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Prof. Stuart Monro becomes an Honorary Graduate of Heriot-Watt University

As part of Heriot-Watt's graduation celebrations this summer, an honorary doctorate was awarded to a distinguished scientist who works closely with many menbers of the CMBB, Prof. Stuart Monro. As Scientific Director of Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh, Prof. Monro was awarded a Doctorate of Science in recognition of his exceptional contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the field of Geology and promotion of public engagements with and greater understanding of earth sciences.

Stuart Monro

Stuart Monro is a distinguished Scottish geologist whose career has spanned 44 years, and counting, during which time he has worked as a professional geologist and given distinguished service to Scotland and education, and as leading proponent of public understanding of and communication about science.

Stuart graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in geology in 1970 from the University of Aberdeen but in his own words found academic geology as presented in the 1960s and 780s "really rather boring". Instead Stuart was interested in applied and contemporary questions in the earth and environmental sciences. Nonetheless, he started on the first stage of his career with the Institute of Geological Sciences, now known as the British Geological Survey, undertaking traditional geological survey and commissioned research. 

Along the way he acquired a PhD from the University of Edinburgh and was a part-time tutor with the Open University, but it is in the later stage of his career that Stuart's enthusiasm for education and public understanding of science, complete with his infectious enthusiasm for communication, has come to the fore. Indeed, there is rarely a public engagement in science event in Scotland at which Stuart does not appear.

Across the city of Edinburgh, the Salisbury Crags dominate the skyline and are the site of key observations that set the scene for modern geology made few years before Stuart's became professionally interested in the place. Nestling beneath the crags and next door to both the Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse is Our Dynamic Earth, the science and visitor centre surrounded by auspicious neighbours on all sides. Stuart was instrumental in establishing Our Dynamic Earth as a means for promoting earth and environmental sciences to as wide an audience as possible. Our Dynamic Earth was opened in 1999 as a Millennium Project and Stuart is the first Scientific Director of Our Dynamic Earth. That is not to say that Stuart is the director of all the science on the Earth in the past millennium; that may be rather more than even he could manage, although he'd certainly be willing to try to explain it all. No, Stuart is the person who has led with distinction Our Dynamic Earth's scientific interpretations and ensured that it says at the forefront of the technological developments for communicating science. Beyond being a visitor attraction, Our Dynamic Earth has become a venue for scientific debate, information exchange with policy makers and politicians, and a venue for press and broadcast media on environmental and other scientific matters, often hosted by Stuart, whose intolerance of pseudoscience, and plain and unambiguous words have become a recurrent features.

Stuart's service to Scotland is extensive: he was a member of the Scottish Science Advisory Committee which advises the Scottish Government on Science, a body that he co-chaired alongside the Chief Scientist, and through which he championed science education in schools and the new Curriculum for Excellence; he was the co-convenor of the Scottish Earth Science Education Forum , a voluntary group established to promote greater understanding of the earth sciences in schools and colleges; and he chairs the Earth Science Trust which engages with industry to raise funds for earth science education in schools.

Stuart's enthusiasm for education extends well beyond schools: he has been a member of the Governing Body of the University of Edinburgh and served that university in many influential roles, including as its so-called vice-convenor, a title open to more than one interpretation, and as the even more obscure Curator of Patronage. 

Stuart was a trustee of the National Museums of Scotland, a council member of the Geological Society of London, and is a Director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival. For his contributions to science and education he has been recognized by prestigious fellowships of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (which is Scotland's premier Academy), the Royal Scottish Society of Arts, the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and the Geological Society. He holds an honorary doctorate from the Open University, and in 2006 he was awarded the title Officer of the Order of the British Empire (an OBE) in the Queen's New Year's Honours. To these and many other honours, today Heriot-Watt University will add its own recognition of Stuart's service and influence.

At Heriot-Watt University we benefit from a close relationship with Our Dynamic Earth: it is a venue for some of own outreach work particularly in marine science, and as the university joins forces with the British Geological Survey to establish a new research centre, the Sir Charles Lyell Centre for Earth and Marine Technology, it is appropriate that we should honour one of the country's most distinguished geologists and advocates for science education.

This Laureation, was written and given by Prof. David Hopkins, Head of the School of Life Sciences