World-leading chemist elected President of the Royal Society of Chemistry

Tuesday, 11 June 2024

A world-leading chemist from the University of Nottingham has been elected as the future president of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).

Robert Mokaya, Professor of Materials Chemistry and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Global Engagement has been announced as President Elect and will become the first Black chemical scientist to fill the role, which he will do in the summer of 2026.

Professor Mokaya is the only Black Professor of Chemistry in the country and is a role model and mentor especially to Black academics and students in the UK. His research in the area of porous carbons as sustainable energy materials and on mesoporous materials and has been pivotal in developing chemistry in Africa and in the BAME community in the UK. He has made important contributions to both the synthesis and application of sustainable energy materials, concentrating not only on developing the fundamental science but also addressing economic and other practical constraints. His developments have made strong contributions to a wide range of activities, including adsorption technologies, catalysts and gas storage materials.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Global Engagement Professor Robert Mokaya
I am really humbled and also honoured at the same time. I'm very, very pleased to be given this opportunity to serve the Royal Society of Chemistry in this capacity. There's great history that goes with this position. I have been to Burlington House and I have seen the names of those who have been president over the last 180 years - these are people I read about when I was a little boy and was getting inspired to study chemistry. I have encountered these names throughout my career and to be seen and hopefully at some point in the future counted amongst those great people in chemistry is really an honour and also very inspiring.
Professor Robert Mokaya, , Professor of Materials Chemistry and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Global Engagement

Professor Mokaya's election victory comes at a time of great change for him. He will become the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield on 17 June, leaving the University of Nottingham after 24 years.

Shearer West
Congratulations to Robert on being elected to this important role at the Royal Society of Chemistry. Robert is an excellent leader, dedicated not only to scientific research, but also to supporting greater equality, diversity and inclusion in higher education, and fostering global collaborations and partnerships. He is an inspiration to his students and colleagues alike and we wish him every success, not just for this role but also for his new role as Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield.
Professor Shearer West, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham

Professor Mokaya adds: "The Royal Society of Chemistry is a global organisation and for me, that's really important because I see myself as a global citizen.

"If you look at my journey, I grew up in rural Kenya and then studied at the University of Nairobi. That's where I always say I was made and where I was before coming to the UK.

"Looking at some of the things that I have done and the collaborations that have actually enriched my career, many of them actually were outside of the UK. Having that visibility as a society is really important.

"I am very interested in expanding the reach of chemistry and thinking more carefully about being inclusive. We can be drivers in all of that, which is something that is very close to my heart.

"I'm really looking forward to convening and leading those conversations and making positive contributions."

RSC chief executive Dr Helen Pain will work with Professor Mokaya to chart the organisation's path for the future. She was also one of the first to commend him on his victory and believes his background with the RSC and experiences gained over the course of his life will give him a unique perspective.

She said: “I would like to congratulate Robert on his success and I look forward to working more closely with him during his presidency. He has already made a huge contribution to the RSC as a trustee and in his role as chair of the Inclusion and Diversity Committee and I am sure he will bring the same passion, enthusiasm and work ethic when he steps into this new role.

“Robert brings a unique wealth of knowledge and experience accumulated on his life-long journey through chemistry, including his education in Kenya and his long and distinguished academic career in the UK. His diverse range of insights is tremendously beneficial to the chemical sciences community.

“I would also like to thank Duncan Graham and Annie Powell for putting themselves forward for this position and thank our members for supporting the RSC as we continue to evolve. I am proud of what we are doing as a community and am excited for the future."

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About the University of Nottingham

Ranked 32 in Europe and 16th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings: Europe 2024, the University of Nottingham is a founding member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience, and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement.

Nottingham was crowned Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024 – the third time it has been given the honour since 2018 – and by the Daily Mail University Guide 2024.

The university is among the best universities in the UK for the strength of our research, positioned seventh for research power in the UK according to REF 2021. The birthplace of discoveries such as MRI and ibuprofen, our innovations transform lives and tackle global problems such as sustainable food supplies, ending modern slavery, developing greener transport, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

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