Dr Martin Smalley
Senior Lecturer



I took a starred First in Chemistry at the University of Oxford in 1978, and was awarded a D.Phil. by Oxford University in 1981 for a thesis on Neutron Scattering Studies of Adsorption, after studying for a doctorate in the Physical Chemistry Laboratory. I worked as a professional research scientist from 1980 to 2000, with the exception of two years when I trained and worked as a school physics teacher. After that, I took a long break from academia, and founded my own company, translating scientific and medical Japanese into English. I returned to academia as a Senior Research Associate at University College London in 2007, and got a permanent position in the Department of Physics at the University of York in 2009. Although I am now mainly involved in teaching (especially electromagnetism), I have recently got back into research, on the “origins of life”. I can read all the G7 languages.


I worked as a professional research scientist from 1980 to 2000, with the exception of two years when I trained and worked as a school physics teacher. In the late 1980s, after spells in theoretical physics at the Universities of Erlangen-Nürnberg and Oxford, I started investigating clays at the Physical Chemistry Laboratory, Oxford University, and the Department of Polymer Chemistry, Kyoto University. I became interested in polymers on an ERATO (Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology) project in Japan in the 1990s, and pursued my studies of colloids and polymers as a lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University College London. In the 2000s, I worked as a Japanese translator and in the 2010s, I have been working as a physics lecturer at the University of York.

Departmental roles

  • Physics & Philosophy Programme Leader
  • Year 4 Tutor (this role includes being a standing member of the Board of Studies and Departmental Teaching Committee, a member of the Staff-Student Committee and Exceptional Circumstances Committee, and Chair of the Year 4 Exam Panel)
  • Member of Departmental Equality Committee
  • Departmental UCU Representative



I have 45 publications in peer-reviewed journals, including four individual theory papers on colloid stability, and have written a book on Clay Swelling and Colloid Stability.

Smalley, M.V., Clay Swelling and Colloid Stability, Boca Raton-London-New York: Taylor & Francis, 2006 “In a rare, over-the-shoulder perspective of a leading scientist’s own breakthroughs, Clay Swelling and Colloid Stability puts emphasis on two significant paradigm shifts in colloid science that explain particle interactions for charged plates, stacks, suspensions and pastes as well as spherical colloids… Based on the authors own research and 36 publications in the field, Clay Swelling and Colloid Stability is a self-contained and intellectually satisfying account of the revolutionary process leading to a universally sound, and increasingly applicable, theory of colloid stability.”


I am still involved in developing the theory of colloid stability, with two manuscripts recently submitted for publication. I am also interested in “origins of life” research, pursuing the discoveries described in the following paper;
Fraser, D.G., Greenwell, H.C., Skipper, N.T., Smalley, M.V., Wilkinson, M.A., Demé, B. and Heenan, R.K. Chiral interactions of histidine in a hydrated vermiculite clay. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 13, 2011, 825-835.


  • Professor I. Sogami, Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8502, Japan
  • Professor J. Breu, Bavarian Polymer Institute and Department of Chemistry, University of Bayreuth, D-95440, Bayreuth, Germany



  • Thermodynamics (10-credit, Stage 2 lecture course)
  • Electromagnetism & Optics (20-credit, Stage 2 lecture course)
  • I’m an engaging live lecturer, as you could see by entering Martin Smalley youtube maxwell’s equations into a google search – my lectures on Electromagnetism have had over 50,000 hits on the internet.
  • Physics & Philosophy project supervision (2 BSc projects, 3 MPhys projects)
  • Maths Practicals (Stage 1 problem classes)
  • Thermal Physics problem classes (stage 1)

Other teaching


I have given Pint of Science or Half Pint of Science talks every year for the past several years. I usually commit to a work experience week for Year 12 students in early July, which involves meeting students and judging posters. 

Martin Smalley. Credit: Ian Martindale

Department of Physics
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322211
Room: P/C005