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Ulster Researcher In Britain's Top 100

Professor John McCloskey

A University of Ulster geophysicist is among the UK's 100 most influential scientists, according to a national newspaper.

Professor John McCloskey, from Ulster's Environmental Sciences Research Institute has been named in the inaugural Eureka 100 list published by The Times.

The list cites the 100 most important contemporary figures in British science and has recognised the University of Ulster Professor of Geophysics for his work in earthquake science.

Professor McCloskey and his colleagues in the Geophysics Research Group have been pioneers in earthquake research with a particular focus of their work concentrating on the identification of regions most susceptible to earthquakes. In 2005, he forecast the large quake which occurred off north western Sumatra, 10 days before it struck.

The warning, published in 'Nature’ on St Patrick’s Day 2005, in light of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, received global media coverage.

In a 'Nature Geoscience’ paper published in January this year, Professor McCloskey also warned following the 2009 Padang earthquake which killed almost 1,200 people, that the great earthquake that many experts have predicted is still to come.

Following the announcement of his inclusion in Eureka 100 list, Professor McCloskey said he was flattered to be considered along with many scientists he admires.

He said: “Some of them are genuine long-term heroes of mine. I don’t want to sound too corny but I do owe this to the University of Ulster’s School of Environmental Sciences where I've worked since I finished my PhD. I can’t think of a place I’d rather work in and maybe this listing means there just isn’t one.I work with really first class people there and this citation is a credit to the whole team. I'm really happy that The Times citation makes explicit reference to the our Geophysics Research Group.

"Our work is continuing and we are now making a big push to have earthquake science deployed more effectively for the benefit the poor in developing countries. These are the people who are most likely to die in big earthquakes but they are also the ones who benefit least from earthquake science. We are now working with NGO's like Concern Worldwide, Tearfund, Save the Children, Christian Aid, Cafod and a network of 32 NGO's in SE Asia where the threat from big earthquakes is very high, to change this balance. We already have the support of government departments like Irish Aid and hopefully soon DfID will be on board.

"The science is really important and we won't compromise on that, but as long as a magnitude 7 earthquake kills 230,000 in Haiti but only 50 in California we still have lots to do to equalise the scales in favour of the poor."

Professor McCloskey, who was placed at number 72, was the only Northern Ireland Scientist on the list.

A native of Derry, the internationally respected researcher leads the Geophysics Research Group at the University of Ulster’s Coleraine campus in identifying areas susceptible to earthquakes and also works in collaboration with some of the world’s leading earthquake scientists.

Professor McCloskey was educated at Chapel Road PS (which he still says is the best school in the world) and St Columb’s College before going to Queen’s University Belfast where he graduated with a BSc in Geology.

He taught Physics in the secondary sector for 10 years before he began part-time study towards a PhD in the physics of earthquakes which he gained in 1992.

He joined the University of Ulster as a post-doctoral researcher and received the European Geophysics Society’s Publication Award in 1993 for a paper published on his PhD work and the Institute of Physics’ Teacher of Physics award for his work with Young Scientists the same year.