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100 of the UK's leading professional scientists

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Science Council ran a competition to find 100 of the UK's leading professional scientists. The results were announced on 14 January 2014 and geologists are well represented in the list. Seven of the nominations submitted by the Society were included in the final list and the successful candidates are listed below.

Geologists with careers in academia, industry, regulation, policy and business are all recognised in the list. The diversity in careers and backgrounds of the successful candidates illustrates the many and varied career paths to which a grounding in geology can lead, and that a career in geology can take you to the highest level in many different fields.

Jane Francis 

Jane FrancisProfessor Jane Francis is a well-respected and prolific academic and is the recently appointed Director of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). She has research interests in ancient climates, particularly of the polar regions, and has undertaken numerous scientific expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic, working in collaboration with research teams from many other countries.

An accomplished geoscientist in the area of palaeoclimatology and palaeobotany Jane started her career in Geology with an undergraduate degree at the University of Southampton followed by a PhD at the same institution and became a NERC postdoctoral fellow at the University of London in 1982. Since then she has worked as researcher at the British Antarctic Survey and Adelaide University in Australia until arriving at Leeds University in 1991 as a Lecturer. She remained at Leeds until earlier this year progressing through the roles of Senior Lecturer, Royal Society Leverhume Trust Senior Research Fellow and Professor of Palaeoclimatology as of 2004.

Awards for her work include the President’s Award from the Palaeontological Society and the US Navy Antarctic medal. In 2002 she was awarded the Polar Medal in recognition of her contribution to British Polar Science.

Her research interests include the study of fossil plants and their use as tools for climate interpretation and understanding past biodiversity. She has focussed on understanding past climate change during both greenhouse and icehouse periods in the polar regions, the areas on Earth most sensitive to climate change. Work in this area contributes significantly to the understanding of past environmental change, which forms a vital part of the evidence base relating to present-day climate change. It also aids with work towards enhanced prediction and sensitivity which is a growing area of research of paramount importance as climate change and decarbonisation get higher up the global agenda.

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Sir Mark Moody-Stuart

Mark Moody-StuartSir Mark Moody-Stuart is a retired businessman in the multinational oil and mining industry. He has significant influence in and beyond the natural resources industry and is an advocate in areas such as professional responsibility and climate change. He is an example of a highly skilled and educated geoscientist and businessman.

His education is firmly rooted in geoscience: he studied Geology at Cambridge as an undergraduate and completed a PhD, also at Cambridge, in the sedimentology of the Devonian sediments of Spitsbergen, Norway. He joined Shell in 1966 where he spent the next 39 years working in a variety of roles from field geologist through various levels of management to become Group Managing Director in 1991. Early practical experience gained in Spain, Oman, Brunei and Australia was in 1976 focused on to the major challenge of leading Shell's teams in exploring the U.K. North Sea—at a time when the fields in the northern North Sea were coming on stream and new exploration plays were developing. He retired from Shell in 2005 as Chairman of the Shell Group, a company with a market capitalisation value of £31.2 billion as of 2012. Following this he became non-executive chairman of Anglo American PLC in 2002, a multinational mining company and the largest producer of platinum in the world with a market capitalisation of £14.9 billion as of December 2011, until his retirement in 2009.

In addition to his significant achievements in industry, he became known for his advocacy of corporate responsibility and climate change. He has also been involved with several organisations and projects outside of Shell including as a member of the UN Secretary General’s Council on Global Compact between 2001 and 2004, a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with principles such as human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. He was Chairman of the Global Business Coalition for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria from 2002-2011. In his work in climate change, he has chaired task forces on renewable energy for the G9 and for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. He has also worked with the World Economic Forum as part of the Global Governance Initiative Steering Committee in 2004.

He is a Fellow of the Geological Society, of which he was President from 2002-2004. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Institute of Petroleum which also awarded him the Cadman Medal in 2001. Sir Mark Moody-Stuart became a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St George in June 2000 and is the holder of several honorary doctorates. 

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Tricia Henton

Tricia HentonTricia Henton is a successful scientist in the area of Contaminated Land and Hydrogeology with experience and interest in wide-ranging aspects of environmental geoscience. She also has extensive experience in regulation through her work at the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Environment Agency.

