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Nizar Ibrahim (BSc 2006) awarded TED Fellowship

Nizar Ibrahim Mark Federighi

Nizar Ibrahim (right) and his colleague, David Martill (left) Robert Loveridge

9 March 2015

After being named one of National Geographic's Emerging Explorers last year, Nizar Ibrahim (BSc 2006) has been appointed the first ever palaeontologist TED fellow. Nizar was part of the team that discovered the Spinosaurus which, at 50 feet nose-to-tail, was the largest predatory dinosaur to ever walk the earth.

My interest in dinosaurs started when I was five: I was given a book filled with prehistoric beasts who walked out of the depths of history onto the page and into my imagination.

Growing up in Berlin, I often visited paleontological exhibitions around Germany. My childhood obsession slowly grew into a more mature appetite for knowledge, and studying at Bristol was the stepping stone that helped turn my passion into a career.

As an undergraduate, I studied geology and biology, allowing me to explore both paleontological and zoological avenues, something that not many universities offered. Not only did Bristol provide me with a buzzing intellectual environment, but I also grew very fond of the city. The Wills Memorial Building, home to the School of Earth Sciences, will remain a symbol of my time in Bristol, as will visits to the zoo and afternoons spent strolling through Clifton.

This year I have been honoured to receive a fellowship at TED, a non-profit organisation devoted to spreading new ideas, usually in the form of talks and conferences. It is a real privilege and I am very excited to be part of this group of mavericks and innovators.

I really believe in putting my research out there and sharing it with as many people as possible, especially young people and the budding scientists of tomorrow. I am lucky enough to work in a field that takes me from scanning dinosaur bones in a laboratory to chipping away at prehistoric rock in Morocco, but exposing this world to a wider audience is as important as furthering my own understanding.

TED talks having been viewed online more than one billion times, so will provide great exposure for my field of study and for Africa. As well as this, the conferences offer access to an incredible network of experts and I can’t wait to meet the other fellows and learn more about their work.

Hopefully my audience will walk away with an appreciation of the true grandeur and vastness of the history of life on our planet, and what palaeontologists call 'deep time'. It’s easy for us to look around and see the world that’s in front of our eyes, but understanding what lies millions of years beneath that earth, whether you’re standing on a sand dune in North Africa or walking up the steps of the Wills Memorial Building, is the challenge that I am determined to explore and share with those around me.

Further information

Watch Nizar talk about his research for National Geographic. You can also read about his discovery of the Spinosaurus in The New York Times and Discover Magazine. Watch his talk at TED Youth 2014.