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Professor Sir Mark Welland

Read Dr Adelina Ilie's oration on Professor Sir Mark Welland for the honorary degree of Doctor of Science in January 2024.


Professor Sir Mark Welland
Professor Sir Mark Welland

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Mark Welland has had a long-standing connection with the South-West, having set out on a lifetime of research with a PhD at the University of Bristol. It is therefore with great pleasure that I propose him for the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.

Sir Mark began his research career in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at IBM Research, Yorktown Heights, USA, and in 1985 he returned to the UK, to the University of Cambridge. Since then, his research has perfectly illustrated the interdisciplinary nature of the field, in breadth and impact: from revealing the fundamental properties of nanoscale structures and devices and new methods for their fabrication, to elucidating the fundamental growth kinetics of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and the design of nanotechnology-based drug delivery systems for diseases such as glioblastoma, tuberculosis and type II diabetes.

In 2001, Sir Mark established a purpose-built facility at the University of Cambridge, the Nanoscience Centre, which undertakes a variety of nano-related research programmes of an interdisciplinary nature. This was the base for the Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration in Nanotechnology of which Sir Mark was Director and whose highly successful legacy has been far reaching. The Nanoscience Centre and the directions he set for it have been highly influential in forming many generations of scientists with interdisciplinary outlook and desire to translate their research into real-world applications. It is there also that I met him.

Sir Mark has long-standing and deep international connections with the USA, Japan, China, Europe, India and the Middle East. He established the Science and Technology Research Centre at the American University in Cairo, Egypt where he was a co-director, and he was the UK’s Principal Investigator at the £100M World Premier Research Institute in nanomaterials based in Tsukuba, Japan. In 2018 he led the negotiations that resulted in the establishment of the Cambridge University Nanjing Centre for Research and Innovation based in Nanjing, China, a unique collaboration for Cambridge. In recognition of his scientific contributions, he has been invited to deliver numerous prestigious lectures, including the IEE/British Computing Society Turing Lecture, The Annual Materials Research Society of India Lecture, and the Max Planck Society Lecture, and was appointed the 2003 annual Sterling Lecturer. In 2008, in a collaboration with Nokia he won the highly prestigious Red Dot international design award for the visionary “Morph” mobile phone design.

Between 2008 and 2012, Sir Mark was Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence, where his responsibilities included acting as UK Principal for the US-UK 1958 Mutual Defence Agreement, providing scientific advice across both Defence and on cross-Governmental science issues. In 2011, in recognition of Sir Mark’s contributions to the 1958 MDA partnership he was presented with the US Secretary of Defence’s Award for Exceptional Public Service: one of the highest awards the United States DOD can present to a representative of a foreign Government. Further in 2011, he received the National Nuclear Security Administration Gold Medal for Distinguished Service, that also being that organization’s highest award.

At the University of Cambridge, Sir Mark was Director of the Nanoscience Centre from 2001 to 2008 and 2010 to 2022, Head of Electrical Engineering from 2015 to 2018, Director of the Maxwell Centre from 2019 to 2023, and 39th Master of St Catharine’s College from 2016 to 2023. He is currently Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Special Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor on China and Director of Research in Nanoscience.

Sir Mark was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Physics in 2001, a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 2002, a Foreign Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences India in 2008 and a Foreign Fellow of the Danish Academy of Sciences in 2010. He was also a member of the EPSRC Council from 2008 to 2012. In recognition of his extensive contributions to the UK government and scientific community, Sir Mark was awarded a Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2011.

Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Professor Sir Mark Welland, who is eminently worthy to receive the Degree of Doctor of Science, honoris causa.

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