Doctor Honoris Causa of ENS de Lyon - April 25, 2015
Ole Petter Ottersen: “Professor Mission: Possible”
Doctor Honoris Causa of ENS Lyon, Ole Petter Ottersen is a Norwegian professor of medicine and the rector of the University of Oslo. He specializes in the neurobiology of synapses and its molecular and cellular aspects. His work since the 1980’s has helped advance research on the brain and made him a reference in the field.
“Universities nurture a culture of restlessness and even unruliness. Ole Petter Ottersen is of that particular brand,” said Ioan Negrutiu, biology professor at ENS Lyon. “He has that magical capacity to inspire enthusiasm in students and collaborators,” he added, describing Dr. Ottersen as “a force of nature”, ”Professor Mission Possible, because for him, ‘impossible’ does not exist.”
Dr. Ottersen has been very active in the field of scientific expertise and in the academic world. He notably helped set up Norway’s Center for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience, an excellence research center he led from 2002 to 2009. He also chaired the Lancet - University of Oslo Commission on Global Governance for Health, which caused a stir in 2014 with a report highlighting the political and economic determinants of health inequalities.
Dr. Ottersen said that many scientists tend to shy away from political or sensitive issues, but that the “imperative to act” had been a leading star throughout his career. “There has to be courage on the part of scientists and on the part of institutions. And this is where I see this fantastic link between ENS and my own institution: the courage and the stamina when it comes to the ability and willingness to take on the really complex issues,” he said.
On a more personal level, his colleagues described Dr. Ottersen as a workaholic rarely seen without his laptop, but also a fan of ski and a lover of art, culture and fine wine.