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Issue 474, 3 December 2001

Professor Neville Boden

Neville Boden graduated from Liverpool in 1960 and, following a year of predoctoral research in the Chemical Engineering department at Imperial College, returned there to complete his PhD on fluorine-NMR in 1964. He then undertook a period of postdoctoral research at the University of Illinois. He was appointed to a lectureship in physical chemistry at Leeds by Professor Peter Gray in 1966, and his recruitment was commented upon in the Yorkshire Evening Post as an example of 'reversing the Brain Drain'. He was promoted to Reader in Physical Chemistry in 1981 and was awarded a personal chair in 1992.

The NMR technique formed the basis of much of Neville's early work, with particular emphasis on adapting and exploiting the technique for studies of molecular motion as well as structure. Neville's interest developed from molecular crystals and simple fluids, through electrolyte solutions before settling into a long-term interest in liquid crystals where his group pioneered experimental work of international standing. A comment on Neville's work at this time was that he had 'a great ability to spot the significance of an unexpected observation'. Equally at home with experiment or theory, Neville has always been alert to the advantages of interdisciplinary collaborations. His liquid crystal studies were developed with an organic chemistry colleague, Professor Richard Bushby, and he joined forces with Professor Peter Knowles (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) to study the exchange of small molecules in proteins. These collaborations have continued to the present day.

Neville was a major driving force in the creation of the Centre for Self-Organising Molecular Systems (SOMS) which was set up in January 1993 and of which he was the first Director. The Centre moved into its own laboratories in October 1994 and has since operated to promote research and teaching in self-assembly in complex molecular systems. SOMS is recognised as a Centre of Excellence of international standing. Neville stood down as Director in August 2001, but remains an active participant and authority in the Centre, with current interests in discotic liquid crystals and lipid bilayers.

Neville is a scientist who loves his research. His period on the then Science and Engineering Research Council's Physical Chemistry subcommittee between 1988 and 1991 exposed him to advances during an exciting period of the subject and he has continued to enjoy recognising and championing emerging research themes. He is also an enthusiast in the lecture theatre and travels widely to present his research at conferences and seminars. Beyond the laboratory, he takes great pride in his daughters and enjoys time in his garden. We take this opportunity to wish Neville and his wife Sheila all the best for the future, although his appointment as Research Professor is likely to see him at his desk or at conferences for many years to come.

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