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Department of Chemistry welcomes expert in radiochemistry

Professor of Radiochemistry, David Read has been appointed by the University of Surrey – in a joint chair sponsored by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) – bringing 30 years’ experience in radiochemistry and geochemistry.

Professor Read, who was previously Professor of Radiochemistry at Loughborough University, joined Surrey’s Department of Chemistry in April 2016. An internationally recognised radiochemist, he is an expert in the field of environmental radioactivity and has carried out investigations throughout Europe, Australia, South Africa and South America.

Professor Read’s appointment will open up a new strand of research for the University, drawing on his long experience in the chemistry of waste disposal systems where he has been responsible for advising major operators in the nuclear, oil and gas, mining and defence sectors for many years. A key part of his role will be to establish a new radiochemistry laboratory based in the Department of Chemistry.

Working closely with NPL, Professor Read will develop research projects in areas supporting various stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, industrial radioactivity (in the oil and gas, iron and steel and mining industries), environmental radioactivity and isotope forensics. This work will build on Professor Read’s existing collaborations with NPL and industrial and international partners. He is also keen to explore the development of novel radio pharmaceuticals.

One of Professor Read’s first projects while at Surrey has been the prototyping and trialling of an advanced mobile laboratory, which can be used for both nuclear decommissioning and in rapid response mode following an accidental or deliberate release. The mobile laboratory can be configured for different applications and enables chemists to analyse samples in the field rather than taking them back to a fixed laboratory. Developed in collaboration with NPL and currently undergoing trials at a nuclear site (Sellafield), this mobile facility is the only one of its kind in the UK and should lead to major time and cost savings during site characterisation and remediation.

Another current project focuses on the development of time-resolved laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy (TRLFS), an innovative technique for analysing trace element speciation in solution and on thin films – another first for the UK. Funded by NERC (Natural Environment Research Council), this project has significant value for both the nuclear and radiopharmaceutical industries.

In terms of teaching, Professor Read’s appointment will enable undergraduates to study radiochemistry modules as part of our evolving chemistry programmes. There are also plans to combine radiochemistry with radiation physics at Masters’ level, building on the successful MSc Radiation Physics programme.

Professor Read commented, “I decided to join the University of Surrey for many reasons. Obviously the University’s partnership with NPL was a significant factor. In addition I was attracted by the interdisciplinary environment within the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, which enables academics in the Department of Chemistry to collaborate closely with those in the Department of Physics and the national Ion Beam Centre. I think this is vital if we are to exploit the many research opportunities now emerging which require interdisciplinary scientists with a broad range of knowledge and skills.”

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