EPS Distinguished Lecture: Professor David Phillips

Alumni, Engineering and Physical Sciences, Lectures Talks and Workshops, Students
Tuesday 6th March 2018 (18:00-19:30)
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Grace Surman eps-community@contacts.bham.ac.uk or +44(0)121 414 9226

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Light Up Your Life

Professor David Phillips, Past-President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, shares his tale of a personal journey from raw Birmingham undergraduate in 1958 through a successful academic career, to the present state of supposed retirement but extraordinarily busy and fulfilling life. He will begin by describing the University as it was, and recount anecdotes of staff and fellow students of the time. An indication will be given of the research Professor Phillips carried out during his PhD which led to his lifelong interest in and passion for photochemistry, pursued first via a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Texas at Austin (in the immediate aftermath of the assassination in Dallas of President John F Kennedy). Texas felt at times extreme, but a year spent as a Royal Society/Academy of Sciences of USSR Exchange Fellow in Moscow 1966/7, at the height of the ‘Cold War’, was more so! Professor Phillips will tell of adventures in both places (including dancing with two of the star ballerinas of the Bolshoi) and give an idea of what science was being done. The story will then continue on through ten years at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, followed by 28 years at Imperial College detailing both his successes and set-backs.  He will give a flavour of his research done on ultrafast reactions and photodynamic therapy of cancer, possibly with a few demonstrations. The moral of this story will be to make the most of opportunities, take chances, not always to go for safe options, and above all to enjoy life!


David Phillips was born in 1939 and educated in the north east of England and at the University of Birmingham (BSc Chemistry, 1961 and PhD, 1964). He enjoyed postdoctoral experience in Austin, Texas, USA and in Moscow, USSR, before joining the University of Southampton as a Lecturer in Physical Chemistry in 1967. He left as Reader in 1980 to become Wolfson Professor of Natural Philosophy at The Royal Institution, subsequently becoming Acting Director 1986 and the Deputy Director 1987-89. He became Professor of Physical Chemistry at Imperial College London in 1989, Head of Department of Chemistry 1992-2002 and Hofmann Professor of Chemistry 1999-2006, Dean of the Faculties of Life Sciences and Physical Sciences 2002-2005 and Senior Dean 2005-2006.  

David Phillips gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures (jointly with John Meurig Thomas) on BBC TV in 1986-87 and many series abroad, including the Queen’s Anniversary Lecture in Berlin.  He has broadcast for TV and radio on his research interests, popular science and the state of British science.  He was awarded the RSC Nyholm Lectureship and Medal in 1994-95 for services to Chemical Education, the Michael Faraday Award of the Royal Society, London for public understanding of science. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2015.

He received OBE in The Queen's Birthday Honours in June 1999 for services to science education, and CBE in the New Year’s Honours list, 2011/12 for services to Chemistry. He is the author of many books and research papers (some 598 in all) in the field of photochemistry and laser research. He was a President of the Royal Society of Chemistry 2010-12.




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