Founders' Day 2023

Go Beyond Boundaries

Founders' Day

A celebration of research with impact

Founders' Day 2023

The University of Aberdeen Founders' Day is traditionally a day where we pay tribute to our historic origins as an ancient University and celebrate the support of our benefactors over the centuries including Bishop Elphinstone. This year Founders' Day was also a Celebration of the University's Research with Impact.

If you were inable to join us for the event which took place on Thursday 25 May, you can now watch the recording of Session 1 and Session 2 to see how our research can be used to create lasting impact. 

Founders’ Day A Celebration of Research with Impact Programme

10:30 - 11:30


The 3MT competition challenges PhD students to present their research to a general audience in just 3 minutes with only one slide.  All welcome.3 minute thesis logo

13:15 - 14:00


Research Showcase and Images of Research Exhibition

A unique chance to speak to researchers working at the forefront of different disciplines but all with important real world impact. Images of Research exhibition showcases the latest work undertaken by postgraduate researchers in an eye catching image based format.

View all images here.

14:00 - 14:05


George Boyne, Principal & Vice Chancellor, University of Aberdeen

14:05 - 14:35


Pete Smith, Professor in Plant and Soil Science, University of Aberdeen

The food system is responsible for a third of all human emissions of greenhouse gases. We need to improve the way that we farm to reduce these emissions. The presentation will focus on an example of how we have used our best scientific understanding to build a tool, that helps farmers to make better decisions about how they farm to reduce their climate impact.

Watch the recording here

14:35 - 15:05 


Chaired by David Burslem, Director – Interdisciplinary Centre Environment & Biodiversity

Panel Members: Eleonora Belfiore - Director Interdisciplinary Centre for Social Inclusion and Cultural Diversity, Deb Roberts - Director of Science at James Hutton Institute, Pete Smith - University of Aberdeen.

Watch the recording here

15:05 - 15:35


Research Showcase and Images of Research Exhibition (View all images here)

15:35 - 16:05


Martin McCormack, Director of CCUS and Hydrogen at Energy Transition Zone  

Following five decades of oil and gas production, North East Scotland now has the prospect of at least another five decades of large-scale energy production with significant offshore wind, hydrogen and carbon capture, utilisation and storage potential via an impressive energy transition project pipeline. The talk will assess how well placed the city and region is to deliver this pipeline of opportunity via the existing energy supply chain and strong innovation ecosystem and will highlight what else is required for the region to be acknowledged as the “Net Zero Energy Capital of Europe”. 

Watch the recording here

16:05 - 16:35


Chaired by Peter Edwards – Vice-Principal Regional Engagement, University of Aberdeen 

Panel Members: Martin McCormack - Director, CCUS and Hydrogen Energy Transition Zone, Richard Neilson - National Decommissioning Centre Director, Jenny Stanning - External Relations Director at Offshore Energies UK, Dr Daria Shapovalova - Co-director of the Aberdeen University Centre for Energy Law and Coordinator of the University's Just Transitions Lab

Watch the recording here

16:35 - 17:15 


3 Minute Thesis and Images of Research winners to be announced.

Research Showcase and Images of Research Exhibition.

About the Speakers and Panellists

Professor David Burslem - Director of Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Biodiversity, University of Aberdeen

David is Director of the University’s Environment and Biodiversity Challenge Area. He is an ecologist and conservation biologist affiliated to the School of Biological Sciences. He joined the university nearly 28 years ago as lecturer in tropical plant science, and the ecology and conservation of tropical forests remains a core focus of his research and teaching. Over time, his interests have broadened geographically and conceptually, but he remains fascinated by the origins, maintenance and conservation of plant biodiversity, with an emphasis on trees and forests. He currently directs a programme of interdisciplinary research that aims to respond to the global crises of climate change and species extinctions.

 More information can be found here: Environment and Biodiversity | Research | The University of Aberdeen (

Professor Pete Smith - FRS, FRSE, FNA, FEurASc, FISoilSci, FRSB Professor of Soils and Global Change, University of Aberdeen

Pete Smith is Professor of Soils and Global Change at the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland, UK) and Science Director of the Scottish Climate Change Centre of Expertise (ClimateXChange).  His interests include climate change mitigation, soils, agriculture, food systems, ecosystem services modelling and nature-based solutions.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, a Fellow of the Institute of Soil Scientists, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Foreign Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy, a Fellow of the European Science Academy, and a Fellow of the Royal Society (London).

Professor Eleonora Belfiore - Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Social Inclusion and Cultural Diversity, University of Aberdeen

Eleonora (Ele) Belfiore joined the University of Aberdeen in January 2022 from Loughborough University, where she was Co-Director of the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture. At Aberdeen, she is the inaugural Director of the new Interdisciplinary Centre for Social Inclusion and Cultural Diversity.

