Prof Tim Softley 900
Professor Tim Softley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer

One of the University of Birmingham’s leading scientists and senior academics has been named amongst the most eminent scientists and technologists in the UK and the Commonwealth.

Professor Tim Softley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. One of the highest accolades a scientist can achieve, Tim joins around 1,600 Fellows and Foreign Members, including around 80 Nobel Laureates who have been recognised over the years for their exceptional contributions to science.

Reacting to the news, Professor Softley said: “Some people have likened being made a Fellow of the Royal Society to receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars; it’s the scientific equivalent.

"Around 60 Fellows are elected each year by the Royal Society – it’s a peer recognition exercise – and for many of us academics, being elected by our peers is perhaps the greatest recognition that we can receive.

“I was truly excited and honoured to receive the letter saying that I was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. When you look at the list of names of people who’ve been Fellows of the Royal Society in the past, it goes right back to Newton, Einstein, Faraday, Rutherford… people who I can only hope to sweep up the crumbs of their scientific table and it’s really quite humbling to see yourself numbered among such greats of science.

“It’s also a great honour for the people who’ve worked with me…the 40 or so graduate students over 30 years, the post-docs and even the technicians, who’ve really played an important role in developing our experimental research.”

In addition to his leadership role within the University, Professor Softley’s current research interests are in the field of ultracold chemistry and also in the interaction of laser-excited atoms and molecules with solid surfaces. His experimental research programme is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the EU Horizon 2020 programme, and by the Wiener Anspach Foundation. He has collaborators in the US, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, France, Austria and Denmark as well as the UK (Oxford, Sussex, Durham).

Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, says: “Our Fellows are key to the Royal Society’s fundamental purpose of using science for the benefit of humanity.

"From Norwich to Melbourne to Ethiopia, this year’s newly elected Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society are testament that science is a global endeavour and excellent ideas transcend borders.

"We also recognise the cutting edge innovation taking place across industry, with many of this year’s Fellows coming from the thriving tech industry.

"For their outstanding contributions to research and innovation, both now and in the future, it gives me great pleasure to welcome the world’s best scientists into the ranks of the Royal Society.”

For more information please contact Dominic Benson, Deputy Director of Communications, University of Birmingham, on +44 121 414 5134. Alternatively, contact the Press Office out of hours on +44 (0)7789 921165.

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.
  • About the Royal Society:
  1. The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from the UK and the Commonwealth.
  2. There are approximately 1,600 Fellows and Foreign Members, including around 80 Nobel Laureates. Each year up to 52 Fellows and up to 10 Foreign Members are elected from a group of around 700 candidates who are proposed by the existing Fellowship.
  3. Fellows and Foreign Members are elected for life through a peer review process on the basis of excellence in science. Each candidate is considered on his or her own merits and can be proposed from any sector of the scientific community. Every effort is made to encourage nominations of women candidates and candidates from the emerging disciplines.
  4.  New Fellows are formally admitted to the Society at the Admissions Day ceremony in July, when they sign the Charter Book and the Obligation of the Fellows of the Royal Society.