Rock-star Geologist Iain Stewart backs Henley

Support for The Henley College’s earth science courses is snowballing.

Professor Iain Stewart of Plymouth University, known to the nation as the ‘rock star geologist’ of many enthralling BBC series, has joined Steve Backshall and palaeontologist Professor Richard Fortey in backing the department.

Henley’s Sandra Wickens, a geologist herself, makes no secret of her ardent admiration for Iain Stewart and wrote asking for his help promoting the earth science department. Iain immediately offered his support, making Sandra’s year, and will, we hope, be speaking to students in the future.

Iain said: “I became interested in geology when Mount St Helens erupted; as I child I thought that was pretty cool and it got me interested in volcanoes. I loved geography and did a joint degree in geography and geology, but slowly moved over to the geological side. The trouble is not many people really know what geology is. They say: 'its stones. Why would I study stones?', but it's much more than that. Geology is really vast! It's a derivative science - it steals from everywhere else: physics, biology, chemistry, geography, maths and it uses them to understand the planet. As a kid I associated volcanoes with adventure, and geologists travel a lot, both for work and study, so you get out in the field. That's something I admire about the Henley College - their field-trips, to places like the Atlas Mountains, Iceland, the Bay of Naples and the Azores. At other times you are at the computer, or in the lab, so you come out with a massive range of skills, which work in any industry. Geologists, for instance, are noted for making great investment bankers. Really! When given data, a geologist will know that the data-set will be incomplete, but will nevertheless happily make an interpretation on it; non-geologists often go back for more data.

With the planet facing inexorable population growth and the catastrophe of global warming it is more important than ever that we educate young people in the earth sciences. Geographers, environmental scientists and geologists are needed to find solutions and advise those in positions of power. Colleges like Henley make it more likely that students will take earth sciences at degree level. I've taught several of their students over the years, so I know how good they are”.

Former Henley geology student Hannah Holloway, who graduated from Plymouth University in 2019 along with two other Henley students, said: “Geology at Henley College was my first experience of the subject. I was not prepared for how much it would affect my future. I fell in love with geology at Henley College and went on to study it at the University of Plymouth. After graduating, I went on to volunteer in Nepal. The focus was providing rural communities with individual clean water supplies. Geology is a very interesting and current subject that can open up many paths for your future, as it has for me.”

Tom Hubbard, also an ex-Henley geology student, agrees with Iain about a geology being a multi-disciplinary subject, with a range of transferrable skills applicable to a huge variety of industries. He said “I’d always known that geology graduates are in very high demand – luckily for me it’s a very employable degree, but when I first visited Imperial College I was really surprised when they said only about a third of their graduates went on to work in the geological industry. Another third, unsurprisingly, stay on in academia but the remaining third are snapped up by big City institutions. As Iain said, geology graduates are numerate, unfazed by mountains of data, are able to spot patterns intuitively and are willing to make a decision on the basis of the data to hand. The City does not appeal to me in the slightest – for me it’s fieldwork in exciting places. I completely understand Iain’s passion for the subject”.

For more information about our Geology A level, or our other earths science courses, please contact Marco Azevedo on