Dear Alumni,


Welcome to this year’s newsletter. This year has been full of challenges as the School has continued to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. Lectures were delivered to students largely online, with staff making tremendous efforts to develop and deliver new content. The students’ welfare has been our top concern, with weekly online personal tutorials being introduced across all years, with joint year group tutorials being an innovation which the first years really appreciated to help them settle down into their studies. We are delighted to report that the 2021 National Student Survey results remained strong, with the School again being ranked third for overall satisfaction amongst our peers. As we move forward to the 2021-22 academic year, we remain hopeful that we will be able to maximise face-to-face teaching, tutorials and laboratories.

The School continues to deliver impactful research, shaped by recent global events. Dr Richard Moakes and Professor Liam Grover developed a new nasal spray that has been shown to inhibit infection by COVID-19. Liam and his team have also been working on a revolutionary eye drop to minimise scarring following eye trauma, infection or surgery. Professors Yulong Ding and Toby Peters are developing new policy, regulatory environments and technologies for the cold supply chain, highly relevant when one considers the need to keep vaccines cold as they are administered globally.

This will be my last introduction as Head of School as my term of office completed at the end of this academic year. I wish my successor, Professor Gary Leeke, all the very best as he takes up the position and I know he is looking forward to introducing himself to you all.

With very best wishes,

Professor Mark Simmons
Outgoing Head of the School of Chemical Engineering and Professor of Fluid Mechanics


Hello everyone,

Gary Leeke

Thank you for the introduction Mark and thank you for your excellent leadership and humour over the last seven years. You are a hard act to follow! I am excited about guiding the School over the next four years and updating you on future exciting developments.

As a short introduction, I gained my PhD under the direction of the late Michael King from the University of Birmingham in 2000. My PhD focused on high pressure phase equilibria and mass transfer – core chemical engineering! After my PhD, I took up a post-doctoral researcher post and then spent a spell in industry where I executed research and development for the oil, gas and water industries. Returning to Birmingham to undertake further post-doctoral research, I was awarded a lectureship in 2006, progressing to Reader in Low Carbon Technologies in 2013.

In April 2016 I moved to Cranfield University to take up a position as Professor and Head of Bioenergy and Resource Management. I returned to the University of Birmingham in December 2018 as Professor of Chemical Engineering.

It’s my pleasure to introduce this year’s Chemical Engineering Alumni Newsletter with Mark. As he says, this year has certainly had it’s challenges but in spite of the circumstances we still have much to celebrate. We are proud to have made significant break-throughs in several research specialism including but not restricted to clean cold, devices for detecting traumatic brain injuries, renewable refrigeration technologies, scalable process for the chemical recycling of PET, and of course our continued efforts in the global fight against COVID-19.

Alongside this leading research, a number of our colleagues have received prestigious academic awards, including:

Professor Paula Mendes has been awarded the Sharma Medal by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE). The medal honours sustained and outstanding research contributions in chemical engineering during her academic career to date.

Professor Mendes made exceptional advances at the intersection of engineering novel, functional materials and applying them to healthcare. Through her interdisciplinary work, she has been developing stimuli-responsive and molecularly engineered materials for biological and medical sensors. Most recently, with support of Prostate Cancer UK, Professor Mendes’ research on smart sensor chips is helping improve the accuracy and efficiency of prostate cancer diagnosis that rely on the subtle differences between glycoprotein molecules.

In February, Professor Yulong Ding was awarded the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Clean Energy Medal Award. Director of the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage (BCES), Professor Ding was awarded the medal in recognition of his continued service in the field of Clean Energy, including his outstanding academic research and commercialisation of technologies that can help mitigate climate change.

Speaking on his award, Professor Ding said: “I am so pleased to have been presented with the IChemE Clean Energy medal. This award is a recognition of the collective and continuous efforts of my colleagues and collaborators from around the world over the past two decades.”

I understand you, our alumni, have also been supporting our School and students more than ever this last year. I am very grateful to everyone who had kindly volunteered your time over the course of the academic year. This includes mentors, advisory board members, guest speakers, graduates featuring at Open Days, and even some of the international alumni group leaders. If you'd like to get involved too, please get in touch with our Alumni Relations Manager, Grace Surman on

I am excited about guiding the School over the next four years and updating you on future exciting developments. I hope to see you in the School soon.

Kind regards,

Professor Gary Leeke
Head of the School of Chemical Engineering 

Read the 2021 Chemical Engineering Alumni Newsletter here.