NERC researcher awarded prestigious geology award

15 June 2016

Professor John Underhill, chair of exploration geoscience at Heriot-Watt University, has been presented with the Lyell Medal by the Geological Society.

Professor John Underhill

Named after pioneering geologist Sir Charles Lyell, the medal was first awarded in 1876 and is the society's top award. It is given to someone who has made a significant contribution to Earth science with a substantial body of research.

Professor Underhill is the driving force behind NERC's Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Oil & Gas, led by Heriot-Watt, in collaboration with several other universities. His vision inspired the inclusion of seven core and 12 associate institutions in this venture, bringing in expertise from across the UK and resulting in highly diverse training. The CDT, funded to a total of £11 million from combined government and industry sources, is a game-changing initiative, and embodies Professor Underhill's commitment to inspiring the next generation of geoscientists. Without him, the CDT could not have garnered so much industrial support, and would never have become one of the most successful doctoral training initiatives anywhere.

Professor Underhill has also been at the forefront of establishing the Sir Charles Lyell Centre, a £20 million initiative opening this year which is expected to become the hub of a world-leading research cluster. It will bring science and technology to bear on critical issues of natural resource and energy supply in a responsible and sustainable way

He said:

Whilst obviously delighted to receive the award, I'm mindful of the fact that such things are only possible because of the support, advice and help of many. In this regard, I was very pleased to read that my role in two strategic NERC projects, namely as the director of the NERC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Oil & Gas and in helping build and deliver the Lyell Centre, which has seen the British Geological Survey's Scotland office co-locate to Heriot-Watt, were both cited as contributory factors in the award.

Few academics have contributed more significantly to our understanding of UK continental shelf geology than Professor Underhill. Founded on over 170 publications, receiving over 3500 citations, his research has occupied the forefront of North Sea geology and petroleum geology for the last 30 years. He has also shown expertise in a wide variety of fields that include sedimentology, structural geology, stratigraphy and geo-archaeology.

Professor Underhill has made a major contribution to the Geological Society, having been a council member and populated the Petroleum Group's committee. He was also the European Association of Geoscientists & Engineers (EAGE) president in 2012. He has been awarded the Geological Society's president's award in 1990, the Wollaston Fund in 2000 and was also the Petroleum Group's silver medal winner in 2012. He has also been awarded the EAGE Alfred Wegener award, the AAPG Distinguished Lecturer award and Scottish Geology's top award, the Clough Medal, during his career. John Underhill is the only academic representative on the UK government's Oil & Gas Technology Leadership Board.

Further information

Tamera Jones
NERC media office
01793 411561


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