Hazel Prichard was born in Liss, near Petersfield, Hampshire on 21 December 1954 and studied geology and physical geography at the University of Hull (1973-76) before going on to a PhD (1976-79) at Newcastle University.
She began her career as a European Union postdoctoral fellow at the Open University, where she worked for most of the period from 1979 to 1986, and then became a Royal Society fellow first at the OU (1986-92) and then at Cardiff University (1992-96).
Once established at Cardiff’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Professor Prichard rose through the ranks to lecturer, senior lecturer, reader and professor. She served as director of the MSc in mineral resources (1998-2000) and director of the exploration and resource geology BSc degree scheme (2004-14), where she devoted considerable efforts to developing its associated industrial placement scheme.
An energetic researcher until shortly before her death, Professor Prichard made a major contribution to exploration geology, particularly through work she carried out on the Shetland Islands. One of her major interests was ophiolites – sections of the Earth’s crust that have been lifted up above sea level – which were generally considered not to be rich in platinum. Her pioneering research, however, indicated that they could in certain circumstances be enriched by the six platinum group elements (PGEs). Her 1989 EU report on this topic was specifically singled out for praise.
Later in her career, Professor Prichard turned her attention to the dispersion routes of anthropogenic PGEs released by catalytic converters fitted to vehicle exhausts. These were particularly prevalent, she discovered, along roads where traffic flow was high, but also in acid mine drainage and UK sewage ash. Her findings may well have potential for economic exploitation.
As well as sharing with Lynne Macaskie a 2004 Royal Society Senior Brian Mercer Award for Innovation, Professor Prichard got a chance to use tomography to examine the textures of PGE-rich chromites in Australia when she was appointed in 2010 as a distinguished visiting scientist at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
Ian Hall, head of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Cardiff, said: “Committed to undergraduate teaching and the value of industrial placements, Hazel continued to support these activities for as long as she was able during her illness. Her passion for the industrial placement scheme was infectious, and it supported many young geologists who are now themselves prominent industrialists. As a result, Hazel was deeply respected by students and won the Cardiff Employability Award in the Enriching Student Life Awards 2014.”
Professor Prichard died on 1 January and is survived by her husband David.