Announcing the honour today (Wednesday 9 May), the Royal Society recognised Professor Tim Softley for his advances in two areas of Chemical Physics. First, the study of atoms and molecules in highly excited quantum states, known as ‘Rydberg states’. He has used his understanding of their properties, gained from laser spectroscopy and theory, to develop new applications including the study of model charge-transfer processes at solid-gas interfaces. Second, he has pioneered unique experiments utilising combinations of novel physical devices for making cold atoms, molecules and ions, for studying the kinetics and dynamics of chemical processes at ultralow temperatures - close to the absolute zero of temperature - where quantum effects determine the reactivity.

The highly prestigious Fellowship of the Royal Society is made up of the most eminent scientists, engineers and technologists from or working in the UK and the Commonwealth.

Much of Professor Tim Softley’s work was conducted in a 25-year period at Merton College and the University of Oxford, where he was Head of the Chemistry Department 2011-2015. Previously he was a Royal Society University Research Fellow at Cambridge, a Harkness Fellow at Stanford, and completed a PhD with Professor Alan Carrington FRS at Southampton. He was awarded the Corday Morgan Medal of the RSC in 1994.

Since 2015 he has been Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Birmingham.

Professor Tim Softley

Professor Tim Softley

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research & Knowledge Transfer)

“I was truly excited to receive the letter saying that I was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society. Deeply honoured as well. It’s really quite a humbling experience to look at the list of former Fellows of the Royal Society – Newton, Einstein, Rutherford, Charles Darwin – people who I can only hope to sweep up the crumbs off their scientific table. I also think it’s a great honour for the people who’ve worked with me…the forty 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.”