2020 Postgraduate Prizes in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering


John Archer/Janet Watson composite

Professors Janet Watson and John S Archer

On 10 February 2021 we announced the winners of the 2020 PG Prizes at an online event.

Recognising our postgraduate students in this way aligns with our values

Supportive | Excellence | Integrity | Innovative | Inclusive | Inspiring 

This year, the event moved online due to the COVID-19 lockdown in London, which enabled alumni from all over the world to join us for the announcement. 

To begin the event, Head of Department Professor Mark Sephton welcomed guests, and shared the latest news in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering. Then, attendees watched a short video as an alternative to a tour of the Department. PhD student Sarah Robinson, whose research continues in the laboratories of the Royal School of Mines, made the film about her work to show what is happening in the Department while most people work remotely. 

The John S Archer Award 

Professor John S ArcherThe John S Archer Award is for research excellence in petroleum geoscience and engineering, and is awarded to a PhD student in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering who has demonstrated excellence. The fund for the award was generously established by a group of former PhD students in honour of the late Professor Archer (pictured left), who was Professor of Petroleum Engineering and Dean of the Royal School of Mines. Through this award, Professor Archer is remembered as a kind and generous individual. 

Navjot KukrejaThe winner of the 2020 John S Archer Award is Navjot Kukreja. Navjot’s research encompasses numerical computing, domain-specific languages, automatic differentiation, and machine learning, for application to the subsurface. His numerous papers show the impact that his work is having in these fields.

Navjot built the first version of the Devito project, a domain-specific language that reads and manipulates maths to generate High Performance Computing code that runs fast enough to do two years of work in an afternoon (an output from Devito is shown below). He recently completed his PhD in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering, focussing on enabling inverse problems on Devito using high-performance backpropagation. Devito is now being used by hundreds of people across academia and industry.

Output from Devito
Navjot is recognised for his work on industrial and UK research council funded interdisciplinary research projects around seismic imaging and machine learning. His excellent contributions extend to his role teaching on the Applied Computational Science and Engineering programme

The Janet Watson Memorial Prizes 

Professor Janet WatsonThe annual Janet Watson Memorial Prizes reward PhD students for research excellence and good citizenship in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering. Professor Janet Watson (pictured left) was a British geologist, the first woman to be President of the Geological Society of London, and an alumnus of Imperial College London. 

ESE Professor of Geophysics Saskia Goes says, “As one of the judging panel, I feel privileged to read about the range of inspiring candidates for the Janet Watson Prizes – from people who go above and beyond in their contribution to the Department to those whose PhD research is outstanding.” 

Catherine BoothThe winner of the 2020 Janet Watson Prize for citizenship is Catherine Booth. Catherine is awarded the Janet Watson Citizenship Prize for her outstanding contribution to the Department, the Novel Reservoir Modelling and Simulation (NORMS) Research Group and the wider community. Her particular focus on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in STEM, and good mental health amongst ECRs, are both areas of great importance.

Catherine Booth with NORMS research group
Catherine Booth with NORMS group at an event she organised

Catherine serves on committees for the Department and for NORMS, leading discussions and actions in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, to promote, embed and uphold equality, diversity and inclusivity in all group activities.
Catherine Booth on BBC NewsCatherine maintains an active Twitter presence (personally and for the NORMS Research Group) that promotes the Department along with mental health and EDI in STEM. This latter contribution led to her being interviewed by the BBC in Sept 2018 (shown left) to represent the perspective of female Early Career Researchers in STEM.  
Throughout, Catherine has maintained research excellence in her field of study, fluid dynamics of magma reservoirs. She has delivered very well-received presentations at international conferences and contributes beyond her field, serving as a carer and also mentoring children in Grenfell United

Alfio Alessandro ChiarenzaThe winner of the 2020 Janet Watson Prize for research excellence is Alfio Alessandro Chiarenza. Alessandro’s PhD project used a combination of fossil data and various types of Earth System Modelling to account for bias in the late Cretaceous record of fossil dinosaurs, published in Nature Communications. He also merged fossil information, climate models and palaeomaps to evaluate competing hypotheses for the K-Pg mass extinction (PNAS). Although a challenging project, Alessandro rose to the challenge. 
His research has had a wide media impact and was also awarded the 2019 Harold Reading Medal by the British Sedimentological Research Group (BSRG). Both papers formed the backbone of his recent presentation at the 2020 Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, and his work was awarded the annual Romer Prize.  
Having recently completed his PhD, after two brief postdocs at University College London and in the United States, Alessandro will be joining the ERC-awarded Mapas Lab led by Dr Sara Varela at the University of Vigo, Spain, where the research group will investigate the evolutionary history and extinction of species in the past. 

Congratulations to the winners!

You can watch the event recording online.

If you have questions about the postgraduate prizes funds, please contact Daniel Corkhill.


Nicky Jenner

Nicky Jenner
Department of Earth Science & Engineering

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Contact details

Email: press.office@imperial.ac.uk
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