A television presenter and leading physicist have been recognised with honorary degrees from the University of Leeds.
Anita Rani and Professor Ondrej Krivanek, who are both University of Leeds alumni, were honoured with the prestigious awards in the University’s Great Hall during graduation fortnight, which started on 17 July.
Anita Rani, Doctor of Laws
Anita Rani has progressed from being a part-time broadcaster for student radio at Leeds to presenting mainstream BBC TV shows.
A regular presenter of Countryfile, she has also reported on topics varying from destigmatising refugee camps to recycling and is an outspoken proponent of diversity and inclusion in the creative arts.
Anita is an Ambassador for the Scout Association and speaks widely of the transformative power of enabling children to access the outdoors, to build their personal resilience and to help them connect with the creation of the food we eat and its impact on our health.
In 2022, she was named the University of Bradford’s Chancellor. Her debut novel ‘Baby Does A Runner’ is published on 20 July.
It was the most transformative time of my life. I would not be here if it was not for the degree I did.”
Speaking of her time in Leeds as an undergraduate, Anita said: “Leeds in 1996 was so exciting. The city was on the cusp of changing.
“I came to Leeds and my world exploded. I was able to express myself. I found club culture, arts, music and literature.
“It was the most transformative time of my life. I would not be here if it was not for the degree I did.”
Her advice to this year’s graduates? “Don’t be afraid of hard work. Put yourself out there and take the opportunities when they come. Your biggest lessons will be learned from messing up.”
Professor Ondrej Krivanek, Doctor of Science
Professor Krivanek’s career in physics research started in Leeds, where he achieved a BSc.
He is the co-founder and president of Nion Co, located near Seattle, USA, and Affiliate Professor at Arizona State University.
Electron microscopes developed and manufactured by his team at Nion can map chemical elements in solid samples with atomic resolution and single atom sensitivity and detect the vibrations of single atoms.
They are used in research labs around the world, including the Leeds-affiliated SuperSTEM Laboratory in Daresbury. Professor Krivanek’s work has been recognised by many awards, including the 2020 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience.
It was wonderful. I had to work on my English. Three years later I had a Yorkshire accent!”
Professor Krivanek’s arrival in the UK coincided with the Russian invasion of his home country of Czechoslovakia.
He said: “If I had have gone back the door would have slammed shut so I stayed. Britain was very supportive, my tourist visa was extended, I got a work permit.
“I found out that Leeds was offering five scholarships for Czech students and a few days later I was on a train to Leeds
“Hats off to the University of Leeds, the administration and everything was incredibly flexible.
“It was wonderful. I had to work on my English. Three years later I had a Yorkshire accent!”
His has two messages to this year’s graduates. “Sciences teach you to be truthful. If you had any fallacy in the experiment you are planning and you know it but try to ignore it, it will bite you. There is no such thing as untruth in science. That is a very important principle and a good one for human relationships."
He added: “There is no such thing as a fail because something didn’t work out. It has taught you something. You should try all sorts of things. Sometimes it works out, sometimes we are wrong and you have to go back the beginning but when you start for the second time you are at a higher level so don’t be afraid to fail.”
Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Leeds, said: “We are proud to mark excellence across our University community. Since 1904 we have conferred honorary awards on individuals in fields ranging from science to politics, arts and entertainment.
“I draw huge inspiration from this year's two honorary graduands, who have both enjoyed stellar careers and are outstanding in their fields.”