Oxford Earth Sciences Head of Department, Professor John-Michael Kendall, is the recipient of the 2024 Gold Medal for Geophysics from the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), which he was awarded for his outstanding work in the field of solid earth geophysics.
The Gold Medal, which is the RAS’s highest honour, can be awarded for specific pieces of exemplary research or in recognition of lifetime achievement. Only two Gold Medals are awarded each year: one for geophysics, and one for astronomy. The award acknowledges both the outstanding personal research of the awardees and their contributions to education and scientific administration.
Professor Kendall was presented with this award in light of his important contributions to the field of seismology (the study of earthquakes and seismic waves in the Earth’s interior) and for his support of the next generation of seismic researchers.
His work spans the full breadth of the discipline, from placing constraints on structures at the base of the Earth’s mantle, to setting standards in seismic monitoring in industrial applications. Mike’s research covers both pure and applied seismology and involves a range of geological settings.
His current research reflects his keen interest in addressing the world’s energy demands including sustainable natural resources. Recent research projects involve the search for geothermal energy and critical minerals held in volcanic brines. He also actively works on seismic methods for monitoring the geologic storage of CO2 as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
One of Mike’s most significant contributions to the field of seismology is the study of seismic anisotropy (directional variations in seismic wave speeds and polarisations), which has led to new insights into the nature of the Earth’s plate boundaries in a range of geologic settings. He has worked in Africa for over 20 years, studying most aspects of continental rifting. He has done fieldwork in some of the hottest and coldest environments on Earth, often deploying new technology such as seismic nodes and fibre optic cables as distributed acoustic sensors.
Professor Kendall said “I am thrilled to be awarded this medal and I am grateful to the UK geophysics community for all of the support and collaborations – it has been a privilege to work with so many talented researchers. I have been fortunate to work with a large number of early career scientists, many from developing countries”.
Mike was previously president of the British Geological Association (BGA) and vice-president (geophysics) of the RAS, as well as being elected fellow of numerous other learned societies, including the Royal Society in 2019, the Royal Society of Canada in 2021 and the American Geophysical Union in 2011. In 2003 he gave the BGA Bullerwell lecture.
“I can’t think of a more deserving winner of the Gold Medal than Mike Kendall. He has had a huge impact across many areas of geophysics, from the crust to the core, while also helping mentor the next generation of geophysicists” – Professor James Hammond (Birkbeck, University of London)
Mike has been instrumental in building the careers of multiple doctoral students and early career researchers: he has graduated 37 PhD students during his career, currently supervises another 7 and has worked with 28 postdoctoral researchers. He is an enthusiastic champion of all he works with, and many of his previous supervisees have gone on to secure permanent academic and senior positions in industry. Mike has worked closely with industry, most recently working on induced seismicity associated with fluids in reservoirs and a range of setting.
Before joining the department in 2019 as Chair of Geophysics, and then taking over the role as Head of Department in 2022, Professor Kendall was the BGS Professor of Geophysics at the University of Bristol. His first position in the UK was at the University of Leeds, after a lectureship at the University of Toronto and a postdoctoral fellowship at IGPP at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He holds a PhD from Queen’s University in Canada.
“I am delighted to hear that Mike Kendall has been awarded the RAS Gold Medal for Geophysics. Not only is his own research at the forefront of seismology across both discovery and applied science, but he has tirelessly championed, represented and supported his colleagues and the wider geophysics community throughout his career. Congratulations Mike, very well deserved.” – Professor James Wookey (University of Bristol)
Reflecting on his award, Professor Kendall said “I moved to the UK from Canada in 1995, thinking I would be here for 2-3 years. A series of great students and the ability to work on a wide range of research topics has kept me in the UK. It is an ideal environment to collaborate both nationally and internationally, and I have especially valued interactions with other European scientists”.
The full list of 2024 award winners can be found on the Royal Astronomical Society website.
Image credit: Royal Astronomical Society/ University of Oxford