• United Kingdom

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Weathering of polyesters
Self-healing polyurethane coatings
Ageing of hydroxyalkanoate polymers
Sustainable materials
Materials for Biomedical Devices

Personal profile

Personal Statement

I studied chemistry at the University of Glasgow (BSc Hons, 1st class 1982) and subsequently obtained my PhD from the University for studies on the thermal degradation of thermoplastics in the presence of metal-ion complexes, supervised by Dr Ian McNeill.

Following post-doctoral research on permo-selective polymer membranes at Heriot-Watt University with Dr Jim Cameron and Dr Ian Soutar, I spent six years with ICI (subsequently Zeneca) at Wilton and Billingham on Teesside where I studied the melt processability of high temperature thermoplastics such as PEEK and PPS, and the biodegradable polymer BIOPOL, with a particular interest in crystallisation behaviour and plasticisation.

In 1994, I joined the University of Strathclyde where I am now Reader in Physical Chemistry.  My research group has a major research interests across a wide spectrum of polymer chemistry, physics and technology, including adhesion, crystallisation behaviour, physical ageing, nanocomposite technology and polymer processing.  One major focus is the elucidation of the mechanistic organic chemistry of polymer degradation processes, particularly in relationship to polymer durability, processing and fire response.  Although a mature field, polymer degradation science is undergoing something of a renaissance, with the field being driven forward by issues such as waste polymer recycling, the need for new biodegradable polymers to meet biomedical applications or to address environmental issues, and the requirement for a new generation of fire-retarded polymers avoiding the use of toxic additives.  

Current projects include investigations on the dielectric breakdown of PET used for photovoltaic devices, the use of surface chemical techniques for characterizing the photo-oxidation chemistry of polymers, the development of novel polyurethane adhesives for polymer laminates and the development of novel fire-retarded foams for the oil and gas industry.  We’ve even made better kitchen sinks!  Most of these projects involve an industrial partner, and my group prides itself on its industrial focus, and particularly its long term relationship with SME's such as Rumbol Products through the Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme. 

A major analytical tool in the group is Thermal Volatilisation Analysis (TVA) a versatile, yet nowadays little known, technique capable of analysing (in real time) the evolution of volatile species from an analyte, cryogenically collecting evolved volatiles and characterising the individual components by mass spectrometry.  In our most recent work TVA has been re-visited, updated and re-applied to new applications and now has  become an indispensable tool for the study of various aspects of volatiles evolution analysis and characterisation, particularly in relation to our work on polymer flammability.

Recognising the value of synergistic partnerships, I work closely with colleagues across the University for example with Dr Christine Davidson (Pure and Applied Chemistry), Prof Beverly Wagner (Marketing), Dr Daniel Markl (Centre for Continuous Manufacturing and Crystallisation)  and Prof James Thomason and Dr Liu Yang (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering).

Industrial Relevance

From the outset, I have taken the strategic step of working with industrial partners wherever possible, fostering knowledge exchange and ensuring that his research retains a commercial focus close to the customer interface.  Of the approximately £5 million of funding that I have has brought to the university, as principal or co-investigator, only 30% has had no direct industrial involvement.  Many of these industrial partnerships are long term, for example my partnership with DuPont Teijin Films began in 2000.  This emphasis on industrially funded research comes on the back of my own experience in industry, and my understanding and direct experience of commercial imperatives is almost unique amongst my chemistry colleagues.  The ability to relate to industrial collaborators and respond to fast-paced and challenging (and often changing) objectives and deadlines has been crucial to the success with these partnerships.   

Of particular note is my extensive involvement with Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programmes.  In the past ten years, I have been awarded as Principal Investigator seven such programmes, including two with Rumbol Products Ltd.

Based on my experience in knowledge exchange activities, I devised and currently lead the new Departmentally-based Knowledge Exchange Placement (better known as the Chemistry Clinic).  Designed for Year 4 MChem students, providing a structured training in knowledge exchange processes, business skills and entrepreneurship, the student-led Chemistry Clinic also provides opportunities for SMEs and larger companies to access chemistry consultancy services or facilities as an enhancement of existing Departmental KE activities. Many potential SME partnerships come to the university through the intermediary of the Interface Networks in the form of very short (< 3 month) projects.  Even engagements with larger companies can involve short-term problem solving.  However, such short-term projects can be problematic for departments, often being resource intensive, particularly in academic time and technician use relative to the more traditional longer term research projects.  This presents a serious barrier to increased academic engagement with SMEs and reduces uptake of potential projects.  The Chemistry Clinic reduces these barriers and encourages broader academic participation in SME-led programmes.

Academic / Professional qualifications

BSc University of Glasgow 1982

PhD University of Glasgow 1988

Fellow, Chartered Chemist, Royal Society of Chemistry; Chartered Scientist

Academic / Professional qualifications

Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry, Chatered Chemist, Chartered Scientist

Fellow, Higher Education Academy

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water


  • Polymer chemistry
  • Polymer thermal degradation
  • Polymer characterisation
  • Thermal analysis
  • Polyurethane foams
  • Polymer extrusion
  • Polymer nanocomposites
  • Polymer photochemistry
  • Artificial weathering
  • Fire and flammability


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