She studied BSc Geology and Geography at Manchester in 1970 before becoming a Fellow of the Geological Society and the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) and is a Chartered Geologist. Her career demonstrates a different route to scientific excellence in terms of the roles she has had as a non-academic scientist in various regulatory and industrial bodies. She has extensive experience in the regulatory field with roles at both SEPA and the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and was also the former Director of the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association. She has participated in several regulatory panels and committees for organisations such as the Forestry Commission, Scotland’s Secretary of State Advisory Group on Sustainable Development, and as a member of the council at NERC, the Geological Society, the British Geological Survey and the RSPB.

She also has a strong interest in professional development in geoscience and this is evidenced by her time spend as President of CIWEM, and her role as Secretary of the Professional Committee at the Geological Society. Professional development and chartership, as in any science community, is an integral part of geoscience careers, and her enthusiasm and knowledge in the area has benefited various chartership schemes and therefore the whole community. She sets an example for talented and well-respected scientists who also have a great interest in and commitment to the wider geoscience community, and assists extensively in the improvement of professional development, something which is of value to all scientists.

Tricia Henton is an excellent example of someone who has fostered a multi-disciplinary career and this is evidenced by her senior roles at a range of diverse organisations. These include Chief Executive at the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Director of Environmental Strategy at Aspinwall and a non-executive Director of the Coal Authority. 

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Andrew MacKenzie

Andrew MacKenzieDr Andrew Mackenzie is currently the Chief Executive Officer for BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company. Originally a Geology graduate from St Andrew’s he went on to complete a PhD in Organic Geochemistry at the University of Bristol. After several years in research at both the British Geological Survey and the Nuclear Research Centre in Julich, Germany, he joined the BP research division in 1983. During his time at BP, he worked under John Browne (now Lord Browne of Madingley), the former Chief Executive of BP. He remained at BP for 22 years moving to positions in BP finance, Head of Capital Markets and eventually left as Group Vice President Petrochemicals. Following his time at BP he moved into prestigious roles in the mining community moving first to Rio Tinto as Chief Executive of Industrial Minerals Division followed by Chief Executive Officer, Diamonds and Minerals before his most recent move in 2007 to BHP Billiton, an Australian multinational mining and petroleum company which had a market capitalisation of approximately £39.6 billion in December 2011.

His strengths arise from his success in a wide variety of research and business science based sectors in natural resources and his significant business successes based on a career founded in core science and research. In addition to his business role in three of the biggest multi-national companies in the world, he has published more than 50 scientific papers and also held a trustee role at the think tank Demos between 2005 and 2008. He sets an excellent example of the good founding an early science career can form for moving into business.

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Alan Gibbs

Alan GibbsDr Alan Gibbs is the Director and Founder of the company Midland Valley, an expert Structural Geology service company providing software and services for sectors including Oil and Gas, Minerals, Universities, Carbon Storage, Radioactive Waste, Geological Surveys and Consultancy.

His education was in geology and he holds a PhD in Structural Geology. He has published more than 60 papers on topics ranging from structural evolution and tectonics to radioactive waste modelling processes. His 1984 paper in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society on the structural evolution of extensional basin margins was one of the most quoted papers of the Society between 1980 and 2000. In his academic career, his research has focussed on the application of structural geology to oil and gas exploration and production very much in an applied geoscience vein. His company Midland Valley has been important in understanding and significantly reducing error and uncertainty in subsurface mapping and cross section techniques. These are essential tools for a wide variety of technical industries such as oil, mining, carbon sequestration and radioactive waste storage, and indeed any sub-surface infrastructure. His work cuts across many areas of expertise and his company has generated software and techniques that crossover into many important disciplines and areas of industry. He now deals with global leadership and strategy in addition to the company’s technical profile and business objectives. Midland Valley is recognised for employing and nurturing talented and innovative early-career scientists.

