Keynote speakers

The conference will include talks by Professor Chris Rapley and Elizabeth Surkovic. The talks should provide an engaging and inspiring insight into two successful careers.


1st September 9:15 – 10:00

Beyond the Endless Frontier – a Personal Journey of Discovery

Professor Chris Rapley

My career has been unusually varied. My research topics have ranged from cosmic rays to the polar ice sheets via the X-ray cosmos and the Sun. I have run international research programmes, a large research institute and the Science Museum. I am currently Professor of Climate Science at UCL and am working with neuroscientists and psychosociologists to understand how best to communicate a subject which has proved divisive and contentious. I have travelled to parts of the planet visited by few, have met many fascinating people and have learned a lot. I will offer highlights and insights from the journey!

Chris is currently employed within the Polar Environmental Change research group at UCL. However, his illustrious career began at Oxford University in 1966 where he completed degrees in Physics and Astronomy. An MSc in Radio-astronomy at Victoria University Manchester followed, and in 1976 he completed his PhD in the fields of x-ray astronomy and solar physics at UCL.

From 1982 to 1994 he worked at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory where he developed the bent crystal spectrometer for NASA. He was then appointed as Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (1994  –  1997), followed by Director of the British Antarctic Survey (1997 – 2007), and Director of the Science Museum, London (2007  –  2010).

Chris began his current position as Professor of Climate Science at UCL in 2009. During this time, he was also Chair of Policy Commission on Communicating Climate Science at UCL from 2012 to 2014. In 2013 he became the Chair of the London Climate Change Partnership. He is also currently Chair of Director General’s High Level Science Policy Advisory Committee at European Space Agency, appointed in 2014.

Alongside Duncan Macmillan, he wrote the play 2071 about climate change. It was performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London in 2014 and 2015 and received a 5 star review from The Guardian. The book, 2071: The World We’ll Leave Our Grandchildren, was published in 2015.

Recognition for his work includes a CBE awarded in 2003, and the Edinburgh Science Medal in 2008.

Given the varied and distinguished positions Chris has maintained, his speech will surely be a fascinating insight into his career.


2nd September 9:15 – 10:00

The challenges of navigating industry, policy and research

Elizabeth Surkovic

Science for me has been the gateway to a rewarding career and with a clear thread to my career choices. I’ve been able to move around and to put my knowledge and skills to use in the private, public and third sector. The Royal Society is currently running a campaign “I wasn’t always a scientist” and through my own experiences and those of others I hope to demonstrate that there is the potential for a rich and varied career ahead for everyone. I have been able to pursue interesting opportunities and make difficult decisions on the transition to where I am today. I hope to shed more light on the ins and outs of my journey and share opportunities with you on how the audience may access those same career opportunities.

Before joining the Royal Society in 2016, Elizabeth Surkovic was the Deputy Director for Science at the Government Office for Science. Her responsibilities ranged across the entire Government policy portfolio from bee health to nuclear power. She and her team worked with Government Departments ensuring that science had been well used in any one area, resolving disagreements between Departments and leading on the investigation of issues of scientific merit and producing reports for use in policy development. Prior to this, she worked in the Cabinet Office and the Better Regulation Executive where she led a Bill on better regulation. In Defra she worked on chemical management and the negotiation of the REACH regulation.
Elizabeth is by training a biochemist and graduated from Birmingham. She worked in the chemical industry for 15 years where she worked on chemical regulation.

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