Science connects us

Science connects us HU
On 10 May 2024, the Senate of ELTE held a ceremonial assembly to celebrate the 389th anniversary of the foundation of the university. On Pázmány Day a professional lecture was delivered by Miklós Király, a University Professor at the Faculty of Law. Following the lecture, the titles of "doctor et professor honoris causa" were conferred.

The event was led by László Borhy, academician and Rector of ELTE. The program included a performance by the choir of the Institute of Arts Communication and Music, Faculty of Humanities ELTE, conducted by Ákos Erdős, habilitated Associate Professor.

The professional lecture on Pázmány Day is delivered annually by one of the university's outstanding faculty members on their research area. This year's speaker, as part of the series that began in 1991, was Miklós Király, University Professor at the Faculty of Law and Head of the Department of Private International Law and European Economic Law. He shared his insights on the topic "Comparative Law and Artificial Intelligence" with the university community.

Miklós Király justified his choice of topic by emphasizing that questions related to research and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) can be addressed by the entire knowledge community of the university, from computer science to philosophy and law, as it is truly an interdisciplinary field. The legal approach is warranted by the social risks arising from the operation of AI and the expected lawsuits against AI developers. An example of this is the proceedings initiated by the New York Times publisher against Microsoft and other companies.

The lecture compared definitions of artificial intelligence (AI) given in the USA, the European Union, and other international organizations, highlighting the evolution and essential similarities of these definitions. However, the speaker pointed out the noticeable differences between European and American regulations. While the former prioritizes risk avoidance in AI regulation, the latter emphasizes maintaining the leading position of the United States in AI development and research. The future will determine which model proves to be more successful and effective.

Miklós Király was awarded the university's Jubilee Silver Commemorative Medal. This was followed by the conferral of the "doctor et professor honoris causa" titles. The university bestows honorary doctorates on highly influential scholars who have had long-standing and fruitful relationships with ELTE.

Jeremy Webber, a constitutional law scholar and professor at the University of Victoria in Canada, is one of ELTE's most dedicated supporters in the Anglophone world. He is also a devoted researcher of Central European democracies. In his acceptance speech, he mentioned that he first visited Hungary in 1995, just a few years after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Both as a researcher and a private individual, he has followed the early years of the new Hungarian constitution with keen interest. "Constitution-making is a long, never-ending process for which we all bear responsibility," he added. He laid the groundwork for his comparative fundamental rights research by studying Canadian constitutional debates and later the legal systems of indigenous peoples. Since then, he has traveled to numerous other countries and experienced how much discussions can broaden one's perspective.

Kristie Long Foley, a public health researcher and professor at Wake Forest University in the United States, recalled in her speech that during her first visit to Hungary in 2006, she had extensive discussions about domestic smoking habits with researchers from Semmelweis University and the University of Szeged, as well as with local health policy experts. Over the past 18 years, they have launched 11 projects aimed at reducing tobacco consumption in Hungary and have published more than 80 studies on the subject. Professor Foley described her experiences in Hungary as life-changing, and, as she stated, she now considers Hungary her second home. In addition to thanking the ELTE Senate, she expressed special gratitude to Róbert Urbán, a professor at ELTE's Faculty of Education and Psychology, who greatly supported her work there.

Svend Hansen, a prominent researcher of prehistory and professor of archaeology at Freie Universität Berlin, first came into contact with ELTE in the early 1990s when he came to Hungary to conduct research for his PhD dissertation. In his thank-you speech, he particularly highlighted the Hungarian researchers who influenced his work: he collaborated with Erzsébet Ruttkay in Vienna and Pál Raczky in Budapest. He emphasized that due to new methods and approaches that have spread over the past 40 years (e.g., radiocarbon dating, paleogenetics), archaeology has partially separated from the humanities and has moved closer to the natural sciences.

Bernhard Eitel, a globally renowned researcher in geoarchaeology at Heidelberg University, spoke about the special relationship between the two universities. He noted that Baron Loránd Eötvös earned his doctorate in Heidelberg. The physicist’s studies and journey laid the groundwork for future collaborations, which gained renewed momentum in the 1980s. Eitel emphasized that cooperation is essential because quality education and research are always international. Science builds bridges between people and societies, creating value from diversity. The professor, who previously served as the rector of Heidelberg University, had a surprise for the ELTE community on this festive occasion: he had researched and brought copies of the documents related to Loránd Eötvös's doctoral procedure as a gift. These included Eötvös's application for the doctoral procedure, the minutes of his doctoral examination, his handwritten Latin curriculum vitae, and the diploma awarding his doctoral degree. Thus, our university’s historical collection has been enriched with another treasure.

Zoltán Ivics, a research professor at the Paul Ehrlich Institute in Langen, has been living abroad for several decades. However, as he mentioned, he has never forgotten his homeland, and his connection with the Hungarian scientific community has never been severed. It is an honor for him to follow in the footsteps of such individuals as Otto von Habsburg, Mario Vargas Llosa, or Zoltán Kodály as an honorary doctor of ELTE. The conference of the Hungarian Biochemical Society in Pécs was particularly significant for him, where he had the opportunity to have a conversation with one of the professors from the Department of Biochemistry at ELTE during the banquet. This eventually led to his teaching as a visiting lecturer at the Faculty of Science for the second year now. Currently, he is also working with Imre Kacskovics on establishing a gene and cell therapy laboratory, which could significantly enhance Hungary's role in the development of medical procedures.

Read more about the work of the honorary doctors of ELTE on this link.