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Professor Nick Petford

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

Volcanoes in 20 minutes


Volcanoes in 20 minutes

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Professor Nick Petford

Professor Nick Petford is Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Northampton. Nick is a former Royal Society University Research Fellow and Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. A geologist by training, with a Doctor of Science from the University of Liverpool, Nick has worked in industry and on academic and commercial research projects throughout the world. He has held visiting research appointments at the Universities of Michigan and Vermont and NASA and is currently visiting professor at Macquarie University, Sydney. He is a graduate of Harvard Business School.

Nick is known internationally for his expertise in volcanoes and is a highly cited author with over 250 journal papers, abstracts, book reviews and other articles to his name (some from a brief stint as a journalist at the Times Higher). His research work embraces field investigations and mathematical modelling of the flow of molten rock on earth and other planets, and the mechanical stability of volcanoes. He has worked with colleagues at JPL on the physics of ice magma and by extension published research work on the fluid dynamics of blood flow.

Nick is also an occasional science broadcaster and has appeared in documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4, National Geographic and The Weather Channel. Contributions include Krakatoa Revealed (2006), The Volcano That Stopped the World (2010), The Birth of Britain (2011), The Birth of Europe (2012), Top Ten Natural Disasters (2014) and for WAGTV What on Earth (2016).

Nick is currently championing social enterprise and social entrepreneurship across the UK university sector and beyond. Partners include Social Enterprise UK, Big Society Capital, UnLtd and the Social Economy Alliance. He has worked with the UK Cabinet Office to promote social value in procurement and more recently with John Bird, found of the Big Issue, on creating a ‘Social Echo’ in Northampton. Overseas activity in this area includes collaborations with the British Council in South Korea and India. In 2013 he led Northampton to become the first Ashoka U Changemaker Campus in the UK. In 2017 the University was awarded the Social Enterprise Gold Mark in recognition of practitioner excellence and Gold in the UK national Teaching Excellence Framework, citing work in social innovation.

Nick has extensive experience serving on professional bodies at Board level. He is Chair of the Northamptonshire Health and Wellbeing Board and UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of London, Royal Society of the Arts and American Geophysical Union. He is a Director of Floodstop, a university spin-out company that manufactures and sells flood defence barriers and Non-Executive Director of Starcrest Education. Nick was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant of Northamptonshire in October 2019.


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