Chemistry researchers among winners of Royal Society prizes

Chemistry researchers among winners of Royal Society prizes

Congratulations to Professors Charlotte Williams and Iain McCulloch, who are both recipients of awards in this year’s Royal Society prizes.

Prof. Williams receives the Leverhulme Medal for her pioneering work developing and understanding high performance carbon dioxide utilization catalysts and chemistry of next-generation plastic materials. Prof. McCulloch receives the Royal Society Armourers and Brasiers Company Prize for making fundamental contributions to the application of materials chemistry to organic electronic applications, with an applied, results-oriented focus, demonstrating translational impact and commercial potential.

Head and shoulders photo of Charlotte Williams standing in front of a white background.

Prof. Williams researches the chemistry of next generation plastics and materials: products designed to deliver high performances in applications but with minimal environmental impacts. Her work focuses on addressing fundamental challenges in catalysis (to reduce energy input in manufacturing) and on polymer chemistry, involving close collaboration with scientists and engineers in both academic and industrial laboratories.

She said:

I am inspired to work on applied problems and to try to reduce negative environmental impacts associated with polymer production. In particular, I am interested in carbon dioxide recycling to make useful products with lower greenhouse gas emissions, and producing materials from mixtures of raw materials – an achievement that nature makes look easy, but is a major challenge in chemistry.

Photo of Iain McCulloch

Prof. McCulloch’s research focuses on creating new organic materials which have unique electrical and optical functionality, capable of enabling new applications in displays, electronics, photovoltaics and sensors. Applications of these materials include transforming optical energy to electrical power in solar cells, detecting metabolites in bioelectronic sensors, acting as electrical semiconductors in transistors, and generating hydrogen fuel from the photochemical reduction of water.

He said:

Climate crisis and the protection of our environment is one of the biggest societal issues facing us right now, and chemistry has a role to play in offering new alternatives and solutions. Our research in solar energy and solar fuels can help to move these technologies firmly into the mainstream, eliminating our dependency on fossil fuels.

The team behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine was awarded the Copley Medal, the world’s oldest scientific prize – this is the first time this award has been given to a team in its nearly 300-year history.

Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society said,

On behalf of the Royal Society, I offer my congratulations to the outstanding researchers, individuals and teams whose contributions to our collective scientific endeavour have helped further our understanding of the world around us. Science has always been a team game, and I’m proud to see such a wide array of skills and specialisms reflected in this year’s medals and awards.

From the original ideas that open up new fields, to the team effort that delivered the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, or the vital work of technicians and those opening doors for the next generation of talented researchers – I am proud that we can celebrate outstanding scientific contributions in all their forms.

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.