NTNU graduates record number of PhDs

NTNU’s newly minted PhDs were recognized in a ceremony Wednesday, June 3 at the Student Union Building, during which NTNU also awarded two honorary doctor degrees and a number of research and teaching awards.


A history of Polish economists and the Communist regime, anchor ice formation and the habitat choice of Atlantic salmon, and microstructure studies of silicon for solar cells were just three of the more than 300 topics studied by NTNU’s 2009 graduating class of PhDs. All told, 309 degrees were awarded, a record number for the institution.

“The most effective of all communication channels”
Rector Torbjørn Digernes told the graduates that now more than ever, society’s problems demanded their abilities, enthusiasm and expertise. “Never before has the nation and the world had such a great need for the knowledge you represent”, he told the 109 graduates who attended Wednesday’s ceremony.

Digernes also recognized the breadth of the expertise represented by the graduates, whose theses spanned topics ranging from improved ultrasound imaging of the fetus to the analysis of microorganisms from a chalk oil reservoir in the North Sea. “Major global challenges in areas such as energy, climate, environment and health require new solutions”, Digernes said. “People everywhere need new ideas, new creativity and new insights. We are proud to send new knowledge out to the world through the most effective of all communication channels: The well-educated individual.”

Computational mechanics and environmental policy
Piers Blaikie, Professor Emeritus at the School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia and Thomas Hughes, Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas, Austin were awarded honorary doctorates during the ceremony.

Both scientists have been active with NTNU for several decades as lecturers and in collaborative research projects. Professor Hughes is widely recognized as a pioneer in the field of computational mechanics, which uses the power of computer modelling to describe complex physical behaviours, from blood flow in the heart and its surrounding arteries to the analysis of structural vibrations. Professor Hughes' work is instrumental to a number of projects at NTNU, SINTEF and Det Norske Veritas, where his modelling techniques are being adapted to the transport, offshore and maritime industries.

Professor Hughes said the power of computational mechanics would have a dramatic influence on medicine by enabling patient-specific modelling of diseases and simulations of different treatments. “I believe it is inevitable that advances will continue” he said. “I would strongly recommend computational mechanics to all young engineers.”

“It has been such a delight”
Professor Blaikie’s recent collaborative project with the university’s Department of Geography on Sri Lanka after the 2004 Tsunami was a theme issue of the Norwegian Journal of Geography (The Tsunami of 2004 in Sri Lanka: Impacts and Policy in the Shadow of Civil War) and will also be published in book form by Routledge later this year.

Professor Blaikie said he was pleased to be recognized with the honorary degree from NTNU, a university in a country he admired for its progressive social policies and engagement with promoting peace. “I saw first-hand Norway’s commitment to peace in Sri Lanka, and I have huge admiration for that”, he said.

Blaikie also thanked the university for providing him “excellent students” and the genuinely unique experience of a Norwegian winter. “To live through the dark days of March in the deep snow up at Dragvoll¿ it has been such a delight”, he said.

Medical technology, internationalization and research prizes
Nine professors and new PhDs were recognized with annual awards. The EXXONMobil researcher’s prize for basic research was given to Jan Petter Morten, PhD for his work with spin transport in nanoscale superconductors, while the applied research prize was given to Mary Ann Lundteigen, PhD for her work in safety and reliability assessments in the oil and gas industry.

Division Engineer Lars Hagen and Professor Geir Slupphaug from the Department of Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine won the Vangslund’s research prize in medical technology for their work in advanced proteomics; and Professor Tor Grande from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering was selected for the Gender Equality award.

Professor Martin Landrø from the Department of Petroleum Engineering and Applied Geophysics was recognized with the SINTEF prize for teaching at NTNU; NTNU’s working environment award was given to HMS coordinator Berit Borthen from the Department of Chemical Engineering; and the university’s internationalization prize was awarded to Professor Egil Bakke from the Department of Music.


Professor Piers Blaikie, professor emeritus from the University of East Anglia, accepts the award of an honorary doctorate from NTNU. 



Professor Thomas JR Hughes from the University of Texas, Austin, accepts an honorary doctor degree from NTNU Rector Torbjørn Digernes (right) and Master of Ceremonies Truls Gjestland. 


Musicians Frode Fjellheim (synthesizer) Mattis Kleppen (bass) and Sturla Eide (Hardanger fiddle) provided original music for the ceremony, including several joiks, Sami chants, specially created for the occasion.



All photos Thor Nielsen, NTNU