Professor Chris Jackson's commendation video transcript

Professor Chris Jackson

PROFESSOR WARREN MANNING: Now is the time we come to our Honorary Awards. These are awarded by the University in recognition of somebody who has made a very significant contribution to their particular field. I now have great pleasure in inviting Professor Keith McLay, Provost Learning and Teaching, to give the commendation for the conferment of an Honorary Doctor of the University to Professor Chris Jackson. 

PROFESSOR KEITH MCLAY: Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Lord Lieutenanzt, honoured guests, graduands of 2023 and all our guests here today. It gives me great pleasure to present Professor Chris Jackson for the award of Honorary Doctor of the University. 

Professor Chris Jackson is a geoscientist and science communicator. He is currently Director of Sustainable Geoscience at the engineering consultancy Jacobs and a Visiting Professor in Basin Analysis at Imperial College London. 

Born in the Derbyshire village of Breadsall and raised in Alvaston, Chris attended Noel Baker Community School and then Wilmorton Tertiary College, Derby. Growing up so close to the Peak District, Chris developed a love for the outdoors at a young age. He was the first in his family to attend university and completed his BSc in Geology in 1998, followed by a PhD in 2002 at the University of Manchester. He then started work as a research geologist in the Norsk Hydro in Bergen, Norway. 

Upon leaving the private sector, between 2004 and 2022 Chris pursued an academic career at Imperial College and the University of Manchester, where his research focused on using fieldwork and subsurface techniques to study the structure and evolution of the Earth's crust, and how this knowledge is used to locate natural resources. 

Chris now works at Jacobs in a range of geoenergy, geostorage, and geohazard problems. He has been described by the Geological Society of London as 'the leading and most productive interpreter of three-dimensional seismic reflection data of his generation.' He is a recipient of the Bigsby medal, awarded by the Geological Society as an 'an acknowledgement of the eminent services in geology', and also awarded the Geological Society Coke medal for his contribution to science. 

When not studying rocks, Chris gives geoscience lectures to the public and in schools and has appeared on several Earth science-focused television productions and podcasts. In 2017, one such BBC documentary, 'Expedition Volcano', took Chris and his film crew to the Democratic Republic of Congo where they abseiled into one of the world's most dangerous and spectacular active volcanoes. 

In 2020, Chris became the first black geoscientist to give a Royal Institution Christmas Lecture in its 182-year history. His lecture discussed the geological record of climate change, and outlined how human activities are causing something almost uniquely catastrophic in the Earth's 4.5 billion-year history. 

Chris is actively engaged in efforts to improve equality, diversity and inclusivity in science and society, with the aim of extending the reach of science to the widest possible audience. 

Chris joins us today with his mother Florett. His wife and three children are celebrating back home in Stockport. 

Chancellor, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to geoscience research, we are delighted to award Professor Chris Jackson the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University. 

PROFESSOR CHRIS JACKSON: It's like an out-of-body experience hearing somebody describe you! Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Lord Lieutenant, honoured guests, graduands of 2023, and all our guests here today. I would like to start by thanking Professor McLay for those words, the University of Derby for this recognition and the, as yet anonymous, people who nominated me. And, although it is me who is up here today, we should recognise that although given to individuals, awards like these really recognise the labours and sacrifices of many.  For me, closest to home, this is my family, my wife, Vicki, and my children, Olive, Hazel and Nora. My mum, who is here in the audience today, and my dad, who is sadly no longer with us. 

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the many talented students and colleagues I have worked with over the years and, just down the road here, the teachers at my various schools, all of whom put up with and somehow managed to educate a somewhat distracted, sports obsessed black boy.

I'd like to conclude my thanks in the start of my speech by recognising an ex University of Derby staff member, Robin Sedgwick, for it was he, before working at the University, taught me at Wilmorton College which is now no longer a few hundred meters away from here, because without his enthusiasm and guidance I would not be on this stage today. 

Now, to the award itself. My spies tell me I might be the first ever geological scientist to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Derby. While flattering, there is some irony in this, given that sitting with us in the arena perhaps today is potentially the one of the last ever cohorts of geologist students to graduate from this University because the course has been cancelled now and it's been taught continuously in Derby University, or its precursor, since 1896. In my view, the loss of this is a huge loss given that the most significant socioeconomic challenges of of the 21st century can only be tackled by geoscientists, climate change geohazard prevention and resource provision. 

Given its clear importance, I hope that institution with a motto of an applied University of today and for tomorrow takes the opportunity to seriously consider proposals for alternative degree programs that will train the next generation of scientists able to tackle these present and future challenges. 

But geoscience is just one of the many groups of people sitting here today and graduating today and after coming down from the excitement of today you may well all ask yourself how do we, with the skills and interests that we have, fit into what is a rapidly changing world, whatever career path you find yourself on. And feel secure in the knowledge that the scientific training you've acquired here in this fair city has prepared you to develop life-changing, life-saving solutions to a range of socially and environmentally significant problems. 

So, in closing, I would like to restate my thanks to the University of Derby for awarding me an Honorary Doctorate. Derby born and bred, I'm a fierce supporter and defender of this city. This award means a huge amount to me. To be recognised by my people, rightly or wrongly, this recognition affords me yet more privilege. I hope I continue to put that privilege to good use in the rest of my life. 

Thank you very much.

Professor Chris Jackson's commendation video

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