The unsung heros of higher education
Neil is part of a diverse and highly skilled team of University technicians whose job it is to support academic research, teaching and learning. Often seen as the unsung heros of higher education their contribution to the teaching and learning experience is beginning to gain wider recognition.
Neil said: "I am delighted to have been awarded such a prestigious award. I would like to thank my colleagues, past and present, for being instrumental in providing me with the unique skill set required."
As well as his social media exploits Neil performs live for university lectures and has taken part in a Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution in front of royalty. At the dinner following his lecture, HRH the Duke of Kent described him as a "silent rogue".
Neil’s enthusiastic participation in the videos is entirely voluntary and he fits filming in around his normal duties as a technician. His outreach work was recognised in the inaugural Papin Prizes, in 2015. These awards are presented to individual technicians across the Midlands region who have demonstrated excellence.
Jonathan Hirst, Professor of Computational Chemistry and Head of the School of Chemistry, said: “Our technical staff are the cornerstone of much of the School’s activity. Neil has supported and inspired many students and colleagues in the School, and much more widely through social media. I am delighted that his achievements have been recognized by the Royal Society of Chemistry.”
Technician to social media star
The last seven years have seen Neil become a social media star as the main demonstrator of experiments on the Periodic Videos which has attracted more than 117 million views and has over 700,000 subscribers. His frequently explosive demonstrations has seen him blow up pumpkins for Halloween; drop glowing coals into liquid oxygen, and devise special equipment such as the ‘small metallic collider’, a hinged hammer activated by a long string to safely break ampoules of dangerous compounds; and a far more controlled method for cracking ampoules under water.
Professor Martyn Poliakoff, who has become the face of the Periodic Videos, said: "Neil is a key person in the success of our videos. His enthusiasm, knowledge of chemistry and silent acting skills have made him a super-hero of chemistry.
"He is an excellent ambassador for chemistry, for Nottingham and for the role of University Technicians. And he is fun to work with!"
Exploding Hydrogen Bubbles
See below for Neil Barnes in explosive Periodic Videos action with Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff - Film by James Hennessy and Brady Haran