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Durham University

Department of Geography

News Archive

Dr Robert Hilton honoured as one of UK's leading young scientists

(16 January 2018)

Dr Robert Hilton

Insights into Earth's carbon cycle

The honour was announced by The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences.

It was made for Dr Hilton's work in research has provided new insights into Earth's long-term carbon cycle and the natural processes that transfer carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and rocks.

His research has uncovered how erosion of land in the form of earthquakes and resulting landslides, weathering of organic carbon in rocks, and the export of carbon by rivers can have an impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.

He will be presented with US$30,000 (£21,750) and will be honoured at a gala dinner and ceremony at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on Wednesday 7th March, 2018.

Dr Hilton said: "I am inspired by the colossal tectonic forces which build steep mountains, and the processes of erosion and weathering which can tear them back down again. Rivers thus modify the shape of the landscape, but they also act to move elements such as carbon and oxygen between the atmosphere and rocks.

"Ever since learning about these linkages during my Natural Sciences degree, I have been motivated to delve deeper and measure these geochemical fluxes. My current research priority is to better understand how erosion and exposure of carbon in soils and rocks might dampen, or amplify, anthropogenic CO2 emissions over the coming century.

"It is an honour to have been named as a Finalist in these prestigious awards because of this work".

The Blavatnik Awards

The Blavatnik Awards, established by the Blavatnik Family Foundation in the United States in 2007 and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences, honour and support exceptional early-career scientists and engineers aged 42 years or younger. In 2018, the Awards recognise the first cohort of international honourees in the UK.

In this inaugural year of the Blavatnik Awards in the UK, 124 nominations were received from 67 academic and research institutions across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. A distinguished jury of leading senior scientists and engineers from throughout the UK selected the Laureates and Finalists.

The Laureate in the Chemistry category was Professor Andrew L. Goodwin, University of Oxford. The other Finalist alongside Dr Hilton was Professor Philipp Kukura, also of the University of Oxford.

Other categories included in the awards were Life Sciences and Physical Sciences & Engineering.

Sir Leonard Blavatnik, Founder and Chairman of Access Industries and head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, said: "In the spirit of the United Kingdom's tradition of scientific excellence and pursuit of knowledge, we are pleased to recognise and support these inaugural Blavatnik Awards Laureates and Finalists as they pursue their careers in advancing their respected fields.

"Through the promise that they have already demonstrated, we are confident they will continue pushing the boundaries of discovery and innovation".

Ellis Rubinstein, President and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences and Chair of the Awards' Scientific Advisory Council, said: "We are extremely proud to bring the Blavatnik Awards programme to the United Kingdom, recognising outstanding young scientists leading their respective fields.

"In its first year, we witnessed terrific enthusiasm from the UK's scientific community and hope to see even more institutions nominate their top Faculty-level scientists in the coming years".