Dr. John Hancock dressed in full academic regalia stands in front of the Gate of Honor, Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge University.
Dr. John Hancock, chair of the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology, has been awarded a prestigious Doctor of Science (ScD) degree from the University of Cambridge.

The ScD is the highest degree awarded by the University for distinguished research in science and is only conferred on scientists with a proven record of internationally recognized scholarship, including substantial and sustained contributions to scientific knowledge. The ScD is one of six higher doctorates awarded by the University of Cambridge (others being in Divinity, Law, Literature, Medicine, and Music). Higher doctorates are all awarded on the basis of becoming a recognized authority in a field of knowledge over the course of a career. As such, they are the descendants of the traditional doctorates, which existed before the PhD was introduced into the UK in the early 20th century. About a dozen ScD degrees are awarded by Cambridge University every year.

A higher doctorate carries great prestige, and the application process is very involved, often taking years to complete. In order to qualify for the degree, candidates must be a graduate of Cambridge and “give proof of distinction by some original contribution to the advancement of science or of learning.” To satisfy this latter requirement, Hancock, who also is vice dean for basic research and the executive director of the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine, submitted 85 journal articles on a variety of topics that represented his best and highest cited work over the course of his career so far.  He waited two-and-a-half years for the Degree Committee and panels of international scholars to assess his application and make its decision.

Holder of the John S. Dunn Distinguished University Chair in Physiology and Medicine, Hancock received his ScD degree from the Vice-Chancellor at the Senate House in Cambridge July 20. The graduation ceremony itself, called a congregation, has hardly changed for 800 years, including being conducted exclusively in Latin. Each recipient of the ScD degree is entitled to wear a scarlet gown and hood during academic ceremonies. Hancock will be spotted wearing his at future Medical School commencements.

Hancock said, “I am clearly delighted – this is a great honor. Although my entire research career has been outside of Cambridge, I still hold the University of Cambridge, and especially Gonville and Caius College, my alma mater, in high regard and with great affection.”