Lecturers 2019

Celsius lecturer 2019 is:


Shell Professor of Reservoir Engineering, Department of Earth Science & Engineering, Imperial College, London, UK

A tale of X-ray vision, rocks, oil and carbon dioxide storage

The use of X-ray micro-tomography enables rock structure and fluid flow to be imaged in three dimensions at micron resolution and over timescales of a few seconds to hours.  This has transformed our understanding of how multiple fluid phases flow through the microscopic pore spaces of porous rock deep underground.  This understanding is necessary to design and manage many processes in the subsurface, including improved oil and gas recovery, unconventional hydrocarbon production, groundwater extraction and pollutant removal, and carbon dioxide storage to mitigate climate change.  Indeed, the science of flow in porous media underpins many of this century’s most important challenges associated with access to clean water and energy, while dealing with the threat of climate change.  I will outline how with a combination of careful experiments on rock samples, imaging, analysis and modelling, the processes controlling flow and fluid retention in porous materials can be quantified. The trapping of fluids by capillary action can be facilitated to design the safe and effective storage of carbon dioxide in aquifers and depleted hydrocarbon fields, while the characterization and manipulation of of wettability is crucial for the efficient recovery of oil and pollutants.  The dynamics of pore-scale displacement will also be described to uncover new macroscopic equations that describe flow from the cm to km scales.


Martin Blunt joined Imperial College London in June 1999 as a Professor of Petroleum Engineering. He served as Head of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering from 2006-2011. Previous to this he was Associate Professor of Petroleum Engineering at Stanford University in California. Before joining Stanford in 1992, he was a research reservoir engineer with BP in Sunbury-on-Thames. He holds MA and PhD (1988) degrees in theoretical physics from Cambridge University.  Professor Blunt's research interests are in multiphase flow in porous media with applications to geological carbon storage, oil and gas recovery, and contaminant transport and clean-up in polluted aquifers. He performs experimental, theoretical and numerical research into many aspects of flow and transport in porous systems, including pore-scale modelling of displacement processes, and large-scale simulation using streamline-based methods.

Over the last five years, Prof. Blunt and his research team have pioneered the use of X-ray micro-tomography to image rocks and fluid displacement within them.  Displacement processes at reservoir conditions of high temperature and pressure can be imaged at micron spatial resolution over time periods of an hour to a few seconds, using a combination of laboratory and synchrotron-based instruments.  The work has allowed reservoir wettability to be evaluated at the pore scale, quantified the degree of capillary trapping during CO2 storage, uncovered the dynamic nature of displacement, even at low flow rates, and discovered new flow patterns during dissolution.  This research has been complemented by an array of pore-scale modelling techniques that are able to reproduce the behaviour seen experimentally. This work has helped establish the so-called discipline of “digital rock analysis” that combines pore-scale imaging, modelling and analysis to understand and predict displacement processes in porous media.  As well as commercial applications on the oil & gas industry, for both conventional and unconventional reservoirs, the work has been used to help design subsurface carbon dioxide storage and contaminant clean-up. 

Linné lecturer 2019 is:

Linda S. Birnbaum

Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S. Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program, North Carolina, USA

1.5˚ Celsius:  our climate, our environmental health, our future

Human health is directly impacted by the environments in which we live.  As the world changes around us, the complex relationship between our inherent genetic susceptibilities and the environmental influences that lead to health and wellness or disease also change.  Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Director of the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and National Toxicology Program, has spent nearly 40 years researching, evaluating and educating the public on risks associated with hazardous environmental exposures.  The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the places we live, work, and play all contribute to unnecessary burdens of disease and are opportunities to advance global environmental health and wellness.  By engaging in collaborative approaches for basic mechanistic research, predictive toxicology, exposure sciences, epidemiology, and training, we can address the complex challenges of 21st century environmental health.  In honor of the 2019 Celsius-Linnaeus Lectures hosted by Uppsala University, Dr. Birnbaum will address the question, How might public health be impacted by an environmental change of 1.5˚Celsius?


Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., is director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health, and the National Toxicology Program (NTP). A board-certified toxicologist, Birnbaum has served as a federal scientist for nearly 39 years. Prior to her appointment as NIEHS and NTP Director in 2009, she spent 19 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where she directed the largest division focusing on environmental health research.

Birnbaum has received many awards and recognitions. In 2016, she was awarded the North Carolina Award in Science. She was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, one of the highest honors in the fields of medicine and health. She was also elected to the Collegium Ramazzini, an independent, international academy comprised of internationally renowned experts in the fields of occupational and environmental health and received an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Rochester and a Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Illinois. She also received an Honorary Doctorate from Ben-Gurion University, Israel; the Surgeon General’s Medallion 2014; and 14 Scientific and Technological Achievement Awards, which reflect the recommendations of EPA’s external Science Advisory Board, for specific publications.

Birnbaum is an active member of the scientific community. She was vice president of the International Union of Toxicology, the umbrella organization for toxicology societies in more than 50 countries, and former president of the Society of Toxicology, the largest professional organization of toxicologists in the world. She is the author of more than 800 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, and reports. Birnbaum’s own research focuses on the pharmacokinetic behavior of environmental chemicals, mechanisms of action of toxicants including endocrine disruption, and linking of real-world exposures to health effects. She is also an adjunct professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, the Curriculum in Toxicology, and the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as in the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program at Duke University.

A native of New Jersey, Birnbaum received her M.S. and Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.