The Scripps Research Institute held its 19th commencement on May 13, graduating 39 students from the Kellogg School of Science and Technology and honoring Scripps Research President Richard A. Lerner, who has led the institute for 25 years.
Graduation day began with students donning caps and robes and posing for a class photo in the Beckman Building on the La Jolla, California campus. They then marched to the Neurosciences Institute auditorium fort the ceremony.
Supported by advisers, mentors, instructors, funding organizations, family, and friends, students spend an average five years in the rigorous Kellogg School graduate program. Following an initial year of coursework customized to students' individual interests, the program includes rotations through various laboratories and focuses on involvement in research.
By graduation, each student has written and defended a dissertation that represents a novel contribution to his or her field.
In his commencement address Lerner praised the graduates for their excellent choices so far, not only to devote time to studying and in Lerner urged them to continue to make wise choices, especially about the focus of their work. He noted it is all too easy to get caught up in a small corner of an established research silo.
"There are no rights or wrongs in this business, but it is up to you where to position yourself in research… The responsibility of this organization is akin to diving, platform diving. It is our responsibility to get you to stand on that platform. You now stand on the platform of your scientific career. The dive you do is up to you."
After Lerner conferred the degrees, Dean Jamie Williamson stepped came to the podium, noting that there was an extra degree. The honorary degree recipient that Lerner had selected for this year was Nobel laureate Manfred Eigen, "the father of biophysics," Williamson said, but unfortunately Eigen could not attend the ceremony so he would receive his degree in absentia. The extra diploma was for Lerner himself.
"We can only give back a token of what you have given us," Williamson said to Lerner, who will be stepping down as the institute's president at the end of the year.