights and improving the lives of refugees and asylum seekers. 

Born and raised in Kabul, Sabir’s peaceful life was thrown into chaos after the outbreak of war in 1992. His family lived for years in a United Nations refugee camp on the border with Pakistan with millions of other displaced Afghans. He endured months of danger and hardship travelling across Europe in search of safety, arriving in Britain in 1999.   

For the past seven years, he has served as Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council. The council offers direct assistance to those fleeing conflict and abuse, assisting them with everything from housing and health to education and employment. It helps communities work in solidarity with refugees, promoting integration and fostering cohesion. 

A tireless campaigner for dignity and democracy, for social justice and social change, Sabir has been honoured with Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and with an OBE. At a time when forced migration – whether the result of war, persecution or climate change – is only on the increase, Sabir’s leadership demonstrates how and why a compassionate and welcoming response is so vital. 

A portrait photo of Dr Arun Verma

Dr Arun Verma 

Dr Verma is a thought leader in creating inclusive practices within higher education. He has made a real impact across the higher education sector and holds a special connection to the University of Dundee.  

Dr Verma’s speciality is in implementing equity, diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality initiatives across academia and he has also worked within NGOs and governmental organisations to further inclusive practices. 

He studied for his PhD at the University of Dundee (2013-2018), and researched areas of equality, diversity, and intersectionality in workplace student learning, retention, and success. 

Following the completion of his PhD at Dundee, Dr Verma has kept a close relationship with the University, and between March 2014 and July 2023 he spent time as a tutor supporting Dundee students through their research projects. He also spent a short but impactful period as a lecturer where he specialised in leading international students through theory, practice and implementation of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within organisations.  

During this time, he also led the development of a Scottish University Equalities Network and was instrumental in the University of Dundee’s first international student welcome event and training, to nurture cultural inclusivity. 

Dr Verma continues to be a passionate advocate for race equality, inclusion, and intersectionality, and delivers keynotes and public talks across the world to support institutions to actualise their inclusion aspirations. He is currently Head of Inclusion at the University of London where he delivers strategic leadership on integrating inclusion, impact and intersectionality to advancing equality and equity. 

A portrait photo of Professor Andrew Morris

Professor Andrew Morris 

Professor Morris became the inaugural Director of Health Data Research UK in August 2017, the UK’s national Institute for health data science. Its mission is to unite the UK’s health data to improve people’s lives and is supported by 12 funders. He also convenes the International COVID 19 Data Alliance (ICODA) supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Minderoo Foundation. He is seconded from his position as Professor of Medicine, and Vice Principal of Data Science at the University of Edinburgh, having taken up position in August 2014. Prior to this Andrew was Dean of Medicine at the University of Dundee. 

Andrew was Chief Scientist at the Scottish Government Health Directorate (2012-2017) and has served and chaired numerous national and international grant committees and governmental bodies.  

His research interests span informatics and chronic diseases. He has published over 350 original papers.   

Andrew was previously Governor of the Health Foundation (2009-2017), a leading UK charity that supports quality improvement in health care, and chaired the Informatics Board at UCLPartners, London (2014-2017). In 2007 he co-founded Aridhia Informatics, which uses high performance computing and analytics in health care.  

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Academy of Medical Sciences.  

Andrew was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in 2018.  

Notes to editors

Photograph of Lord Thomas licensed from UK Parliament under CC BY 3.0

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