Professors Eugenio Coronado and Pedro Miguel Echenique have been awarded honorary doctors by the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) in a solemn ceremony held this morning in the Plaza Mayor Building of the Cantoblanco Campus.

The ceremony, “a great celebration of Science”, in the words of the rector Amaya Mendikoetxea , who presided over the event, was attended by a broad representation of the university community.

The event began with the arrival at the Multipurpose Room of the academic delegation, led by the master of ceremonies and accompanied by the UAM Choir and Orchestra, who performed the anthem Veni Creator Spiritus.

The general secretary Alma Rodríguez has read the agreement of the Government Council by which the degree of honorary doctor is granted to professors Coronado and Echenique and has proceeded to read the minutes.

Subsequently, the rector has consecutively presented - first to Professor Coronado and later to Professor Echenique - the doctorate degree, and has imposed on them the symbols that accompany it (the laureate cap, the university ring, the white gloves and the Book of Science). She has also awarded them the medal, at which point they have become part of the College of Doctors of the Autonomous University of Madrid.

“Scientific tourist”

By order of intervention, the emeritus professor of the Department of Organic Chemistry of the UAM, Tomás Torres, godfather of Eugenio Coronado, has pronounced his laudatio, in which he has detailed his brilliant resume and his reference contributions in Europe in the field of Magnetism Molecular Sciences, Molecular Spintronics and Quantum Computing, as well as pioneering initiatives such as the organization of the National Schools of Molecular Materials in 1992.

After Professor Torres's gloss, Eugenio Coronado gave his investiture speech. “One of the reasons why I have chosen to be a scientist is because Science has no borders and does not depend on nationalities, nationalisms or languages. In fact, Science is the only truly global human activity”, he began by saying. “As a researcher, much of my time has been dedicated to scientific tourism ,” he explained. A term coined by the British researcher Peter Day that, according to Professor Coronado, “reminds us every day that Science is not just experiments, models and theories, but lives through people, places, landscapes and period in which it is developed.

During his speech, Coronado also analyzed the role that financing (mainly European) and politics have in scientific research and the evolution of Science. “It is important to understand that Science changes the world, the economy allows the results to be developed and made profitable, and politics organizes and tries to control (often unsuccessfully) the evolution of Science,” he said.

“The two scientific areas where my research is integrated—Materials Science and Chemistry—provide paradigmatic examples of these challenges,” he stated. Almost at the end of his speech he highlighted one of his “vital obsessions”, the creation of multidisciplinary scientific communities and research centers in the 90s. And he also wanted to highlight the creation of the Strategic Program for Advanced Materials to resize the efforts of the Spanish researchers in this area, increasing interactions between Academia and Industry, as explained.

“Renaissance Teams”

Fernando Flores, professor emeritus of the Department of Theoretical Physics of Condensed Matter, has pronounced the laudatio of the honorary doctor Pedro Miguel Echenique . In it, he has given a complete overview of the research career of Echenique, whom he defines as “one of the most relevant Spanish scientists of the last 30 years.” Likewise, he highlighted his “ability” to create a research group of excellence backed by scientific work of international prestige and the promotion of the creation of the Joint Center of the University of the Basque Country-CSIC, the first nanotechnology center in the Basque Country, CIC. Nanogune, and the Donostia International Physics Center (DIPC).

Dr. Pedro Miguel Echenique's first words of gratitude were for his godfather, Fernando Flores, and he then offered “special thanks” to the UAM professor in the same area, Francisco José García Vidal , as well as wanting to recognize the relevance from the UAM and the UPV in his academic career.

“Science is a collective work,” he assured. “We are part of a community that transcends nationality, creeds, age, and social origin. A culture whose shared criteria of rigor, integrity and beauty help us stay on the right path,” she noted. “Today the exponential development of scientific research makes renaissance man practically impossible, we must aspire and build renaissance teams.”

In his speech, he outlined the timeline of his research activity. “Although at the beginning of the career the essential thing is to contribute something new, over the years one learns to value, understand and appreciate the work of others. What a nice phrase from Jordan to Wigner about the Dirac equation: It's a shame that we didn't discover that equation, but it's wonderful that someone did ,” he recalled. Along these lines, Professor Echenique has listed what he considers keys to “achieving excellent groups and institutions.” “Select exceptional people, give them intellectual freedom, freedom to fail, demonstrate a genuine interest in each of them, give credit where it is deserved, from the beginning of their university career, provide them with the appropriate means with the most advanced devices, fostering mutual trust and cooperation, facilitating the exchange of ideas, both in coffee and in seminars, are good recipes.” “The UAM in general, and very specifically in Physics, is one of those institutions necessary to sow, care for, attract and retain talent, which act as a catalyst and drive for the entire system. That today he grants me his highest distinction fills me with pride,” he said.

Need to understand

The rector Amaya Mendikoetxea, who closed the event, expressed the honor of incorporating these two new members into the UAM faculty of doctors, deserving of this distinction “for their scientific achievements, their role in the formation of multidisciplinary centers and schools and their involvement with the training of young people and the recognitions they have accumulated throughout their long and successful scientific career.”

Likewise, he wanted to make an approach “from the words” to what the new doctors said. “There are words that remind us of the existing specialization of scientific knowledge, to which only a few have access. But Science can no longer be something for a few, indisputable, distant and safe. “More than ever, it is everyone's business, because scientific knowledge is of vital importance to solve the problems that humanity has.” In this sense, he advocated ending the silo effect and claimed the need to holistically understand the complex reality.

But along with those words that illustrate “that barrier that still exists between laboratories and the world”, there are also others that remind us that “Science and Art have the same origin, human creativity; They are driven by the same engine, curiosity, and with the same goal: the need to understand.” “May this event that we celebrate today serve to renew our wonder, stimulate our curiosity, nourish our creativity and reinforce our motivation so that science guides us towards a better future,” concluded the rector. 

The title of honorary doctor is the highest academic distinction of the Autonomous University of Madrid and is awarded to people of extraordinary merits of an academic, scientific, cultural, technical or humanistic nature, of recognized national or international prestige and who contribute significantly to the development and promotion of the values ​​of the UAM or maintain a close connection with this institution.

Among the personalities attending the ceremony was the rector of the University of the Basque Country (UPV), Eva Ferreira; the rector Rafael Garesse (UAM 2017-2021), the rector Iñaki Goirizelaia and the rector Nekane Balluerka, the Minister of Education of the Basque Country, Jokin Bildarratz; the Deputy Minister of Universities and Research of the Basque Government, Adolfo Morais; the mayor and councilors of San Sebastián de los Reyes, and councilors of Tres Cantos. Vice-rectors of the UAM, the General Secretary, the president of the Social Council, the president of the Princess of Asturias Foundation and the president of the Cotec Foundation for Innovation, deans and the director of the Higher Polytechnic School (EPS) also attended. , godparents, family and friends of teachers Coronado and Echenique.

More information:

( 04/24/2024)