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Professor Alex Halliday FRS met with the University’s Fellows of the Royal Society and early-career researchers.

Vice-President of Royal Society visits University of Exeter

One of the UK’s leading scientists has praised the “energy, commitment and enthusiasm” of researchers at the University of Exeter, during a special visit.

Professor Alex Halliday FRS, who is Vice-President and Physical Secretary of The Royal Society, offered the tribute following a three-day visit to the University’s Streatham Campus in Devon and Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

Professor Halliday, who was raised in Penzance in Cornwall, met with four of the University’s Fellows of the Royal Society; Professor Roy Sambles FRS, who is also President of the Institute of Physics, Professor Andy Watson FRS, Royal Society Research Professor, Professor Phil Ingham FRS, Director of the Living Systems Institute, and Exeter’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Impact, Professor Nick Talbot FRS and Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor Sir Steve Smith.

He also met with early-career researchers, including several of the University’s eight Royal Society University Research Fellows, a scheme which funds the most promising young scientists from across the physical and life sciences.

Professor Halliday discussed a number of issues facing the sciences, including recent changes to the funding environment, Brexit, and career development for young scientists. He also saw examples of some of the world-leading research being conducted by Royal-Society-funded academics at the University.

As part of the visit, Professor Halliday was shown Exeter’s new Living Systems Institute by its Director Professor Phil Ingham, the £52 million flagship research institute that is undertaking interdisciplinary research spanning mathematics, physics, cell and molecular biology and genetics to analyse biological processes.

At Penryn, Professor Halliday visited some of the new cutting-edge research facilities on the campus, including the Camborne School of Mines and the interdisciplinary Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI).

Speaking after the visit, Professor Halliday said: “We need universities with a vision for research and education and a commitment to benefit the world more broadly. Exeter is doing an impressive job at rising to this challenge.

“It was great to see so much bold growth and innovation. However, it was particularly energising to meet the people; I was inspired by them, their enthusiasm and their science. It was a brilliant visit.”
Professor Halliday has been Professor of Geochemistry at Oxford University since October 2004. He had previously spent 12 years as a professor at the University of Michigan and then six years in Switzerland, where he was Head of the Department of Earth Sciences at the ETH in Zürich. His research involves the use of isotopic methods to study Earth and planetary processes.

An enthusiast for technological innovation, most his recent research is in developing and using new mass spectrometry techniques to shed light on the origin and early development of the solar system and recent Earth processes, such as continental erosion and climate. However, he has also been engaged in other studies, such as the mechanisms of volcanic eruptions, and the formation of mineral and hydrocarbon deposits.

His scientific accomplishments have been recognised with awards including the Murchison Medal of the Geological Society, the Bowen Award and Hess Medal of the American Geophysical Union, the Urey Medal of the European Association of Geochemistry and the Oxburgh Medal of Institute of Measurement and Control. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2000 and a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Sciences in 2015.

Date: 12 May 2017