I’ve enjoyed a varied career ranging from early days in pure science (principally geology), through water resources and environmental engineering (especially groundwater engineering), on through mining environmental engineering to energy engineering. There are several persistent threads running through all of these experiences, mainly to do with quantitative geoscience, numerical modelling of fluid flow and reactive mass transfer, and the translation of high-level conceptual principles into hands-on engineering solutions, invariably for purposes which I believe are socially and environmentally benign. I owe my formal education to two universities: Newcastle University in the UK (BSc and PhD), and Oklahoma State University in the USA (MS), where I spent two very happy years as a Harkness Fellow (1984-86), taking advantage of burgeoning activities in the then-National Centre for Groundwater Research and the EPA’s RSKERL Lab in Ada.
My education was extended – and continues to be – by industrial experience, with Yorkshire Water, the National Rivers Authority, Centro Yunta (La Paz, Bolivia), NIREX, Northumbrian Water, Project Dewatering Ltd, Cluff Geothermal Ltd, Five-Quarter Energy Ltd and various consultancy missions worldwide. I spent just under 20 years at Newcastle University, where I: taught water and environmental engineering; founded and led the HERO research group (which won the University the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for the first time in 2005); established what is now the Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research; founded and Directed the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability; served as the University’s Public Orator; and was the UK's first-ever Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement. I joined Glasgow University in August 2012.
I currently serve as Chair of the Global Scientific Committee of the Plant Earth Institute, an intermational NGO (of which I am also a Trustee) which aims to promote South-South collaboration in science-based projects that further the cause of 'scientific independence for Africa'. I am also a Trustee of Arran Community Energy, which is striving to implement renewables in a manner compatible with the important tourist industry of that beautiful Scottish island.
My current research is entirely focused in the energy sector, and besides engaging with the broad challenges of keeping the lights on and homes and businesses warm whilst decarbonising our energy systems, I focus specifically on three areas in which my particular skills and experience can be put to best use: geothermal energy, underground coal gasification tightly coupled to carbon capture and storage, and hydropower