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Academics from Department of Physics appointed Research Leaders

Posted on 7 February 2019

The University has appointed Professor Daniel Watts and Professor Tom McLeish as two of our eight research leaders.

Spearheading new research approaches, developing international partnerships and generating collaborations with industry – our research leaders will intensify York’s intellectual energy. They will advance their subject, nationally and internationally, and contribute to maintaining the University as an international centre of excellence.

Professor Daniel Watts

Prof Dan Watts

Professor Watts’ research uses the world's most intense electromagnetic beams to probe the structure of hadronic matter and carry out precision measurements on atomic nuclei.Professor Daniel Watts is Chair in Hadron and Nuclear Physics in York’s Department of Physics.

Equipment for these experiments is built in-house with subsequent experiments carried out at the Thomas Jefferson Laboratory (JLAB) in the US and the Mainz microtron in Germany. The research provides new information on the fundamental structure of matter and key data for nuclear physics. His work is also progressing our understanding of dense hadronic systems in astrophysics such as neutron stars.

Professor Watts obtained his PhD at the University of Glasgow. Following an EPSRC Advanced Research Fellowship, he took an academic position at the University of Edinburgh where he was promoted to Chair.

Professor Watts has active programmes in medical and applied physics including the development of new methods for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging and radiotherapy. Professor Watts said:

"York offers exciting opportunities to develop new initiatives in pure, interdisciplinary and applied science working in one of the largest and most vibrant nuclear physics groups in the UK."

Professor Tom McLeish

Prof Tom McLeish

‌‌The title "Chair of Natural Philosophy" reflects Professor McLeish’s strong interest in radically interdisciplinary work across sciences, humanities and social sciences. Past and planned collaborations include historical studies of medieval science and their contribution to science today, relationships between humanities and sciences including theology, philosophy and literature, and the social narratives around science in developed and developing countries.Professor McLeish, a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Institute of Physics and Royal Society of Chemistry, joins York as Chair of Natural Philosophy from Durham University, where he held the role of Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research until 2014.

A theoretical physicist, Professor McLeish’s work is renowned for increasing our understanding of the properties of 'soft matter', a class of materials that can be easily changed by stress, including elastic liquids, foams and biological materials. 

Professor McLeish has made significant advances in modelling the structure and properties of complex entangled molecules, both artificial and biological. This fundamental work has opened up prediction of complex fluid behaviour and processing in an industrial setting. Professor McLeish said:

“I am excited by the growing national and international conversation on the power and potential of interdisciplinary research across the conventional borders between the sciences themselves and in collaborations with the humanities. York’s vision in this area is particularly strong, and I am looking forward to joining in here.”
Find out more about our research leaders