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Professor Rolf Dieter Heuer, Director General of CERN, The European Organization for Nuclear Research, has received the University of Melbourne’s highest honour, the Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) in recognition of his outstanding international contribution to science, at a special conferring ceremony at the University today. 

Appointed Director General of CERN in 2009, Professor Heuer was given the task of bringing the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider (LHC) into operation, in its quest to recreate the events at the beginnings of the universe. The international science experiment has since surpassed expectations with the announcement of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson made this week.

The historic scientific announcement was made via satellite from CERN to the University of Melbourne led global particle physics conference, The 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP2012) at the Melbourne Convention Centre. It is the first time the conference has been held in the Southern Hemisphere.

CERN and the Large Hadron Collider have iconic status in the world. Under Professor Heuer’s direction, the organisation has come to occupy a significant place in society as the embodiment of the human quest to understand the big questions.

Over more than two decades Australia has been part of these developments. The University of Melbourne has been particularly well served through Professor Heuer’s unwavering support for it’s high energy particle physics program, led by Professor Geoffrey Taylor in the School of Physics. 

This has opened many opportunities for Australian staff and students to be involved in the biggest physics experiments of our time.

The University of Melbourne Provost, Professor Margaret Sheil said the University recognised Professor Heuer’s leadership as Director–General of CERN in bringing the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) into operation, and for his support of the Australian physics community to fully participate in the LHC program.

“The University of Melbourne along with the ARC, has been proud to support the work of Professor Taylor and his team, and his leadership in the long-standing collaboration with CERN,” she said.

Professor Heuer said it was a great honour to accept this accolade from the University of Melbourne, particularly at this propitious moment in the history of particle physics.

“Just two days ago, we announced, in conjunction with this University, the discovery of a new particle that is set to have a profound influence on our understanding of the fundamental nature of matter,” he said

Professor Heuer is also the Chair of the International Advisory Committee of the University of Melbourne led ARC Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale (CoEPP).

“I would also like to underline the vital role that the University of Melbourne has played in developing the field of particle physics in Australia through initiatives such as the establishment of CoEPP and hosting this year's most important conference in the field, ICHEP2012," he said.

CoEPP, led by Professor Taylor, explores particle physics at terascale energies (a million million electron volts) through the ATLAS experiment, a giant particle detector attached to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Professor Taylor said the involvement of Professor Heuer in the ARC Centre reinforced the international standing of particle physics expertise in Australia.

A Special Conferring of Degree Ceremony was held today at the University of Melbourne.