Dr Phil Heron is a theoretical geophysicist at Durham University studying the inner mechanics of our planet. During his academic career, Phil has been working on understanding how the surface of our planet evolves and what impact that has on the landscape deep beneath our feet.
Growing up in Gateshead to a family with a rich coal mining past, from an early age Phil became interested in what is below our surface. While pursuing an A-level in History, Phil’s teacher recommended Simon Winchester’s book on William Smith and the first nationwide geological map (The Map That Changed The World). This nudge caused a tectonic shift in what Phil would go on to study – abandoning History for Geology, then subsequently choosing Geophysics. His love affair with maps and plate tectonics reached new levels in 2015, when he and his wife married in Iceland near the boundary of two tectonic plates.
Currently, Dr Phil Heron is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at Durham University. He gained a Masters of Geophysics from Leeds University (2006) and a PhD in Geophysics from the University of Toronto (2014). He has been using high performance computing for over a decade to understand the workings of Earth’s across various scales – contributing to the field of large-scale supercontinent formation and dispersal, through to understanding triggers in volcanic eruption from small-scale magma flow.
Throughout his adult life, Dr Heron has been working on communicating ideas in an engaging and entertaining way to people from all walks of life. Outside of academia, Phil has worked as a documentary filmmaker alongside teaching English in France to business people. More recently, Dr Heron has developed a science course that he is teaching inside prisons to inmates. It is a culmination of all these different activities that has allowed Phil to become a professional public speaker and efficient science communicator.
Dr Heron’s public speaking has been highlighted by the Geological Society, who invited him to give two well received public lectures on ‘The Future of Plate Tectonics’. In 2019, Phil held a public session as part of Durham University’s Saturday Morning Science program. In addition, Phil writes for magazines such as The Conversation and Geoscientist, alongside being interviewed as a geophysical expert for science books and articles. Phil has also given 20+ invited talks on his research, and presented his work a further 40+ times at various conferences and institutions around the world.
Dr Phil Heron has a 45 minute public lecture titled ‘A (geophysical) journey to the centre of the Earth’ which he is available to perform. The talk explores how the planet’s slowly moving surface is interconnected with the evolving landscape deep beneath our feet – a mix of science, humanity, and humour for people from all backgrounds.
Below is Phil’s talk at the Geological Society titled: The Future of Plate Tectonics.