03 May 2017, Royal Albert hall

Members of Court and Council, colleagues, graduates, distinguished honourees, ladies and gentlemen. 

It is my honour, as President of Imperial College London, to welcome you to the 2017 Postgraduate Graduation. We are here to honour our graduates and awardees and to celebrate their accomplishments.  

A special welcome to their friends and families here today.  Earning a graduate degree at Imperial involves many hours of hard work. Your encouragement and support was essential to their success.  Enjoy this celebration and share in their achievements.

And a warm tribute to my colleagues seated behind me. Your guidance was vital to these students’ success. We salute you as researchers, teachers, mentors and academic leaders. You make the world a better place.

Graduates, congratulations. I hope that you enjoy this day, and that you and your family and friends will remember it fondly for years to come. 

Today, as you leave this great university, you are eager to take the next step in your career. You are excited by the challenges that await you. Your future holds great promise. You are rightly impatient.

But today I want you to think about the importance of patience. We live in an age of impatience. Information is at our fingertips, news is instant, and communication is rapid. We are conditioned to think and act quickly. The past year of unexpected political events, and the instability created by uncertainty, makes us all impatient.  How will we navigate what is ahead?  What will the UK be like after Brexit? What will the world be like? 

Impatience permeates society. It affects the cultures of our public and private institutions. We feel it in our professional and personal lives. 

Yet we know the value of patience.

As scholars, we are accustomed to the long deliberative process of research. We know that taking time to be certain of our findings is essential. We know that meaningful, important work cannot be rushed. We also know that collaboration is essential to advancing knowledge. Collaboration takes time. It requires patience. 

Perhaps you have been following the grand finale of the NASA and European Space Agency’s Cassini mission. Over the next four months, as the spacecraft runs out of fuel, it will be driven into the atmosphere of Saturn after 12 years producing wonderful science orbiting Saturn. Some of that great science comes from the Imperial College Cassini Magnetometer, developed and run by a team led by our own Professor Michele Dougherty. Their magnetometer discovered the existence of an atmosphere on Saturn’s moon Enceladus. In these last months of its journey, Cassini is diving between Saturn and its rings 22 times.  It made its second such dive just last night and the images from Saturn are stunning. 

You definitely need patience for international space science. Cassini was conceived in 1982, launched in 1997, and arrived at Saturn in 2004 having explored Venus and Jupiter en route. The Cassini team have spent hours throughout these twenty years patiently waiting for data to arrive from the spacecraft.

Graduates, you made the decision to further your education. Postgraduate study requires patience.

Dr Sir Michael Jacobs, an Imperial alumnus and doctor, recently knighted for his services treating Ebola and other infectious disease cases said:

“Until I started my PhD at Imperial, as a doctor, I’d been used to my decisions being instantly rewarded. A PhD, though, is an extremely long term project, with slow rewards. It’s the opposite of clinical medicine, and it taught me patience, diligence and resilience."

Quick thinking and the ability to make rapid decisions are essential in today’s competitive world.  But they alone are not enough to achieve success and fulfillment. Complex issues in a complicated world deserve deliberate thought and perseverance.

There is no one way to practice patience, but I want to share a few ideas that I have found helpful.  

Take time to be observant
Watch other people and learn from what you see and hear. Some will be role models.  Others will show you what you don’t want to do.  Learn from both.

Write down your thoughts and ideas
Keep a journal or a diary. There will be half-formed thoughts or an idea that is ahead of its time. Write it down, don’t let it disappear. Its time will come.    

Remember that nothing you learn is ever wasted
Learn from your failures, not just your successes. You will face dead-ends.  You will experience setbacks. These can provide the most beneficial lessons. 

You have the potential to accomplish great things. I hope that you will use your intelligence and education to solve the problems of today and the problems that will arise in the future.

Never lose your enthusiasm for contributing to society. And always remember that patience is an ally, not an enemy, of enthusiasm.

You are part of the great and wonderful community that is Imperial College.   In the days and years to come I hope that you will reflect on how you grew as scholars and individuals during your time here.

Maintain your connections to Imperial. Stay in touch with your classmates and professors and share your experiences with us all. Please come back as alumni and inspire the next generation of students with your successes.  

All of us are very proud of you.