Professor Tom Welton, Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Imperial, will be the next president of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
An expert in sustainable solvents, Professor Welton will take up the role when the current Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) president – Professor Dame Carol Robinson – completes her term of office in July 2020.
This follows an election process in which RSC members chose between Professor Welton and Dr David Rees as presidential candidates – marking only the second time in the society’s history that an election has been held for the post.
“I am absolutely chuffed to bits to be elected to be the next president of the Royal Society of Chemistry and I am very grateful to everyone who voted,” said Professor Tom Welton
Professor Welton joined Imperial in 1993 and served as Head of the Department of Chemistry from 2007 to 2014, before becoming Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences. His term as Dean ends in December 2019, after which he will continue to be a member of the Imperial community while taking up his new position as RSC president.
His research involves ionic liquids – chemicals that provide hope for replacing solvents that are used to dissolve materials but are often hazardous to health and the environment. As well as studying how they behave, he works on practical applications of future ionic liquid solvents, such as for dissolving textiles to make them more readily recyclable and for dissolving wood to create biofuels.
Under Professor Welton’s leadership as Head of Chemistry at Imperial, the department was awarded an Athena SWAN Gold Award in recognition of efforts to promote women in science – one of only four awarded in the country at the time.
He has also been appointed to the UKRI Equality, Diversity and Inclusion External Advisory Group and in 2017 was awarded an OBE for services to diversity in education.
Professor Welton said: “I am absolutely chuffed to bits to be elected to be the next president of the Royal Society of Chemistry and I am very grateful to everyone who voted. I am particularly pleased that when given the chance, the membership voted for diversity. We know from the Breaking the Barriers report that there is much to be done and this will be front and centre for me in the coming few years.
“For me diversity and inclusion are not abstract concepts, nor have they ever been about wanting it to be easier for me. They have always been about everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, having access to the same opportunities and experiences that I have been lucky enough to enjoy. I look forward to working with you all to make this happen.”
Imperial’s Provost, Professor Ian Walmsley, said: “Tom has made a huge impact at Imperial, as a researcher at the forefront of sustainable chemistry, as a champion for diversity, and as Head of the Chemistry Department and Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences.
“His leadership has been invaluable to the careers of many students and staff, and his actions have helped develop their careers as scientists and professionals. I have no doubt he will continue to have a great impact on the future of chemistry through his presidency of the RSC.”