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Professor Philip Withers FRS, FREng, FRAes, FIMMM has made a seminal contribution to our fundamental understanding of the performance of materials through his pioneering use of neutron, synchrotron X-ray and laboratory X-ray beams to provide new insights on behaviour, often inoperando under demanding conditions. Further, through his leadership of the BP International Centre for Advanced Materials to his new role as Chief Scientist for the Sir Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials, he has striven to deliver industrial impact as well as science and engineering excellence and recently became the UK’s first Regius Professor of Materials.
Philip Withers read Natural Sciences, and completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge in the 1980s, focusing on mental matrix composites. In 1989, he became a lecturer in Materials Science and Metallurgy at Cambridge, before being appointed to a Chair at The University of Manchester in 1998. In 2000, he set up a Unit for Stress and Damage Characterisation using diffraction and destructive methods to map residual stresses in engineering components and materials. In 2008, to complement this work he established the Henry Moseley X-ray Imaging Facility (HMXIF), which is now the most comprehensive suite of X-ray imaging systems in the UK. In 2010, he was awarded the Royal Society Armourers & Brasiers’ Company Prize for his pioneering work on stress and damage characterisation using X-ray and neutron beams. In 2014 his facility was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of the impact, excellence and innovation in X-ray imaging conducted by his team.
In September 2012, he became the founding Director of the $100m BP International Centre for Advanced Materials, in 2014 Director for the Centre for Doctoral Training Materials in Demanding Environments, in 2016 became the first Regius Professor of Materials in the UK and in 2017, the Chief Scientist for the £235m Sir Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society (2016), the Royal Academy of Engineering (2005), the Royal Aeronautical Society (2008) and the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (2004). Yet a core focus for Professor Withers remains the training and development of early career researchers, the next generation of scientists.
As a passionate communicator of science, he has developed a number of tools for public engagement. In particular, he has presented at three Royal Society Summer Science Exhibitions and at the Queen’s 80th Birthday Science Day at Buckingham Palace. His work in this area has been recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering/Nexia Solutions Education Innovation Prize (2007) and the Sir Colin Humphreys Education Award (2014) of the IOM3.