John Oxford, Professor of Virology at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, has today (25 January) accepted an honorary degree – the first of his distinguished career - from Kingston University.
He told graduates that a science degree provided excellent job prospects and life training. “Every important issue in the world today revolves around science, whether it’s climate change or genetic modification,” he said. “It’s a wonderful discipline because, unlike the arts or humanities, it allows you to say that something is wrong. It provides an attitude to life as well as being a fun and exciting subject.”
Although he has since gone on to produce more than 250 scientific papers, Professor Oxford - who is also scientific director of Retroscreen Virology Ltd - said his career highs included his first publication, on the German measles virus, which appeared in the scientific journal Nature more than 40 years ago. He has been equally excited by the recently published fourth edition of his work ‘Human Virology: A Text for Students of Medicine, Dentistry and Microbiology’.
His research has concentrated largely on the 1918 Spanish influenza outbreak, which killed 21 million people worldwide. The project has involved exhuming patients buried in the Arctic permafrost to examine the biology of the virus as well as analysing tissue archives from the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel. In addition to accolades for his research excellence, Professor Oxford has also been given communication awards by the Society for Applied Microbiology and the Society of Journalists for his skill in explaining the swine flu pandemic to the public through radio and television programmes, including BBC Newsnight and Channel 4’s Richard and Judy.
Dr Mark Fielder, an expert in medical microbiology at Kingston University, described Professor Oxford as a leading light in terms of his academic studies and knowledge of virology. “He should be praised for his work in helping scientists, clinicians and the public understand the viral content of the world around them.”
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