UA Surgeon, Nobel Laureate to Speak at Commencement
The UA's Dr. Peter Rhee and Brian Schmidt, a UA alumnus and a winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, will speak during this year's graduation ceremonies.

By Rebecca Ruiz-McGill, University Communications
April 20, 2012

Dr. Peter Rhee, chief of trauma, critical care and emergency surgery at The University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus, and UA alumnus Brian Schmidt, a 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics awardee, have been named University of Arizona Spring Commencement speakers. 

The UA's Spring Commencement is held in two ceremonies. The ceremony for master's and doctoral student graduates will take place on May 11 at 7:30 p.m. at McKale Memorial Center, with Schmidt serving as the commencement speaker.

The ceremony for undergraduate students will take place on May 12 at 9 a.m., and Rhee will serve as the commencement speaker.

In order for graduating seniors to participate in the undergraduate ceremony, they must RSVP their attendance.

A professor of surgery at the UA, Rhee has set the bar for distinguished public service in the development of modern trauma care and emergency critical care response. He and his team's quality of response is evident daily in Tucson and was recognized nationally for the care provided to former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and other trauma victims after the Jan. 8, 2011 tragedy.

The University of Arizona Medical Center-University Campus is the only Level I trauma center in Tucson and serves rural communities in Southern Arizona, New Mexico and California.

Rhee retired as a captain in the U.S. Navy after 24 years of active duty. His last duty before Naval retirement was as director of the Navy Trauma Training Center at Los Angeles County-University of Southern California, where he trained Naval surgical teams that were deploying for duty.

A fellow with the American College of Surgeons and Critical Care Medicine, Rhee also has a diploma in the Medical Care of Catastrophes from the Apothecaries of London.

He has an appointment with the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences as a professor of surgery and molecular cellular biology. He also is a consultant to the Office of Naval Research and the Marine Corps Commandants War Fighting Laboratory.

His research interests include resuscitation, hemostasis, suspended animation, immunology, trauma training and monitoring devices. He has more than 180 publications in refereed journals and 18 book chapters.

On the battlefield, Rhee was one of the first trauma surgeons to be deployed to Camp Rhino, Afghanistan, and recently started the first surgical unit in Ramadi, Iraq.

While an undergraduate at the UA, Schmidt was a double major and earned Bachelor of Science degrees in physics and astronomy. He attended Harvard University for graduate studies and worked under the direction of one of the world's leading astronomers, Robert Kirshner. 

Schmidt moved to Australia and began to use type Ia supernova to measure a quantity generically called q-naught, which measures the change in rate of expansion of the universe.

He and colleague Nick Suntzeff put together a team of investigators called the High-z Supernova Search Team with members Mark Phillips, who had refined the Ia supernova distance estimating method, and Adam Riess, who was a graduate student at Harvard and played the key role in pushing the results to larger distances.

Schmidt's High-z Supernova Search Team battled another team led by Saul Perlmutter to obtain the first meaningful results. The two teams reached the same result at nearly the same time and are considered independent co-discoverers of the surprising and mysterious acceleration.

The result, that the universe's expansion was accelerating, was named Breakthrough of the Year by Science Magazine in 1998.

Schmidt is a Distinguished Professor and a Laureate Fellow at the Australian National University. He has won a range of awards for his work, including two honors from the Australian government: The Malcolm McIntosh Prize in 2000 and the Australian Academy of Science's Pawsey Medal in 2001.

He also was recognized with the Harvard Bok Prize in 2000 and the UA's Aaronson Prize in 2005. He has been awarded India's Vainu Bappu Medal, the Shaw Prize in Astronomy in 2006 and the Gruber Cosmology Prize in 2007. In addition, he has been elected to various national academies: Spain in 2008, U.S. in 2008 and Australia in 2008.

He is now leading the effort at the National Observatory at Mount Stromlo to build the SkyMapper telescope, a facility that will provide a digital map of the southern sky from ultraviolet to near infrared wavelengths at multiple epochs.

Extra info

In order for graduating seniors to participate in the undergraduate ceremony, they must RSVP their attendance.