Professor Alastair Lewis FRSC
Winner: 2022 Lord Lewis Prize
University of York and National Centre for Atmospheric Science
For the promotion and application of the chemical sciences to support development of evidence-based policy and regulation in the fields of air pollution and climate change.
Celebrate Professor Alastair Lewis
Professor Lewis’s research aims to understand where pollution comes from, the impacts it has on health and the environment and how it can be reduced. This involves measurements made in the field and directly from sources such as vehicles, and the use of that data in models. A major part of his career has been spent assessing the impacts of different policies and interventions that have been introduced to address poor air quality and climate change.Read winner biography
Alastair Lewis is Professor of Atmospheric chemistry at the University of York and a Science Director at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. He is currently Chair of the Defra Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) and the Science Advisory Council of the Department for Transport.
Professor Lewis is an experimental scientist who studies the chemical composition of the atmosphere and the impacts of pollution: from polar regions to megacities, open oceans to tropical forests. He recently led a major bilateral UK–China research collaboration on reducing air pollution in Beijing, and helped establish a network of observational supersites for air quality within the UK. His research spans the development of new instruments for air pollution measurement, field measurements and the evaluation of the effects of emission control policies on air quality.
His awards include the Royal Society of Chemistry John Jeyes Award for Environment, Energy and Sustainability and its Silver Medal for Analytical Science. He has received a Philip Leverhulme Award and the Desty Memorial Prize in separation science. He has authored more than 300 peer-reviewed articles on air pollution and related science and has been a member of science advisory boards of the World Meteorological Organisation and UN Environment Programme.
What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in chemistry?
There is far more to chemistry than test tubes and white coats. Chemistry is our common language and set of scientific principles, but it can be applied in a career in so many different ways. I use chemistry with electronics and instrumentation, whilst I have colleagues who combine chemistry with high performance computing, and others who use their chemical skills in policy and public health. It is a brilliant starting point for far more jobs than people might think.
What does good research culture look like/mean to you?
A good research culture is one where people really enjoy their work, and where Monday mornings hold no fear for anyone. Doing research is inevitably hard and difficult and things endlessly fail or don't work as you want them to. It needs dogged persistence. But a positive research culture embraces that, makes sure that everyone feels they're in it together, that we support each other when things go wrong, and celebrate when things just occasionally go right.
How are the chemical sciences making the world a better place?
Chemical sciences and chemical innovation holds the key to solving so many major challenges that society faces. In my own area of research, new chemistry will help us move away from combustion to cleaner forms of energy storage and propulsion. It will help us make new materials that lower emissions and human impacts: from tiny particles released from tyres, to greenhouse gases from energy production.
Why do you think teamwork is important in science?
Teamwork is fundamental to the kind of research I do. There is a fantastic community in atmospheric chemistry that has always been open to collaboration and that regularly comes together to deliver the big experiments that change the field. It’s impossible for one researcher, or lab, or even university, to have the range of capabilities that are needed to really make progress. It’s by combining our instruments, models and theories that we can keep pace and continue to work at the international cutting edge.