Whilst not highly visible in the media and wider academia, his work has addressed a very important niche in terms of technology and software generation for many applied science companies and wider industry. This has improved the accuracy and efficiency of addressing applied problems, particularly in the geoscience arena where uncertainty can be higher than in other scientific disciplines. His work in this area, often involved in reducing risk and uncertainty, has contributed to an awareness and understanding of health and safety within the community. His contribution to the advancement of both his personal knowledge and that of his community is evident in his career activities. Not only has he disseminated high quality software and knowledge but he has demonstrated good business skills in his identifying of gaps in the software and technical capability of science-based industry and has addressed that through both technical ability and business nous. 

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James Jackson

James JacksonProfessor James Jackson is an eminent academic in the field of Active Continental Tectonics and Earthquake Seismology and is currently the head of the Department of Earth Science at Cambridge University where he has been since 1988. He embarked on his academic career under the tutelage of Professor Dan McKenzie and has previously worked as a visiting scientist at MIT. 

In his research he investigates how the continents are deforming in areas of active plate tectonic movement from Africa, Iran, and the Aegean to New Zealand and the USA. His unique reach and talents include his excellent communication skills and his commitment to exploring science with social impacts. For example, his work in earthquakes links seismology to its topographic setting, and his hazard prediction and mitigation work has great social, communication and public-interest value. He uses a variety of techniques in earthquake science and remote sensing to decipher the movement of the plates and to diagnose active tectonics on all scales. These studies range from the details of the fault rupture in a single earthquake, to fault patterns and tectonic movement over vast areas of the continents. One of his most acclaimed works was his paper on the ‘Strength of the continental lithosphere: time to abandon the jelly sandwich?’ which re-assessed the understanding of the relative strengths of the upper mantle, lower crust and upper crust which had wide ranging implications in the field of continental tectonics.

In addition to his academic positions and achievements he is also a member of the National Centre for Earth Observation, the Centre for the Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes and Tectonics and he is a Fellow of the Royal Society. In his career he has received numerous awards and scholarships including the Shell International Petroleum Scholarship in 1976, the President’s Award from the Geological Society of London in 1985 and the Society’s Bigsby award in 1997.

He has a committed research interest in active tectonics in the eastern Mediterranean and middle-east including Iran and New Zealand, and has published papers on the active tectonics of Greece, Turkey, Pakistan, the wider Mediterranean and Otago in New Zealand. 

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Lord Ron Oxburgh

Lord Ron OxburghLord Ron Oxburgh of Liverpool has had a broad career in a number of sectors including academia, policy and administration, the oil industry and education. He has undertaken many prestigious roles but is most well known for his policy work in the House of Lords, where he is the only member with an education and background in geoscience, including on select committees. Here he exercises his strong advocacy for reducing carbon emissions and research into alternative energy sources. He was educated in geology at University College, Oxford and obtained a PhD in ‘The geology of the eastern Carabobo area, Venezuela’ in 1960 from the University of Princeton where he also worked on the emerging theory of plate tectonics.

He then returned to Oxford to continue his academic and administrative career where he took up a role as Lecturer and a Fellowship at the University of Oxford before moving to the University of Cambridge where he eventually became head of the Earth Science Department. During his time at Cambridge he presided over the University Grants Committee review of the Earth Sciences which resulted in the merging of several university departments and national centres, including Cambridge’s Earth Science Department.

He then left academia to take on the role of Chief Scientific Adviser at the Ministry of Defence between 1988 and 1993 followed by his position as Rector of Imperial College between 1993 and 2000. From 2004-2005 he was a non-executive chairman at Shell. Since his tenure at Imperial College he has returned to his policy and administrative work with a focus on climate change and frequently takes part in talks, debates and events on carbon emissions and related topics. Subsequent roles include his appointment as Chairman of an inquiry into the research conducted by the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in 2010, and as Deputy Chairman of the Science and Engineering Research Council of Singapore. His additional and honorary appointments include as honorary president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, Chairman of Falck Renewables (a wind energy firm), and adviser to Climate Change Capital.

During his long career he has received numerous awards and honours which include his knighthood in 1992 and elevation to the peerage as Baron Oxburgh in 1999. He also sits on the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology, which he previously chaired, and is an officer of the All-Parliamentary Group for Earth Sciences. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering and a foreign member of the US National Academy of Science. He was President of the Geological Society from 2000-2002.

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