Dr Gillian E Pickup

Honorary Doctorate of Letters (Hon. DLitt)

Graduation Ceremony: Monday, 19 June, 2023

In celebration of a remarkable musical talent, a founding leader of the Heriot-Watt Orchestra has today (Mon 19 June) been presented with an Honorary Degree.

Dr Gillian Pickup has played violin in the orchestra since its inception in 1998 and has led the ensemble for most of this time.

Today’s presentation serves as a reminder of the profound impact Dr Pickup has had on our University community and beyond.

For her contribution to musical life at the University over many years and as a participant in choirs, quartets, and other groups that serve the wider community, Dr Pickup was presented with her new academic title of Doctor of Letters during a ceremony at the Edinburgh campus as part of the Summer Graduation programme for 2023.

Dr Pickup said: “It is a great honour to receive this award.  I have always enjoyed music and it has been a pleasure to perform in the Heriot-Watt orchestra, choir and chamber music groups. 

"I hope I have inspired many students and staff to keep up their musical activities, for their own benefit and also to enhance activities in the University.”

Dr Pickup has a BSc and PhD in Astrophysics from the University in Edinburgh.  For more than three decades, she has worked in Reservoir Engineering, in what is now the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering (IGE) at Heriot-Watt University. Since 2004, she has been involved in projects to simulate the geological storage of carbon dioxide and has taught reservoir simulation to many MSc students at the Edinburgh, Dubai and Malaysia campuses. 

Away from the classroom, Dr Pickup is an author and co-author of many scientific papers on CO2 storage, and more recently on hydrogen storage.

Although mainly retired, Dr Pickup remains a keen violinist and has a performance diploma from Trinity College London (ATCL).  Through performing with Heriot-Watt University, she has participated in several courses of the Inchcolm New Music Ensemble, which promotes music based on ancient Scottish plainchant and has played chamber music at many University events. 

Outside Heriot-Watt, she sings in Choir of the Earth and plays in the Scottish Sinfonia, and has performed in orchestras in Dubai and Hilo, Hawaii.

Presenting Dr Pickup with her Honorary Degree was Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, who said: “Today’s presentation serves as a reminder of the profound impact Dr Pickup has had on our University community and beyond.

“Heriot-Watt has a proud tradition of musical performance through its orchestra and choirs, including its support of Music Scholars.

“Dr Pickup's dedication to the pursuit of musical excellence has been a major contributor to the musical landscape that has not only enriched the University Orchestra but has also resonated with audiences far and wide. It was a privilege to present this Honorary Degree to Dr Pickup, recognising her exceptional artistry, leadership, and commitment.”