Heriot-Watt’s Chief Scientist to advise Scottish Government



Heriot-Watt's top scientist is to join the prestigious Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC) providing independent advice to the Scottish Government.

The SSAC is Scotland's highest level science advisory body and provides recommendations on science strategy, policy and priorities to Scottish Government Ministers.

Professor John Underhill will take up the role on 1 January 2019 joining four other experts drawn from across Scotland's scientific landscape.

John Underhill said: “It is a great privilege and honour to be invited to join the Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC).

“I look forward to serving on the Council and am committed to the provision of informed scientific advice to the Scottish Government.”

Professor Richard Williams, Principal and Vice-Chancellor said: “I'm delighted John is taking up this role, offering science advice, knowledge and techniques to the Scottish Government.

“Not only will his expertise formulate and implement policy but it will further enhance the nation's science and innovation base.”

Commenting on the new appointments, SSAC Chair Professor Paul Boyle said: “I'm delighted that our new members bring a range of knowledge, skills and networks to help our work in advising the Scottish Government. I look forward to working with all of our new members as we continue to offer a broad range of science advice to support Ministers.” 

Science Minister Richard Lochhead welcomed the appointments: “The SSAC plays a vital role in ensuring ministers have access to the very best scientific advice to help inform all policy areas.

“Members of the SSAC are continuing our great history of science and innovation and I look forward to meeting the new and existing members to discuss how the SSAC can add value to our work.”

Joining the SSAC from 1 January 2019 are:

Dr Caroline Cantley, Executive Director, Scottish Research Partnership in Engineering

Prof Dame Anna Dominiczak, DBE, FRSE, Regius Professor of Medicine and Vice Principal and Head of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow

Prof Wayne Powell, Principal and Chief Executive, Scotland's Rural College

Prof Mark Inall, Marine Physicist, Scottish Association for Marine Sciences

Professor John Underhill FRSE, Chief Scientist at Heriot-Watt University

The new members will serve for three years, until 31 December 2021.

Biography - Professor John Underhill FRSE, Heriot-Watt University

John Underhill is Chief Scientist at Heriot-Watt University, a leadership and advocacy role informing the strategic direction of the university.  He also holds the position of Chair of Exploration Geoscience and is the Academic Director of the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Oil and Gas.  He studied Geology at Bristol University and was awarded a PhD from the University of Wales. He worked for Shell in The Hague and London as an exploration geoscientist. He was appointed as Lecturer in the Grant Institute of Geology before becoming Professor of Stratigraphy. Whilst at Edinburgh, he spent sabbaticals in BP and Norsk Hydro. He was elected to the Board of the European Association of Geoscientists & Engineers (EAGE), an organisation that he led as their President in 2011-12. In 2012, he was awarded the Geological Society's Petroleum Group's top award, The Silver Medal, and the Edinburgh Geological Society's Clough Medal. Other awards include the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Distinguished Educator Award, and the Lyell Medal in 2016.  He was also a well-respected football referee in the Scottish Premier League until reaching the mandatory retiral age and was on the FIFA panel of referees; officiating in European and International matches. John is also a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Scotland's Energy Future Inquiry (2017-19). Member of the UK Energy Minister's Technology Leadership Board (2015-18) and Exploration Task Force (2018-19). Member of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) GeoEnergy Observatories Scientific Advisory Group (GSAG) 2015-19.