N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as
the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may
be available at the University Archives.
Convocation date: May 26, 2004
Discipline / contribution: astronaut ; neuroscience research; aquanaut
Citation / biographical information:
Born in Saskatoon, Dafydd (David) Rhys Williams attended high school in Beaconsfield, Quebec. He graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1976 and went on to obtain a Master of Science in Physiology, a Doctorate of Medicine and a Master of Surgery from the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University in 1983.Degree received: Doctor of Laws
In June 1992, the Canadian Space Agency selected Dr. Williams as one of four successful candidates from a field of 5,330 applicants to begin astronaut training. In May 1993, he was appointed manager of the Missions and Space Medicine Group within the Canadian Astronaut Program.
In January 1995, Dr. Williams was selected to join the international class of NASA mission specialist astronaut candidates. He spent one year training at the Johnson Space Centre, and in May 1996 was assigned to the Payloads and Habitability Branch of the NASA Astronaut Office.
Dr. Williamsâ€™ first foray into space took place in April 1998 aboard the space shuttle Columbia. During the 16-day flight, called Neurolab, the seven-person crew served as both experiment subjects and operators for 26 individual life science experiments. These experiments, dedicated to the advancement of neuroscience research, focused on the effects of microgravity on the brain and the nervous system. Dr. Williams also functioned as the crew medical officer, the flight engineer during the ascent phase and was trained to perform contingency spacewalks.
During the Neurolab mission, Columbia orbited Earth 256 times, covered over 10 million kilometres and spent over 381 hours in space.
From July 1998 until September 2002, Dr. Williams held the position of Director of the Space and Life Sciences Directorate at the Johnson Space Centre in Texas. With this appointment, he became the first non-American to hold a senior management position within NASA. He concurrently held a six-month position as the first Deputy Associated Administrator for Crew Health and Safety in the Office of Spaceflight at NASA Headquarters in 2001. In addition to his assignments, Dr. Williams continues to take part in astronaut training. In October 2001, after training as an aquanaut, he became the first Canadian to have lived and worked in space and the ocean.
Dr. Williams is currently training to participate in his second spaceflight, Mission STS-1 18/13A.a. During the 11-day mission to add a truss segment and relocate solar arrays on the International Space Station, Dr. Williams will perform three spacewalks. Many awards and special honours have been bestowed upon Dr. Williams including several Commonwealth awards and prizes. In 2002, he received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, and in 2003, a NASA Johnson Space Centre Space and Life Sciences Directorate Special Professional Achievement Award for the implementation of the Automatic External Defibrillator Program that has saved several lives at the NASA Johnson Space Centre.
Dr. Williams is married and has two children.
Degree presented by: Lieutenant-Governor Lynda Haverstock
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