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Professor Richard Catlow FRS

Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of The Royal Society. Professor of Chemistry at University College London.

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While my own career has been based in the UK, my research programme has profited enormously from talented scientists from around the world and international interactions and collaborations have been absolutely crucial.


Professor Richard Catlow FRS is a professor in materials and computational chemistry working jointly between University College London (UCL) and Cardiff University and has been Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of The Royal Society since December 2016. He believes one of the real strengths of the UK university system is that it is actually very mobile; “People do move around a lot between different universities in the UK, and between countries. While my own career has been based in the UK, my research programme has profited enormously from talented scientists from around the world and international interactions and collaborations have been absolutely crucial. My brief experience as the Royal Society’s Foreign Secretary has also underlined the vital role of mobility for science and scientists."

Earlier in his career Richard was Director of the Davy Faraday Research Laboratory and Wolfson Professor of Natural Philosophy at the Royal Institution, Richard’s own career has benefited greatly from international perspectives; "Different groups around the world have different expertise. I've had over fifty people from other countries in my research group who have learned our research approaches and taken this knowledge back to China, India, Japan, Australia, the USA, and Europe. Similarly, I’ve recruited people from other countries and benefited from their specific expertise. Mobility promotes the transfer of expertise and I think it broadens horizons for individual scientists. It promotes a more open mind."

Richard was subsequently Dean of the Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at UCL for seven years. He believes mobility and working with different people is vital for bringing new perspectives and approaches; “As Dean at UCL, we greatly benefited from high levels of mobility, with many who worked in the faculty coming from outside the UK. Additionally, any contemporary scientist needs to attend conferences to meet and discuss ideas and no amount of electronic or web based communications can provide a satisfactory replacement."

Richard argues that the broadened horizons and benefits mobility brings scientists also feeds directly into the UK economy. Science has a substantial, positive effect on the UK economy; “I think there's nobody now who would argue against the fact that UK science is excellent. We're one of the strongest scientific nations in the world. The fact that we've got this mobile system is a key strength of UK science. The UK has been a very, very attractive place for talent, and particularly early career scientists. We really have to work hard to ensure we continue to be a destination of choice for scientists.”

Explore a timeline of Richard's career

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