Spotlight on... Mark Maslin

Mark Maslin
Mark Maslin
This week we meet Mark Maslin, newly appointed joint Pro-Vice Provost of the UCL Climate Crisis Grand Challenge. Mark chats to us about what he hopes to achieve in the role, his dream lunch with the Thunderbirds crew and his own international rescue mission to save the planet.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I have just started as Pro-Vice Provost of the UCL Climate Crisis Grand Challenge, a joint role with the brilliant ProfessoráLisa Vanhala. Together, we are promoting and enhancing the amazing research we do in every faculty across UCL on understanding, dealing with, and helping to solve the climate crisis. The average global temperature for the last 12 months was 1.5?C above pre-industrial levels - and breaks the aspirational target agreed by world leaders in 2015 in Paris. Last year, 200 days out of 365 were the warmest day on record. We are truly in a climate crisis. But Lisa’s and my role will also include promoting our world-class research and helping to engage with policymakers all’around the world. We are also supporting UCL’s efforts to become one of the greenest universities in the country. Yes I know - small job and limited ambition! Luckily there are two of us and we have the full backing of the College.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I have been at UCL a long time and I have done everything from undergraduate tutor, Head of Department, Director of the UCL Environment Institute, and Director of NERC London Doctoral Training Partnership. I have even been supported by the Royal Society and UCL to set up my own spinout company using AI geoanalytics to solve environmental issues from forestry inventory to dam safety.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I am most proud of building the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership with ProfessoráKevin Fowler - together we builtáa multi-institution PhD training programme that empowered the students and trained them in all’aspects of environmental science. Critical to its success is that students chose and developed their own projects and supervisory team. Over 300 PhD students have been funded by this programme and have all gone on to successful careers all’around the world. Central to the success of this programme is the collaborative and supportive environment of UCL, allowing us to work with leading research institutes and universities across London. I left the programme in the very safe hands ProfessoráKevin Fowler (GEE) and ProfessoráDavid Thornalley (Geography) and it has gone from strength to strength.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list

I am a founding member of the Climate Crisis Advisory Group which is led by Sir David King. We have just been commissioned to research and write a report on the current state and future of the voluntary carbon markets and to make recommendations onáhow science can be used to improveáreliability and transparency. So despite having a full to-do list - this is now at the very top.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

I have great difficulty answering this question as I have such eclectic taste. My musical tastes range from late baroque classical to 1980s synthesiser pop and from French fusion jazz to Mongolian heavy metal. My tastes in films and books are equally varied. And my favourite film all depends on my mood and my bookshelves are full of my favourite novels.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

What do you call a man with a spade in his head - Doug

What do you call a man without a spade in his head? - Douglas

What do you call a man with seagull on his head? - Cliff

What do you call a girl in a middle of a tennis court? - Annett

The others in this list are rude - so cannot be printed here!

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

I would like to get all my boyhood heroes together - Captain Kirk, General/Princess Leia, Han Solo, Lara Croft, and Captain Scarlet. I would, however,áswap this for lunch on Tracy Island with International Rescue (aka The Thunderbirds).

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would give my younger self the same advice I give to everyone - ignore the people that say you cannot achieve what you want to do. As they are wrong, if you want to do something new, novel, difficult, challenging - you do it. And if you fail the first time you will have learnt probably more than if you succeeded and, of course, just keep trying. And remember there are two types of people in this world; energy givers - those who encourage, support, and cheer you on and energy drainers who just try to hold you back and should be avoided.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I think most people are surprised that I grew up in relative poverty and went to the local comprehensive school. My mother never tired of telling me that when she was pregnant with me she had to drag to coal home for the fire because they were too poor to have it delivered. And my kids are horrified that my junior school only had outside toilets. I strongly believe at UCL we should share our wonderful, varied backgrounds to make our community as inclusive as possible.

What is your favourite place?

My sofa. There is a wonderful moment at the weekend, when I get up and allow my wonderful partner to sleep in. I feed the cat, make a coffee, and stretch out on the sofa and read a book. The cat climbs onto my legs and curls up and I have a secret hour of me time - before making our breakfast and plotting together how we are going to save the planet - this week.
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