Medal for Research Excellence 2005

David Dobson

David Dobson was born in 1970 in Beckenham, UK. He studied at Bristol University (1988-1991) and obtained the PhD in Geology at the University College of London (1992-1996), where he carried on his research activity as post-doctoral research assistant (1996-97) and subsequently as NERC fellow (1997-2000). After a period at the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Bayreuth, Germany, as Alexander von Humboldt fellow (2000-2002), he went back to the University College of London as Royal Society University Research Fellow.

His research activity has been devoted to Mineral physics (i.e., the study of the physical properties of the minerals constituting the Earth), which is now recognized as a major discipline in the Earth sciences. Experiments at very high pressures have afforded much needed information on the nature and properties of inaccessible minerals deep inside the Earth, and insight into the workings of the machine that is our Earth. High pressure experimentation is now on the threshold of an exciting new era, based on the development of new high-strength materials, coupled with the use of intense diffraction sources. The advances in experimental techniques and the major new insights that come from them, are due to an exciting new generation of experimentalists, of whom David Dobson is a leading example.

At thirty-five years of age, David Dobson has published his scientific results in more than 30 papers in internationally renowned journals, among them five papers in Science and Nature. He has achieved international recognition as one of the leading workers in his field. Not only has he mastered the most recondite techniques, he has considerably improved them. David Dobson has the key knack of being able to get reliable data from difficult experiments. He is highly original and innovative in the design of his experiments. But, even more important, he has applied them to some of the most important problems in planetary physics. The excellence of his research has already been nationally and internationally recognized, having already been awarded the President’s Award of the Geological Society or Londodn, an NERC Fellowship, an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship, a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, a Philip Leverhulme Prize and an EGU Outstanding Young Scientist Medal.

To quote only a few of his more significant contributions, he has: constrained and explained the electrical conductivity and thermal profile of the Earth’s deep mantle; determined the viscosity of liquid iron at high pressures and thereby contributed to the understanding of the convective behaviour in the outer core, responsible for the origin the Earth’s magnetic field; identified and quantified the likely mechanism for deep seated Earth quakes associated with plate tectonic subduction; developed novel experimental configurations to enable high pressure studies to be combined with very powerful, neutron-diffraction techniques to quantify mantle rheology and viscosity.

David Dobson is an exceptionally able and gifted scientist. He certainly will continue to make major advances in high pressure geophysics. For the relevance and international dimension of his work David Dobson is fully worthy to receive the EMU Excellence Research Medal for 2005.