She has published extensively on cultural politics and policy, cultural value, and particularly the place that notions of the ‘social impacts’ of the arts have had in British cultural policy discourses. For Palgrave, she edits the book series New Directions in Cultural Policy Research, which has published 16 volumes to date, and she is Co-Editor in Chief journal Cultural Trends. Ele is currently researching the labour conditions of socially engaged arts practice from an ethics of care perspective, and the role of the creative industries for development in Ghana.

Ele is committed to the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion in Higher Education, and she is one of the founding members of the Women In Academia Support Network, a trans-inclusive and intersectional charity that brings together over 12,500 women and non-binary members from across the world to support one another and pushes for gender parity and more equitable working conditions in Higher Education.

Professor Deb Roberts - Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director of Science, James Hutton Institute

Deb is the Deputy Chief Executive and a Director of Science at the James Hutton Institute. She holds an Honorary Chair in the Business School, University of Aberdeen , is a Director of the Scottish Government’s Centre of Expertise in Climate Change  ClimateXChange | Scotland's Centre of Expertise on Climate Change , and is a member of the Academic Advisory Panel overseeing agricultural reform in Scotland.

Deb trained as an agricultural economist and her research has focussed on modelling the economy-wide impacts of changes in farm, forestry and agricultural policies. She has also carried research at the micro-level looking at farm household behaviour and the spatial pattern of farm household transactions.  Latterly her work has moved into rural development and has focussed on how and why rural economies are unique, the key drivers for change, and reasons for regional disparities.

Professor Peter Edwards - Vice-Principal Regional Engagement, University of Aberdeen

Peter Edwards is responsible for leading on the place agenda and ensuring that the University makes a comprehensive and effective contribution to the economic, social and cultural activity of the region. His remit also encompasses enterprise and innovation strategy and work to enhance start-ups, spin-outs and commercialisation activity.

He is a full professor in Computing Science at the University with over 35 years’ experience in intelligent information infrastructures research.

Martin McCormack - Director of CCUS and Hydrogen at Energy Transition Zone

Martin McCormack is the Director for Hydrogen & CCUS at Energy Transition Zone (ETZ) Ltd, a private sector led, not for profit company formed to support the development of the significant Energy Transition potential in North East Scotland which, if delivered, would enable the region to become a globally recognised centre of excellence for Energy Transition. ETZ Ltd is funded by both Scottish and UK Governments and also has private sector funding from Opportunity North East to develop the proposed Energy Transition Zone adjacent to Aberdeen’s £400M South Harbour. ETZ Ltd also plays a key role in progressing important regional Energy Transition projects and supporting the local energy supply chain.  

Martin has over 33 years’ experience in senior leadership and management roles within the energy sector, mostly with BP and more recently with Opportunity North East (ONE) / ETZ Ltd.   

Martin’s role at ETZ Ltd is focused on supporting delivery of key flagship energy transition projects that are underway within the region as well as guiding the supply chain on how best to capitalise on the fast growing interest in the UK’s net zero ambition, in particular hydrogen & CCUS. He is a member of the NECCUS Board and also sits on the North East Scotland Hydrogen Ambition (NESH2A) Steering Committee.

Professor Richard Neilson - National Decommissioning Centre Director

Professor Richard, Neilson is the director of the National Decommissioning Centre (NDC) and has a mechanical engineering background having undertaken his PhD with the aeroengine division of Rolls Royce.  He has 41 years’ experience in engineering research and development within the University sector. 

From 1998-2002 he spent four years part-time industrial secondment to an oil services company.  He has led or had substantial involvement in 13 major joint industry/University projects and has initiated or led the development of 3 major industry focused research/knowledge exchange centres, most recently the NDC. Most of his research has involved the application of design and dynamic analysis to solving engineering problems.  Much of this has been in the context of oil and gas and subsea engineering. 

Since 2008, his primary focus has been on decommissioning including underwater laser cutting which is currently being developed with an industry partner. In his current role he leads an interdisciplinary team undertaking research into the technical, environmental, regulatory and financial challenges of decommissioning and the energy transition.   He was one of the instigators of the MSc in Decommissioning run by the University. 

Jenny Stanning - External Relations Director at Offshore Energies UK

Jenny Stanning is responsible for leading OEUK’s external affairs, events and membership teams. In this role her responsibilities include working with Governments, Parliaments, industry leaders, business and industry organisations and regulatory bodies to ensure that members’ interests are well represented. 

Dr Daria Shapovalova - Co-director of the Aberdeen University Centre for Energy Law and Coordinator of the University's Just Transitions Lab

Daria Shapovalova has worked at the School of Law since 2017. She is the co-director of the Aberdeen University Centre for Energy Law and coordinator of the University's Just Transitions Lab.

Daria’s research uses innovative methodologies to explore the effectiveness of energy law in protecting the environment and human rights. Her current work is on the interdisciplinary approaches to  climate change and energy law with a focus on just transition.  She is leading a project “Just Transition for Workers and Communities in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire”. Daria coordinates the Energy theme LLM programmes at the School of Law and leads courses on energy law for law and engineering students.