Professor Richard Catlow
Winner: 2020 Faraday Lectureship Prize
University College London and Cardiff University
For the development and application of computational methods in conjunction with experiment as powerful and predictive tools in the physical chemistry of solids.
Celebrate Professor Richard Catlow
Professor Catlow’s research has exploited and continues to exploit the latest developments in computational technology, used in direct conjunction with experiments (especially employing synchrotron X-Ray and neutron scattering techniques) to model and predict at the atomic and molecular level of the properties of complex materials.
While advancing fundamental knowledge in a rapidly developing field of contemporary chemistry, the work is also of direct relevance to areas of key societal and economic importance, including materials for renewable energy and environmentally benign catalytic technologies. Professor Catlow’s work has always had strong interactions with industry and computational modelling of materials is now used widely and routinely in the chemicals industry.Read full biography
Professor Richard Catlow’s early career was at Oxford University and University College London, with much of his research being undertaken at the Atomic Energy Research establishment at Harwell. He then moved to Keele University, working jointly with the Synchrotron Radiation Facility at Daresbury. He then returned to London to take up a Chair at the Royal Institution, where he worked for over 15 years, before re-joining UCL as Head of Chemistry and subsequently Dean of Mathematical and Physical sciences. Since 2015, Professor Catlow has held a joint professorial position between Cardiff University and UCL.
Throughout his career, Professor Catlow’s research programme has been based on the development and application of computational techniques used in direct conjunction with experiments in probing the properties of complex materials, especially those of importance in catalytic and energy technologies.
How did you first become interested in chemistry?
When I was a kid I remember having fun with a chemistry set, but I became really interested at school, where I had an excellent chemistry teacher from whom I learned of the fascination, rigour and importance of the discipline.
Who or what has inspired you?
This is very difficult to answer as in my education and subsequent research career I have met many inspirational scientists. If I was to pick one historical figure, it would be Faraday for his amazing achievements and life story.
But I should mention that I was inspired to base my career in science by my experience working as a PhD student in the outstanding theory group at the Harwell Atomic Energy Labs in the 1970s.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Developing and adapting computational modelling techniques so that they became of direct relevance to the chemistry of materials.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in chemistry?
I would advise that there is no more exciting and important discipline which will be key to solving the global challenges of this century.
Why do you think international collaboration is important in science?
International collaboration is essential. Science is global and thrives when people from different cultures and intellectual backgrounds exchange ideas and collaborate. Scientists, especially early in their careers, deepen their knowledge and experience by working with others from around the world.
Why do you think interdisciplinary research and collaboration is important in science?
Although we must not neglect the core areas of disciplines, interdisciplinary research and collaboration is increasingly important when tackling the complex challenges in contemporary science and technology. In my own case I have benefitted by fruitful interaction with materials scientists, physicists, biomolecular scientists, mineralogists and computer scientists.
What is your favourite element?
Not easy to answer, but I will go for silicon because of the amazingly diverse and beautiful range of atomic architectures of silicon compounds.