Dr Dirk Smit

Oxford Martin Visiting Fellow

Dirk graduated from Utrecht University in 1989 with a PhD in Mathematical Physics, String Theory. He went on to complete a postdoc at Berkeley and was awarded a subsequent postdoc at Harvard University. He joined Shell’s Geophysics R&D department in the Netherlands in 1992.

While at Shell he has held numerous positions, including Chief Geophysicist for Shell UK, and Vice President Exploration and Upstream Technology. From 2015 as VP Research Strategy his work shifted to “systems thinking and engineering” aspects of the energy transition to a net-zero emission system and became Shell’s first Corporate Chief Scientist (Chief Science Officer) in 2019. He is frequently asked as a keynote speaker in Europe, US and Asia, and writes about aspects of the energy transition. In his role as Corporate Chief Scientist he has been advising Shell’s Executive Committee and Board.

Throughout his career he has held several Academic positions and has served on several Academic boards: an Adjunct Professor in Integrated Energy Systems at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India. Dirk served as a member of the National Research Council on Solid Earth Observations in the US between 2004 and 2007 and has been for 9 years a member of the National Dutch Science Board for Basic Science in the Netherlands. He also has been a member of the MIT Presidential Advisory Committee until 2021.

He retired from Shell in November 2023. He was awarded an Oxford University stipend scholarship and will join Oxford University (Oxford Martin School and Earth Sciences) for a good part of 2024. He has furthermore become an affiliate of the MIT Energy Initiative and the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, where he plans to relocate to in 2025. Nex to his Academic roles he is currently involved with energy strategy consultancy to both governments in Europe and the DoE. But more hands-on, he has become involved with several Start-ups in Nuclear Fusion, Quantum Computing and more recently with HyTerra an Australian Start-up Exploring for Geologic Hydrogen.

He is the recipient of the Ludwig Mintrop Award in Geophysics from the EAGE in 2002. In 2018 he was awarded a University Fellowship of MIT at the Earth Research Lab in the Earth Sciences department, was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) in 2020 and in October 2023 he was elected Fellow of the Netherlands Academic of Engineering (NAE).

In his spare time, Dirk is a keen sailor having his own sailing boat and as well an amateur astronomer. Together with his son, enjoys searching the deep skies through an 11 inch SCT (telescope) during long Dutch winter nights.