New York University President John Sexton today bestowed an honorary doctorate on Nobel-winning neuroscientist and NYU alumnus Eric Kandel at NYU’s 173rd Commencement Exercises in Washington Square Park. Some 19,000 graduates, faculty, staff, and guests attended the morning ceremony.
The following citation was read in conferring the Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa, on Eric Kandel:
Eric Richard Kandel-born in Vienna, you emigrated with your family to Brooklyn in 1939 and went on to graduate from Harvard College, majoring in history and literature. You earned your M.D. from New York University in 1956. After a psychiatry residency and postdoctoral training, you served on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and in 1965 joined the New York University School of Medicine, where you formed the first research group in the country devoted explicitly to the neurobiology of behavior. In 1974, you became the founding director of Columbia University’s Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, where you have pursued your mapping of the fundamental machinery of the mind for over three decades. Your pioneering research established that changes in the strength of connections between nerve cells form the basis of three psychologically-defined forms of learning-habituation, sensitization, and associative classical conditioning. You went on to demonstrate that modification of existing proteins can create short-term memories, but that gene expression-the synthesis of new proteins-is needed to turn these into long-term memories. Your work fundamentally transformed our understanding of the basic architecture of behavior, and established the principles that are now widely used to relate molecular and cellular mechanisms to the actions of organisms.
Eric Richard Kandel-Nobel Laureate, eminent neuroscientist, distinguished alumnus, you have helped explain for humankind the precious and mysterious gift of memory. By virtue of the authority vested in me, I am pleased to confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.