UCL Alumni


UCL alumni recognised in Easter Honours list

8 April 2024

Congratulations to distinguished UCL alumni and supporters Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas and Dr Demis Hassabis, who have each been recognised in the 2024 Easter Honours.

Dame Emma Thomas and Sir Christopher Nolan (left) and Sir Demis Hassabis (right)

The directing and producing partnership behind Oppenheimer, Tenet and Inception, Christopher Nolan (English Literature 1993) and Emma Thomas (History 1993) received a knighthood and damehood respectively for services to film.

The pair, who married in 1997, have a lasting connection with UCL having met on their first day as students in Ramsay Hall. Both were active members of UCL Film Society (with Christopher serving as president) and much of their extracurricular time was spent in UCL’s Bloomsbury Theatre producing newsreels, short films and eventually a first full-length feature.

Since graduating they have gone on to receive a litany of prizes for their body of work, which includes Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Interstellar and Dunkirk. These honours follow the remarkable success of their most recent film, Oppenheimer, which was directed by Christopher and co-produced by Emma.

Emma referenced their time at UCL in her acceptance speech for the Best Film prize at the 2024 BAFTAs. “This is not at all what I imagined when I was sitting at UCL Film Society with Chris and dreaming about making films for a living,” she said.

Both retain a strong connection to UCL: they have each received honorary fellowships and Christopher was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2017. The pair have generously given back to UCL over the years, including meeting with current UCL Film Society members to impart their wisdom.

Dr Demis Hassabis (Neuroscience 2009), co-founder and CEO of artificial intelligence research lab Google DeepMind, was awarded a knighthood for services to AI.

After completing a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL, Demis co-founded Google DeepMind in 2010. He has directed the company in safely advancing the capabilities of AI to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. His knighthood recognises the remarkable success of the company and his contributions as a government advisor on AI.

Links between UCL and Google DeepMind can be traced to when Demis met co-founder Dr Shane Legg (Honorary Fellow 2016) in UCL’s Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit in 2009, and the relationship has remained strong ever since.

As an organisation committed to broadening access to the tech industry, Google DeepMind has partnered with UCL to support a pool of talented and diverse students. The DeepMind Scholarship Programme currently provides opportunities for students undertaking postgraduate courses in Neuroscience, Computer Science, and Science, Technology and Society.

Building on the intersection of both organisations’ expertise in neuroscience and AI, there have also been a series of academic collaborations between UCL and Google DeepMind.

The company has supported the development of UCL’s Centre for AI, as well as introducing a Google DeepMind Chair of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, a Google DeepMind Fellow in Sustainable Artificial Intelligence, and PhD scholarships within the Fundamental AI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT).

Demis has also been a personal advocate for UCL, often speaking about the impact the university has had on his outlook. Most recently, he delivered the 2023 UCL Prize Lecture in Life and Medical Sciences.

“We are immensely proud of Sir Christopher, Dame Emma and Sir Demis’s accomplishments and absolutely delighted with their recognition in the Easter Honours,” said Angharad Milenkovic, UCL’s Vice-President (Advancement). “Their achievements are shaping our cultural landscape and exemplify both the university’s ethos of pursuing excellence and the exceptional, inspiring talent of UCL alumni. We are very grateful to call them friends of UCL.”