Professor Eddie Pelan BSc, MSc, PhD, MInstP

Professor Eddie Pelan

School of Chemical Engineering
Professor of Chemical Engineering

Contact details

School of Chemical Engineering
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

In February 2018 Eddie was appointed Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham. Eddie has more than 40 papers covering a wide range of areas and more than 25 patents. Eddie has an industrial research background, after having worked for more than 30 years for a large multinational FMCG company, Unilever Research, engaged in basic research for product and process innovation.

His areas of interest and expertise include food (edible soft matter) physics and he is interested in commonly occurring colloidal states, namely liquids, gels, solids, emulsions and foams which are used in structuring many everyday products.

Eddie is a part of the Food Formulation Engineering Research group. By developing new formulation engineering methods and techniques, the team is creating cutting-edge and novel approaches to food processing and the development of healthier, higher performance products.

He has also worked in the non-foods areas of home and personal care, looking, together with external collaborators, at the mechanisms of cleaning of different stains, on different substrates, using different surfactants.


  • Full Professorship, University of Birmingham 2018
  • PhD Food Science, Leeds, 1994
  • MSc Opto-Electronics, QUB, 1985
  • BSc Pure & Applied Physics 1984


Eddie completed his undergraduate studies at the Queens University of Belfast. He obtained a BSc in Pure & Applied Physics in 1984 and an MSc in Opto-Electronics in 1985.  He joined Unilever Research in Colworth House in 1985, where he worked on the Corporate Research Program, and gained his PhD at Leeds (1994) on a part-time basis.

In 1996, Eddie moved to Unilever Research Vlaardingen in the Netherlands were he spend time in various roles in different foods categories, including a six month secondment to the biggest margarine factory in the world at the time, Nassaukade, Rotterdam.

In 2002, Eddie became the department Director of the Product Structuring Group. The group had 50 scientists who were responsible for creating the innovations for future products. Eddie was also on the Vlaardingen Laboratory management team which set strategy, and ran the lab operationally for 400+ scientists.

In 2008, Eddie moved out of a food based research role to cover the research of home and personal care, and became the Global Strategic Science Director for structuring across all of Unilever R&D. This role was one of interacting with external experts, such as academia and new start-ups. He fulfilled this role until 2017 when he left the company. 


Eddie has taught many internal personnel on the internal Unilever Research Academy courses. He has also been a guest lecturer at the University of Surrey over a five year period. With his recent appointment in the School of Chemical Engineering, he has started to contribute to the MSc syllabus.

Postgraduate supervision

Eddie has experience as an Industrial Supervisor for many students, across many Unilever projects during his career there.  This has included short term stages, summer students, and EngDs, PhDs, and coaching of Research Fellows. Eddie has also been an external examiner of PhD thesis, both in the Netherlands and the UK. 


Recent work has looked at the physical and chemical stability of various surfactant systems under storage and in use for HPC products. Models to predict instabilities have been developed and experimentally verified. Results are confidential. Various challenges on replacing dairy proteins with sustainable plant based proteins for several product classes have been evaluated. Replacement of ingredients with E-numbers for other or novel, natural ingredients without E-numbers have been an important theme in Eddies’ industrial research interests.

Other activities

Eddie has represented Unilever Research at various national and international bodies/discussions.

In the Netherlands he was one of the key contacts for the lab to the TIFN Institute for six years, until he left the Unilever representative in the Dutch National TKI programme. (EPSRC type body).

Eddie was the company contact for a large 4.4mEuro/5 year programme with the Dutch science organisation, NOW, and 3 academic bodies: AMOLF, University of Amsterdam, and Wageningen University.

Eddie is an internal expert on aspects of nano-technology related to food. He has given evidence to a House of Lords special committee review of this area, which reported its findings in 2010.